Mongolia’s Amended Law Makes Domestic Violence a Criminal Offence
February 8, 2017
Last December, Mongolia’s Parliament passed an amended version of the 2004 Law to Combat Domestic Violence. Recent amendments have made domestic violence a criminal offence for the first time in the country’s history and mark a critical step forward for victims of this type of violence.* This is a particularly momentous step for Mongolian women, who, despite the country’s relatively high score on gender equity measurements, experience high levels of domestic violence.**
This change demonstrates the government’s commitment to combating domestic violence, protecting domestic violence victims, and holding perpetrators accountable. However, barriers that impede the effective implementation of the law remain. These include a lack of comprehensive victim protection, uneven cooperation between legal institutions, and scarce financial resources. Another challenge is the limited knowledge among the police, prosecutors, and judges as to how to carry out the specific provisions of the law while taking a victim-centered approach.
In Mongolia, the police play a crucial role in the implementation of the law, as they are often called upon to intervene when an act of violence is in progress or shortly after it has occurred. Under the law, specific duties such as interviewing witnesses, conducting a coordinated risk assessment, or filing an official report on the complaint, are given to police officers. This is in addition to the requirement of the police force to be on the front line as first responders to calls about domestic violence. Police often report that while they respond to a large number of calls of domestic violence, they feel undertrained in this area. The attitude and response of police can have a dramatic impact on ensuing developments, including the prevention of future acts of violence and the protection of victims. They are also central to ensuring that perpetrators of violence are held accountable for their actions. The quality of police work is crucial in determining whether court proceedings are instituted or a person is convicted.
To support the police in this area, The Asia Foundation, in partnership with the Law Enforcement University’s Academy of Management (LEU), recently brought together 85 police officers and 17 cadets from all 21 aimags in Mongolia for a series of three training sessions to equip them with the skills and knowledge of how to respond to and manage domestic violence situations where victims are in a sensitive and vulnerable position.
Responding to this unique opportunity to ready law enforcement for anticipated changes to the 2004 law, The Asia Foundation and LEU developed a training curriculum focused on victim-centered approaches to engaging with victims of violence to be used during the training sessions. The training was interactive and participatory, with officers and cadets sharing their experiences from their local communities and learning from each other’s experiences. Exercises were conducted to help participants reflect on their attitudes toward domestic violence, the impact of violence on victims, victim-witness interviewing, and the advantages of a multidisciplinary and multi-stakeholder approach to domestic violence. Case studies generated lively discussions among participants, especially regarding how police officers can investigate and help prove an instance of domestic violence when there is no evidence of physical injury, and how legal provisions from the criminal code can be used to charge offenders.
Throughout the technical sessions, participants also discussed the challenges they face when pursuing cases of domestic violence, such as a lack of coordination and convergence between stakeholders, the relative absence of economic empowerment rehabilitation programs for victims, and how inadequate data-keeping processes create gaps in recording the prevalence of domestic violence and formulating adequate responses.
The inclusion of the training materials, which look at stages of victimization, types of violence, investigation and evidence collection, and the role of stakeholders and legal frameworks, into the overall training curriculum helps to ensure that police as first responders, investigators, supervisors, and managers continue to benefit from identified good strategies, theories, and best practices. This will in turn help them to enhance the safety and security of women and others at risk of domestic violence in their communities.
The police in Mongolia play a significant role in safeguarding the rights of women and vulnerable groups. Enhancing the practices of the police force is a foundational move toward helping the police better implement the amendments to the Law to Combat Domestic Violence. Proactively engaging with law enforcement at the early stages of implementing the amended law will also serve as a platform for other organizations that are working on domestic violence issues.
*Under the amended law the first instance of Domestic Violence is not considered a criminal act, but the second act of Domestic Violence is. Articles 120.1 and 120.2 of the Criminal Code states that administrative measures (fines or warnings) will be taken for first instances of domestic violence. If actions considered as domestic violence are continuously committed, it will be viewed a criminal offence and appropriate measures (confinement) will be taken.
**Implementation of Mongolia’s Domestic Violence Legislation: A Human Rights Report by the Advocates for Human Rights and the National Center Against Violence, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, 2014.
Ashleigh Griffiths is a project officer for The Asia Foundation in Mongolia and is currently participating in the Australian Volunteers for International Development, an Australian government initiative. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and not those of The Asia Foundation or its funder.
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