|The revised Law on Domestic Violence will become effective on February 1. Member of Parliament N.Oyundari, who led the working group responsible for revising the legislation, gave an interview to clarify on changes made to the law and other important domestic violence related matters.|
Parliament passed the revised Law on Domestic Violence on December 22, 2016 and the new law will become effective from next month. How much study and research did the working group do? Were there any challenges developing the bill?
The working group researched challenges faced by the police and rural communities when regulating domestic violence crimes at districts in the capital and rural settlements. We expanded the scope of the law enforcement and cooperation with NGOs, civil society organizations and international organizations.
The working group also studied Austria’s practice for implementing measures against domestic violence. Considering that it was best to adopt effective practices of other countries, we made some amendments to the law. The new version has 46 articles.
The Law on Domestic Violence was amended once before by the previous Parliament. What are the main changes made to the law this time?
It’s definitely a law that impacts the lives of everyone. Several conceptual changes have been made. Overall, domestic violence is a very sensitive issue. Its scope can be broad depending on events happening between separated and blended families, and their siblings, parents and relatives. As it is a sensitive domestic matter, the scope of the legislation has been expanded and the roles of police organizations in detecting domestic violence, viewing certain actions as crime, and ensuring safety of victims have been made more specific. The new law provides additional regulations for protecting children from domestic violence, more services for victims, and allows these victims to access comprehensive services from a single place.
A council has been put in charge of enforcing a policy against domestic violence and preventing this form of crime, and eliminating the main source and cause of domestic violence. Many proposals were reflected in the law in relation to its principals, but the most important one was determining domestic violence as either administrative violation or criminal act depending on the extent of damage to the victims and impact on society.
What kind of measures will be taken through the new law?
Articles 120.1 and 120.2 of the Criminal Code states that administrative measures (fines or warnings) will be taken for first instances. If actions considered as domestic violence is continuously committed, it will be viewed a criminal offence and appropriate measures (confinement) will be taken. Every victim appealing to the court will get a trial in accordance with the revised law. In the past, victims could cancel court trials if they refuse to make an official complaint or reconcile during investigation procedures. There were rumors that police officers pressure victims to withdraw charges. Domestic violence cases usually reoccur after investigation. Special measures have been specified to prevent this and the accountability system has been improved. The previous law didn’t assign roles to organizations, but now, the government, Parliament and law enforcement agencies know exactly what their role is for preventing domestic violence. Measures to be taken by health and education institutes have been made clear.
What kinds of actions are considered domestic violence?
Domestic violence includes willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, economic abuse and other abusive behavior.
For example, a person can be charged for economic domestic violence if they repeatedly take their parent’s pension without consent.
How will people extorting pension from their parents or seniors be held accountable?
The same system I mentioned before will apply. First, administrative measures will be taken, but if it continues to the extent that offenders waste victims’ money for food on alcohol, for instance, several forms of penalty will be imposed to the offender, such as imprisonment.
…The new law provides additional regulations for protecting children from domestic violence, more services for victims, and allows these victims to access comprehensive services from a single place…
During discussions of the revised bill, MP A.Sukhbat criticized that the law was too westernized and not suitable for Mongolian culture. Can you comment on this?
A working group from the previous and current Parliament spent a considerable amount of time working on the Law on Domestic Violence. A lot of comparisons were made with foreign legislations. We considered which practice would suit Mongolia the best. We also took into account that Mongolia has both sedentary and nomadic lifestyle when developing and approving the bill.
Is it true that victims can demand pain and suffering damages when the law becomes effective?
This kind of article isn’t in the Law on Domestic Violence, but it’s closely linked to the Criminal Code. Victims can suffer from emotional and mental damages besides physical ones. Some people can be emotionally and mentally abused only, which can be caused by constant restriction from having interactions with others or going to school, and due to stalking. It’s an improvement that these things are now considered crimes.
It’s difficult to prove pain and suffering. Wouldn’t some people take advantage of the law and try to extort money from others?
Such things are inevitable. Let me share an example that happened while I worked at Songinokhairkhan District. Apparently, practically 70 to 80 percent of reports to the Songinokhairkhan District are related to domestic violence. Hence, police officers become counselors and psychologists on top of their primary work. They said that they’re able to tell when someone lies when questioning about the case.
We found out that pain and suffering was always present when studying practices of other countries. Like you said, it’s difficult to prove this. Let me share some common cases. A husband buys his wife a phone under his name. He can supervise incoming and outgoing calls from his wife’s phone as it’s legally under his ownership. This often leads to jealousy and stalking in most countries. These kinds of husbands usually make sure that they don’t leave a trace of their tracking so that the victim can’t provide substantial evidence for the police. Therefore, very specific things have been reflected in the law in relation to this.
According to the law, the public has a responsibility to report when they suspect or detect domestic violence. In the case that people ignore domestic violence victims, how will they be held accountable?
Article 46 is fully dedicated to specifying measures for ordinary people, as well as civil servants, who don’t fulfill their responsibility to report. The law is more focused on the protection of victims and witnesses. You can find details about this from Article 23.
Overall, people are instructed to report to their soum or district mayors. All teachers, social workers, doctors, nurses, health workers, child and family support workers, administrative workers, government officials, civil servants, and independent contractors working on government projects are obliged to report if they detect or suspect domestic violence, in accordance with the law.
The law also specified seven types of services for victims of domestic violence, which includes security, health care, counseling and psychological services, as well as social welfare and legal assistance. Legal assistance includes advocacy service, which means that intermediary services will be provided too. All of this will be granted for free of charge.
Then who will cover costs of these services for domestic violence victims?
As the 2017 state budget has already been approved, there isn’t a specific budget for these free services. However, the Ministry of Justice and Internal Affairs assured that it was possible to manage these costs using internal resources, and through projects and programs implemented by NGOs and international organizations. Soum and provincial administrations have separate crime prevention councils that have a certain amount of financing. They said it was possible to use that financing for covering costs of these services.
Has the punishment system changed compared to the previous version of the law? How strict or light are penalties for domestic violence offenders compared to other countries?
Couples quarrel due to small problems all the time. There are some parents who believe that they need to give a good spanking to their children to discipline and educate them properly. It’s impossible to start a criminal case every time it happens. The Law on Domestic Violence of Mongolia aims to help families to reconcile and become closer and stronger, whereas legislation of some countries try to immediately split families when a parent inflicts physical injury.
The most important thing is that the Law on Domestic Violence doesn’t just regulate issues between spouses. It has a relatively fair coverage for issues related to seniors and children. The scope of the law has been broadened so that even harassment by parents-in-law and issues between split families are regulated.
Many couples cohabitate. Does the law regulate issues and harassment between couples who used to cohabitate?
It’s common for couples to split even when they had a child while living together without marrying. Harassment by a former partner is a form of abuse so it has been legalized.
Mongolia has the Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure Law. How consistent is the Law on Domestic Violence with these two legislations?
The Criminal Procedure Law, adopted in 2004, was repealed following the adoption of the revised Law on Domestic Violence. Moreover, Parliament already discussed amendments to nine legislations on education, social welfare, criminal procedure and more. Several changes were made to the bills and the most important ones were penalties in the Criminal Code.