Need For Starting Pre-Marital Counselling Centers
Over the years AASRA has noticed an increase in the number of women seeking counseling. This may be since the population of Bangalore itself has exponentially increased together with a growing increase in oppression and violence against women in homes particularly against young women that are recently married. Most of the women complain about domestic violence, dowry harassment, and other matrimonial problems. During counseling, it is noticed that marriages are irretrievably breaking down and spouses trying to get divorce either in the form of Talaq or Khula. Further after discussing with both parties at counseling, it is noticed that most of the post-marital problems could have been avoided with pre-marital counseling. The following is the detailed analysis by AASRA that suggests that there is an urgent need to start pre-marital counseling centers.
Many marital discords are taking place because of a lack of awareness among the brides and grooms on the nuances and complexities of married life. People enter married life mechanically just because they have reached the chronological age prescribed by the Government for marriages. Many them lack the maturity required to manage a marital relationship be it intellectual, financial, or even sexual matters. It is therefore vital that the intending marriage partners get an overall exposure of the expectations and responsibilities that are likely to come into their lives after marriage.
As marriage entails a drastic change in life and conditions from what the parties involved are used to, it requires adequate preparation to take on this life-changing stage. Unfortunately, neither the individuals themselves seek the necessary competencies to prepare themselves nor is there any institutional mechanism in the community to address the issue.
Earlier marriage counseling was performed by close friends, religious heads, or elders in the family. With modernization and continuous shift towards nuclear families the services of trained counselors have become inevitable It will be good to expose the potential couples entering wedlock to multiple aspects of interpersonal communication and relationship management, in the pre-marital stage itself. In India and particularly among Muslims importance is given not only to the couples that are to spend their lives together but also to the young entrants in the new families who have to deal with their extended family members such as Parents in law, and brothers and sisters in law and their respective spouses and further other close and distant relatives. As the saying goes, it is not only marrying an individual but into a family.
The trend of divorce among Muslims in India is showing an alarming and drastic increase as witnessed by Shariah courts, Family courts, and Counselling centers, which is a worrisome factor. We are staring into a situation of an irretrievable breakdown of society. Such a situation is detrimental to the most vulnerable i.e., women and children.
In a country where every six hours a young married woman is burnt alive, beaten to death, or driven to commit suicide, more than 30% of married women in the country are victims of physical or sexual abuse by their husbands. We at AASRA get responses from innumerable victims who have felt that after coming to the Counseling Centre, they came to the ‘right place’ that is reason enough to recognize the invaluable services provided by Counseling Centers. With this insight and to mitigate the burning issue the following proposal is suggested.
Pre marital counseling helps :
• Understand the Rights, Duties, and Responsibilities of spouses under Shariah Laws
• Build inter-personnel communication skills.
• Establish a shared vision.
• Plan the future with your partner.
• Set realistic expectations from marriage.
• Learn de-escalation techniques.
• Address pertinent issues
• Identify potential conflict areas.
Statistics and the example of the Christian community where such a practice exists show that the breakdown of marriages can be reduced if not completely avoided if the parties involved in the marriage that include the immediate family members of the couple such as parents and siblings get involved in preparing for a new stage of the family’s life cycle by pre-marital counseling and a certain period of acquaintance with each other. This will help in assessing each other’s needs, and expectations and ascertaining one’s capacities to fulfill such expectations and other obligations that are entailed in a life-turning enterprise of this kind. Counseling by a neutral third party will keep the atmosphere sufficiently objective so that heightened emotions do not obfuscate reality.
Such an exercise will help individuals to make informed choices and ensure there is no pressure on any party to compromise unnecessarily to later backtrack and seek divorce as the only option.
As already mentioned above the Muslim community in India does not have such recourse and initial proposals of such kind may be viewed with skepticism if not outright rejection. However, the time has come for the community to grasp the issue by its collar and come up with solutions, failing which we will not only cut a sorry figure but our own youngsters are going to lead dejected lives that in the long run will be detrimental to the families as well as society for it will result in dysfunctional lives of people and the society. As the problem is a societal one it is imperative that all the members of society and its institutions come together in a unity of purpose to grapple with this problem.
With this Objective, the Roles of different Entities are defined herein.
The Wakf Board exercising its powers vested by the Wakf Act and Rules and any other provisions can be in the vanguard of this exciting socially transformative activity in the following ways:
1. Issue a Government Order or at least a Circular to all the Masjid and the Qazi’s making pre-Nikah counseling mandatory. Failing this the Nikah shall not be registered in the Daftar of Nikah and no Nikah Namah can be issued. The Qazi should solemnize the Nikah only upon producing a satisfactory Pre-Marital Counselling completion certificate issued by the counselor of the center for counseling either attached to the Masjid or any other place designated for the purpose. Wakf Board shall decide the competent authority to countersign the certificate within the masjid premises.
2. Issue directions to all masjids on providing a minimum required space attached to the masjid for conducting the counseling, Space should be sufficient for seating counselors and their families, to store records, and have one or two computers.
3. Wakf Board from its funds should provide initial stationery for starting the centers along with two computers and a printer. Later the center should manage its office expenditure out of the earnings of the counseling. To make it viable it will be better if such counseling centers are started in masjids catering to large population groups. Later, as per need, centers can be spread out to the smaller masjid.
4. Wakf shall make part of its duties to organize training for counselors and put in a system to monitor the activities of the centers that shall include performance parameters, reaching the objectives, and reorienting of masjid committees and counselors. It shall allocate a sufficient budget for training.
Role of Masjid:
1. As a masjid for Muslims is a place where the community meets five times a day and sometimes more as in Ramadan, it is an ideal place to undertake such activities. For one it is a place of trust and people will feel comfortable going there. Also, this will prevent any negative connotations about the activity itself, and later, it will help in solving domestic and marital conflicts in such a way that they do not reach irretrievable breakdowns. Traditionally and in the scripture the masjid has always played a role in resolving disputes and by this, they will be empowered to rejuvenate such a role that has largely been abandoned today. As late as the 1980s it was a common practice to approach the masjid for resolving domestic and marital conflicts. Many such disputes would get resolved. This practice was abandoned and now Muslims are rushing to courts for small problems draining their financial capacities and getting pauperized in the process.
2. They can be a mild overseeing agency of the counseling centers and supplement funds required for running the center, such as office expenses, stationery, etc. from the masjid funds if required.
3. The centers will help the masjid develop a live database of their musallis and know the new members added or that leave it. This is not the real objective but is a latent outcome of such an activity. By this, the masjid will be a place that is looked upon for succor and not only a place where namaz is done.
Role of Counseling Centers:
1. The Counsellors of the counseling centers attached to the masjid for this purpose should ensure they perform their duties with diligence and sincerity to achieve the objectives of the center.
2. They should be a neutral third party and not get personally involved in family disputes.
3. They should run the center smoothly and maintain records and accounts of the center. Above all maintain the confidentiality of the parties.
4. They should be open to monitoring by the masjid committees in manner that shall be prescribed and the Wakf Board through its officers or representatives in a manner to be prescribed by the board.
Role of the Community:
1. The community members shall utilize the services of the counseling centers for a period prior to the celebration of the marriage to be prescribed and the families shall mandatorily attend the counseling sessions along with the couple to be wedded and complete the course till they get a certificate that they shall produce prior to performing the Nikah.
2. They shall bear the counseling charges to be prescribed.
(Aasra Women and children welfare trust an NGO recognized by the Department of Women and children development, the government of Karnataka, can be contacted at 98453 83905 / 80550907706, Bengaluru)