How Brides are Sold in Bulgaria’s Bride Market

The Kalaidzhi Community’s Bride Market

There is a bride market in Bulgaria where young and teenage girls are sold to potential husbands for a negotiated price. This place is originally known as the Gypsy bride market. If anyone visits the town of Stara Zagora in Bulgaria on the first Saturday of Orthodox Christian Lent, they would find its streets busy in merrymaking. This is the only Saturday when all the people of the Kalaidzhis community join together and celebrate this entire day with dance, music, food, and chit-chat. The young teenage girls with heavy makeup are present in this bride market. Their mothers also accompany them in full festive mood and dress very nicely. The mothers are very proud of their daughters as they have grown up and can comply with the traditions of their community. This is a very old tradition for the Kalaidzhis community, and they have followed it for ages with full belief. The girls are adorned with beautiful outfits and gold ornaments. The Kalaidzhis deal with complex negotiations on the bride price and finally settle it for their marriage.

The Semi-Nomadic Roma Group

The semi-nomadic Roma Group, known for producing good quality crafts and repairing pots and cauldrons, lives far away from other groups in villages. The young girls of this group are not allowed to meet any male members. They shifted to Bulgaria in the 12th to 14th centuries. According to reports from 2011, there are a total of 4.4% of the Romanian Gypsies. The crime rates, birth and death rates, and unemployment rates are higher than the rest of the population due to the social stigma and discrimination they undergo. There is no proper education among the girls, and even parents do not send them to schools. The young girls are used to such practices and are happy to stick to the old tradition of the bride market. The people of this particular group are not aware of human rights violations.

Virginity: Price Negotiation of the Bride

The virginity of the young girls is a very important factor among the Kalaidzhis community before selling the girls. If the girl is a virgin, they would be sold at a much higher price, which is beneficial to the family. But if the girl is a non-virgin, then their families would get a lower price for their daughters. This is the only day when girls are allowed to meet men; otherwise, dating is not allowed. The men should also belong to their community. Marriage outside the community is strictly prohibited. The young girls are sold to the men for about $7,500 to $11,300 after a lot of bargaining.

An ethnographer of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Velcro Krustev, cited “The man is buying her virginity, not buying the wife.” This was published in the New York Times, and it is believed to be rightly said. This is a very bad tradition between the Kalaidzhis community to get their daughters married between the ages of 16 to 20 years. Few girls are even taken out of schools in 8th grade, thinking that she would be stolen by someone else and their family would not be able to sell her for a good price. This is the reason the girls are locked in their homes. This leads to a greater percentage of illiteracy among women. Only 10% of Bulgarian women and 16% of Bulgarian men have secondary education, according to the World Bank. We also found reports from Amilape, an NGO in Bulgaria, which showed that 52% of the girls opposed their parents’ choices in selling them over to a man. Only a few girls accepted this tradition. With the coming of mobile phones and the internet in their lives, they are also open to different platforms and news.

Role of Kalaidzhis Brides Once Sold

These women remain busy with cooking and cleaning. They are known as unpaid servants to their husbands. Their traditional business is also at stake as cheap pots are available from China. The traditional work of pot-making is no longer profitable, so they have been shifting to construction sites for work. The men do exploit them sometimes, and they have no option other than to listen to them and follow their instructions. Though the media has brought this entire scenario to light, there is complete inactive participation by the government. Women should be given liberty and should have their own identities. They should come out of the negative chains of society and be free. Although, the abolition of such suppression will take a lot of time to end. To conclude, bride selling in Bulgaria should be made illegal.

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