Mongolian Parliament voted on May 13 to make domestic violence a criminal offense for the first time in the country’s history.
The law, which will go into effect on September 1, was drafted with the help of President Ts.Elbegdorj, Minister of Justice D.Dorligjav, former Minister of Justice T. Khishigdemberel, and the National Center Against Violence, among others.
Prior to the passage of the amended Law to Combat Domestic Violence (LCDV) in 2016, domestic violence was largely viewed as a “domestic matter” by the courts. Without formal classification as a criminal offense, it was exceedingly difficult to effectively punish perpetrators and protect victims.
MP and former advisor to the president Ts. Oyungerel, who has championed the law for more than a decade, believes that the amended law will usher in a new chapter in domestic relations, “A happier, more prosperous family life will be the major character of Mongolia very soon,” she tells The UB Post.
However, the process of passing the amended law was fraught with challenges. Oyungerel says she “literally cried out” when she saw the second draft of the law, which would have punished domestic violence with six months of house arrest.
“All women MPs cried out, saying, ‘We are going to harbor the perpetrator at home [while the domestic violence continues]?’” she recalls. “No way.”
They reformulated “different layers of punishment”, which Oyungerel says, “will not destroy the family economy, and at the same time, will protect the victims.”
Domestic violence that does not result in serious injury or death will be punished by a restraining order. Domestic violence that results in serious injury or death will now be punishable by imprisonment.
Governmental action and legal support for victims is overdue. The UN reports that one out of five Mongolian women suffers physical harm because of domestic violence. Between 2010 and 2015, 80 people lost their lives and 3,299 people were injured due to domestic violence.
Of victims of domestic violence, 88.3 percent are women, and 64.6 percent are children.
Mongolia’s first-ever LCDV was passed in 2004. Although considered an important first step in addressing the long-ignored issue of domestic violence, it was largely ineffectual. It lacked adequate budgetary support and its provisions conflicted with existing laws, preventing
Amendments similar to those passed last month were reviewed by Parliament from October until February 2014, but were ultimately rejected. The law received a second chance when President Elbegdorj resubmitted it this year.
Although the new LCDV represents significant progress, “this law alone wasn’t the whole struggle,” Oyungerel explains.
To create the proper infrastructure needed to support the LCVD, six other laws were amended, including the Criminal Code, Law on Law Enforcement, Law on Administrative Violations, Law on Criminal Procedure, Law on Marshals Service, and the Law on Victim and Witness Protection. All newly amended laws will go into effect on September 1. MP Ts.Oyungerel says that this is the first time that domestic violence has been addressed in laws beyond the LCDV.
Under the new Law on Law Enforcement, police are required to treat domestic violence calls as a top priority. It grants them the authority to enter a home immediately if a victim’s life or health is at stake, and to remove children who are in danger of harm.
The 2016 Law on Administrative Violations requires every citizen to report child abuse and “encourages” citizens to report domestic violence between adults. Those who do not report child abuse will face fines.
Ideally, every locality, soum and province will have a community council that will work with law enforcement to identify local problems and develop solutions tailored to the community.
Ts.Oyungerel says the new Criminal Code will increase leniency for women who hurt or kill their partners as a means of self-defense. Currently, women who kill abusive husbands are often given enhanced sentences (an additional five to ten years) if a judge believes they were
motivated by revenge.
The new Criminal Code eliminates the so-called “revenge provision” and recognizes the legitimacy of self-defense. The provision is retroactive, meaning that women currently charged under the revenge provision will have their sentences recalculated. Some women’s sentences will be reduced and others will be released. “I look forward to their freedom,”
Because there are so many new laws and provisions going into effect on September 1, lawyers are already being trained on the upcoming changes. According to Oyungerel, State Secretary B. Jigmiddash has launched “behavior changing” initiatives to facilitate understanding of the new LCDV even before it goes into effect.
“Women MPs were very key in passing all these laws, because all the talking and all the risks were on our shoulders,” says the MP, who is one of nine female MPs in Parliament. “So men didn’t have to [take] political risks to talk about domestic violence. They silently supported us.”
Oyungerel recently discussed the new laws concerning domestic violence with her constituents, though she was nervous about the response. Drawing on Mongolian traditional wisdoms, she told them, “Our tradition says that everybody, if you are human, must understand each other by your tongue. Only animals understand each other by their feet. So let’s understand each other by our language, by our tongue, and let’s learn to discuss our domestic problems without using our fists.” Her audience applauded.
Oyungerel believes that more “calculated politicians” will wait until after the June 29 parliamentary elections to openly address the new laws concerning domestic violence, for fear of losing votes from voters who still believe domestic violence is a “domestic matter.”