Ala Kachuu: The Impact of Awareness. A Man’s Response, A Woman Saved.
The year of 2012, was the year the apocalypse was predicted to make a guest appearance and for the world to meet total obliteration. It certainly has proven to be a busy year at Restless Beings’ HQ. The sudden escalation in Burma’s sectarian violence demanded Restless Beings to push political boundaries and seek the attention this community deserves. Alongside our Rohingya activity, our other projects have not been neglected in any way. The partnership with Sezim, rehabilitation and refugee centre in Kyrgyzstan was also very busy, ending 2012 with a vigorous 16 days campaign in November and December to raise awareness on gender violence.
Sezim’s 16 days of action was a combination of live interviews on public television and radio on womens rights and the effects of Ala Kachuu. The 16 days of proactive campaigning proved to be effective and shed light on the daunting realities of bride kidnapping. With the support of the UN Refugee Agency numerous intense focus groups were also delivered to residents, students, psychologists and social workers.
Critics may question the effect of awareness campaigns, one may rightly ask does this actually create this ripple effect of change?
Sezim receive numerous calls from females regarding Ala Kachuu, however since the powerful 16 days of action, our recent data from Sezim ALL involve male callers, which is a certainly a new and welcomed development.
The data Restless Beings receive are all worthy of publication; however one call in particular from Abai stood out and has elevated our optimism as change makers. Abai is an unemployed male in his early 20s and he was contemplating on kidnapping a young girl that he was attracted to. Having watched a TV show delivered by the Director of Sezim during the 16 days of action, Abai decided to seek advice. During this call with Sezim he explained that he was unaware of the possible punitive sanctions for kidnapping. Abai said he did not know how to ask the woman of his desire on a date or propose marriage, and in his naivety thought the only alternative was to kidnap her. He interestingly stated that he felt he would have benefited from dating TV shows akin to that in Russia, called "Let's Get Married".
Restless Beings has long believed that the issues with Ala Kachuu stem from social factors. The caller highlights two salient concerns relating to lack of awareness. There is significant lack of direction relating to social etiquettes for courting, to the extent that kidnapping has become a norm. The latter concern is that kidnappers do not see Ala Kachuu as a criminal offence and therefore are shocked to learn that it attracts penal consequences.
Abai’s call proves that through that the medium of education change is possible. Simple knowledge of safe, consensual courting conduct and awareness of potential retributive sanctions can act as a deterrent and furthermore safeguard women. Within a short duration, we have seen the intended effect of the 16 days campaign flourish. At the very least the actions of one man, has been changed and at least one woman has been saved. We are optimistic that other men may have also been positively influenced, who at present remain unknown to us.
Love should be based on consent and respect, the union of two whether it be a canonical or a social institution. As we celebrate International Womens Day today, it is not merely a celebration or focus of one woman, one issue, or one country, but women as a collective all over the world. So long as at least one group of women are denied the opportunity to love consensually, much work is still to be achieved.