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In most nations, bride kidnapping is considered a sex crime rather than a valid form of marriage.

Though the motivations behind bride kidnapping vary by region, the cultures with traditions of marriage by abduction are generally patriarchal with a strong social stigma on sex or pregnancy outside marriage and illegitimate births.

This article surveys the phenomenon by region, drawing on common cultural factors for patterns, but noting country-level distinctions.

In three African countries, bride kidnapping often takes the form of abduction followed by rape. or is forced to when the kidnapper impregnates her, as pregnant women are not seen as eligible for marriage.

In some modern cases, the couple collude together to elope under the guise of a bride kidnapping, presenting their parents with a fait accompli.

In most cases, however, the men who resort to capturing a wife are often of lower social status, because of poverty, disease, poor character or criminality.

Bride-kidnap marriages in Rwanda often lead to poor outcomes.

Human rights workers report that one third of men who abduct their wives abandon them, leaving the wife without support and impaired in finding a future marriage.

The term is sometimes used to include not only abductions, but also elopements, in which a couple runs away together and seeks the consent of their parents later; these may be referred to as non-consensual and consensual abductions respectively.