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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Mothers and children make toys at a night fair in Xiushan Tujia and Miao autonomous county, Chongqing. HU CHENG/FOR CHINA DAILY

Questions related to the law and psychological guidance account for the majority of calls received by counselors. Yan Dongjie reports.

In June, Huang Henggan, who works as a phone counselor for the V-Love Mothers Hotline, received a phone call from the angry mother of a 2-year-old child in Qingyuan, Guangdong province.

The woman told Huang that she had divorced her husband to get away from his abusive behavior, but his family was refusing to hand over the child, despite a ruling by the judge who oversaw the divorce proceedings that the mother should have custody.

She said she had turned to several hotlines, including 12345, the government's support hotline, the All-China Women's Federation, and facilities operated by the courts, legal aid groups and other organizations.

Eventually, she called V-Love, a public welfare program that provides legal and psychological support for single mothers and women facing marital difficulties.

Although from the legal perspective, Huang, a law graduate, could only advise the woman to apply for the court order to be enforced, she told him that she felt that he really cared for her feelings, unlike people at other legal support hotlines she had called.

She explained that she did not dare apply for the court to enforce the custody order as it could lead to a criminal record for her ex-husband, which would have a negative effect on their child's development, so Huang helped her contact a psychological counselor and gave her emotional support.

"At the beginning of the call the woman was calm, but when she mentioned that she had not seen her 2-year-old child for several months, she became very emotional and I could sense her anger and helplessness," he said.

"Sometimes the law can't solve every problem, especially when it comes to families, marriage and children. When I answer the phone, I can feel that the callers need my help and support."

The 30-year-old is perhaps the man most able to empathize with a single mother, having joined the hotline at the end of 2020 with the task of providing legal advice. So far, he has answered more than 1,600 calls.

Like many law graduates, Huang initially dreamed of becoming a judge or a lawyer, resolving difficult cases. However, he accidentally discovered a talent for comforting people when he replied to a despairing post on Weibo, China's Twitter-like service, several years ago.

"I comforted an unknown Weibo user, so she sent a long message thanking me for giving her great comfort and strength. That was touching, so I decided that I could do something that helps people in a warm way, which doesn't have to be grand," Huang said.

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