|Ministry of Justice and Internal Affairs’ legal policy officer D.Saruul gave an interview about the recently submitted draft bill on domestic violence.|
A new draft domestic violence bill will be discussed by parliamentary standing committees and Parliament. Can you tell us more about the bill?
The Law on Domestic Violence was approved in 2004. It’s been nearly 12 years since. Several new articles were added in the bill to improve the law and resolve problems that weren’t covered or couldn’t be fully regulated with the previous version. The draft bill is special because it includes even more detailed articles based on good practices of Mongolia. In particular, it specifies rights and responsibilities of the public for raising awareness and reporting domestic violence when it has been detected to bolster preventive measures.
Government services for rehabilitating victims of domestic violence and preventing them from experiencing it again will be provided under a better management and organization as the new bill mandates details of works in this direction. Moreover, it raises accountability and responsibility issues of domestic violence perpetrators based on the extent and severity of the violence inflicted on victims.
Can you elaborate on the criminal charges for domestic violence specified in the bill?
Some forms of domestic violence have been considered as crimes. Following amendments to the Criminal Code, domestic violence offenders can be arrested and even sentenced to prison for up to two years. Some actions are considered violations and crimes so the Administrative Penalty Law imposes up to 30 days of imprisonment. It has been specified in the draft bill that a person arrested for domestic violence must undergo interrogation and investigation.
What kind of penalties will be imposed on domestic violence perpetrators? International domestic violence and abuse agencies assessed that Mongolia’s legislation on domestic violence is very poor. What’s your opinion on this?
Domestic violence offenders can face five types of penalty in accordance with the current Law on Domestic Violence. In the past, victims and offenders were put in front of the judge as if they were handling a case about loans and trying to decide whether the borrower should repay or not. Offenders were put behind bars for just a few days. That was the only measure we took for domestic violence. Domestic violence wasn’t considered as a separate crime. Now, certain actions will be considered as crime and punished as such. It’s become possible to charge domestic violence offenders for intentional murder if a victim dies or if murder was intended.
The past 12 years show that it’s impossible to resolve domestic violence with a single law. Experts complain that Mongolia needs a comprehensive law on domestic violence instead. Do you agree with these complaints?
The Law on Domestic Violence is focused on preventive measures. Prevention means that it’s more important to improve public understanding and awareness about domestic violence rather than regulating punishment issues. The law’s main priority is to dictate how specialists should be trained and the types of services to be offered to victims. Determining punishment for offenders is the next priority. The previous government had a policy consistent with the Law on Domestic Violence, Criminal Code, Law on Conflicts and its procedures.
The newly adopted legislations will start to take effect on July 1, 2017 and so will the draft domestic violence bill if it’s passed. The bill is all about prevention, meaning that it should be implemented without waiting for amendments to the Criminal Code and Conflicts Law. It’s more important to train specialists and provide services rather than imposing punishments.
The issue about the punishment for domestic violence offenders must be included in the Law on Enforcement of Court Decisions.
The domestic violence bill is consistent with current laws but it has been designed to complement new laws to take effect on July 1 next year. We will lose time if we put the adoption of the bill on hold until then.
According to some, NGOs are working more to combat domestic violence than the government. Starting from temporary accommodations for domestic violence victims to financial issues, there are tons of problems to resolve. How will government services change once the bill and its regulations are in place?
The old version of the Law on Domestic Violence lists the services the government is to provide. However, it didn’t specify who and how it should be executed, what standards to follow or how it should be financed. The new version specifies all of this. NGOs working in this field are progressing and expanding operations well. How a certain service is provided, under which regulation and rule, and what kind of services and standards are urgently needed are all determined to a certain extent.
Rather than using another country’s practice, the draft domestic violence bill is based on Mongolia’s experience and practice of more than 10 years. It regulates budgeting and financial issues to some degree. People think that everything has been changed from scratch and that it will cost more, but it’s untrue. Even if it were, it is the responsibility of the state.
Social workers, police officers, doctors and other civil servants are obliged to prevent crimes and domestic violence. There’s no need to hire more specialists.
There is a requirement for training and capacity-building for doctors, social workers and police officers. Already, a portion of the state budget is projected for improving skills and capacity of civil servants. In the past, this money might have been used for other things but from now on, it will be spent on its intended purpose through policy.
We’re not trying to start a brand new thing, put extra burden on the state, and cause additional costs. We’re only clarifying things that were unclear and making sure the money is spent on what it’s supposed to be spent on and where it should be going. We might even be able to resolve temporary accommodation issues for domestic violence victims.
The truth is that provincial mayors and agencies are in charge of providing temporary accommodations. They should be handling the financial issue as well and build accommodations for victims based on surveys and research. Of course, temporarily accommodations will have to be built with state funds but services for victims of domestic violence are provided through to the Social Welfare Law. These services have been clarified in the bill.
Is it true that the draft domestic violence bill has separate articles on the rights and obligations of the public on reporting domestic violence?
The bill states that citizens have the right to report domestic violence and abuse. If your neighbor is committing domestic violence or abuse, you should report it. You will not be held accountable for anything for reporting it. You will not be asked to prove it. In other words, legal organizations are not obliged to tell the suspects who reported their action. The safety and security of informants is absolutely important. This way, people can report without any worry if they suspect domestic violence or other crimes.
One thing was specified in the obligation to report. It urges people to promptly report children being affected by domestic violence. It’s a must because children aren’t able to protect their own rights and interests, or report that they are subject to violence and abuse. Adults have certain obligations to children. In this sense, they must report on behalf of children as stated in the law. The law states that civil servants must report as well.
For example, let’s say that a student keeps sleeping through classes. This could be due to lack of sleep caused by alcoholic and violent parents. Or a student might not be doing his or her homework. It could be caused by domestic violence too. If a teacher notices these things, they shouldn’t hide it or ignore it, but immediately report it to the police because they have that obligation. The same applies to doctors. If a person is badly hurt because of domestic abuse, doctors should report. They might be injured today, but their life might be in danger tomorrow. To prevent dangers or risks, everyone should report to the police if they detect signs of domestic violence.
Rights and obligations of civil servants may vary, but they will be protected and their confidentiality will be ensured for exercising their rights and executing their civic obligations. Only this way can we examine and resolve problems within families. Doing hundreds of patrols around the city is not enough to know what’s happening among the 700,000 families in the city.