Hotline provides legal advice and hope for women in need

By Yan Dongjie | China Daily | Updated: 2023-08-22 07:17
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Huang Henggan, a counselor for the V-Love Mothers Hotline, answers phone calls in Guangzhou, Guangdong province. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Emotional support

According to statistics released by the All-China Women's Federation last year, there are more than 24 million single-parent families in China — 70 percent of them are single mothers — and the number continues to rise. That's about seven single mothers for every 200 families. About 63.5 percent of respondents said they earn less than 4,000 yuan ($547) a month.

Meanwhile, a survey on the living conditions and needs of single mothers in 10 cities released by the China Research Society of Marriage and Family, said the most urgent social service needs of single mothers are legal aid (46.4 percent) and psychological counseling (43.7 percent).

Huang said the mother in Qingyuan was typical of many women who call the hotline: they are easygoing by nature, but they can be very strong when forced to face difficulties, especially when their child needs protection. Huang is also affected by these forces, so he has a good understanding of the female psyche.

He answers an average of four or five calls a day, listens to people tell their stories and describe their problems, and offers advice from a legal perspective.

In the past three years, the caller who impressed Huang most was Wang Jing (not her real name), who was close to retirement age.

Wang and her husband had a son, who would soon take the college entrance exam, and a daughter, who had already gone to college.

Her husband had a successful career, while she was a homemaker who took good care of the family. In the eyes of outsiders, they were a model family.

However, Wang told Huang that she had been stunned when her husband told her: "The children have grown up. You are no longer useful to this family, so you must leave."

Huang said, "Wang was very confused, she did not understand why she had worked hard for her family for decades in exchange for such an outcome." He added that as the woman was deeply dependent on her husband, especially financially, the expulsion had left her helpless.

"She wanted to know why. She didn't want to leave the house."

Huang said that although Wang told him she had never felt there was a problem with her marriage, he suspected that she knew something was wrong but was unwilling to admit it and had actively been hiding it.

Wang said her husband gave her 7,000 yuan a month in cash, and the amount hadn't changed over the years. If that sum was not enough, her husband would not give her one more cent, so she was forced to borrow money from friends and relatives, then return it the next month.

"The husband was so resistant to Wang that he even took important documents, his wallet and smartphone with him when he took a shower," Huang said.

He said Wang consulted him six times, and by the end of their long period of communication, he was very surprised to see how the woman's attitude had changed.

"At first, she didn't want to leave her husband — even though she couldn't figure out why — and she wanted to find a way to stay with the family," he said. "But in her last phone call, she told me that she had decided to sue for divorce and that the legal knowledge I had provided would help her stand up for her rights and obtain her own financial security. I saw a change in her. No woman is weak — they are strong when they have to be."

Huang said that if the caller asks for legal advice, it usually takes about 30 minutes to assess all the issues and give reasonable counsel based on the other person's situation, but sometimes all the caller really needs is to talk.

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