Balya Amulya: Counselling Victims of Child Marriage Requires Great Empathy

In this episode, Kalakappa. Legislator Program Coordinator and Santosh, Project Assistant at Child Rights Trust speak about counselling for children who are the victims of child marriage.

Kalakappa speaks about a three-day counselling session that was held in relation to the IMAGE Project at NIMHANS. The objective of the session was to provide strength and bring out emotions in girls who have been victims of child marriage and see that they are accepted by their families.

Currently, a married girl or young woman is viewed as a huge family burden if she comes back to her parent’s home from her husband’s. They don’t see her pain and instead continuously taunt her and force her to always stay inside the house to avoid causing any more perceived shame. Kalakappa mentions that this session was mainly conducted to make these girls, as well as people in general, realise that even these girls and women have equal rights in society.

The organisations which participated in the session were PMSR (People’s Movement for Self-Reliance) Organisation from Chamrajnagar, Manush from Chikbalapur, Sevak Institution from Belgaum district, CRT (Child Rights Trust) from Bagalkot district, and Vidyaniketan Institution from Bidar district.

On the first day of the counselling, the various skills a counsellor must possess was introduced. A counsellor must have good communication skills, confidence, must show frequent body movements, note down what the patient is speaking and have a smile on their face throughout the counselling process. Empathy towards the patient is very important, they should think from the patient’s perspective. When conducting a counselling session, a counsellor must make sure to ask only open-ended questions, so that it can help the patients find the solutions themselves. If a close-ended question is asked, they feel that there is only one solution to a particular problem, but if it is an open-ended question, they can find numerous solutions to the one problem being tackled.

Santhosh mentions that before counselling, a counsellor should know the details of the person’s background. This includes the type of environment they are coming from, their family background, education, age, friends, lifestyle, etc. During counselling, the counsellor should avoid taking sudden decisions and instead, depend on the type of problems the patient is facing.

The second session of the training was about the principles and ethics of a counsellor. A counsellor must follow a set of principles and ethics without fail. A counsellor must see to it that the client who comes to them is able to speak with them freely. The patient’s personal details should not be revealed unless and until it is very serious and deserves any further action from another authority. This could include a patient who is always talking about hurting somebody or themselves; in such a case, the counsellor must make sure that the situation is known to anybody from their family so that any such an incident can be avoided.

If there is a circumstance where the person is brought for counselling forcefully, then the counsellor should first make sure that they are comfortable with the process. They should start the session slowly and according to their patient’s comfort level. Santosh says that in such cases, the counsellor can start their session just by observing the patients, their communication style and body language. The counsellor must make sure that they do not allow any personal feelings to seep into the course of the treatment or after the treatment. They should always stick to the principle of ‘Attach to the purpose of Detach’.

The third session touched on psychosocial conditions and the laws brought in by the government to preserve the rights of children. The counsellors must always be prepared and must be able to make the patient speak their thoughts. They should never back off from their work.

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