Mongolian Women Urge Amendments to Domestic Violence Law

Every year, a “16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence” campaign is held across the globe, including in Mongolia, to increase awareness about this global pandemic.
This year in Mongolia, the spotlight was shone on domestic violence through another campaign called “Our Voices,” which provided survivors of domestic violence an opportunity to voice their struggle. According to UN data, domestic violence affects at least one in five women in Mongolia. In the last three years, 43 people have been killed and 982 injured as a result of domestic violence in Mongolia. Eighty-seven percent of these victims are women. Domestic violence is a hidden crime in Mongolian society with a very few victims actually reporting cases to the police, so like in most countries, there are many more silent victims of domestic violence than the official statistics reveal. Because 34 percent of Mongolia’s population is under the age of 18, its youth are especially vulnerable to domestic violence.
In 2004, Mongolia passed its first domestic violence law that aims to “protect the rights of victims, to provide safety, to impose liability on offenders, to define roles and responsibilities of the government, non-government organizations, citizens, and other entities to combat and prevent domestic violence.” (The Asia Foundation provided support to the Women Lawyer’s Association and the National Coalition against Violence in the drafting process of the law.) While this was an important step forward in advancing women’s rights, human rights activists and organizations in Mongolia are concerned that the law needs to be further strengthened to provide adequate protection to victims of domestic violence. Since the law was enacted, only 41 protective restraining orders have been issued, and none have been enforced by a court.
In the autumn session of parliament which started in October and will continue until February 2014, parliamentarians will consider various important amendments to the law, including:
• Defining domestic violence as a criminal offence and not just a family problem;
• Recognizing that domestic violence includes physical and mental harm, such as harassment, controlling, threatening, stalking, and sexual violence or unwanted sexual acts;
• Outlining clearly the duties and responsibilities of the police and courts, as well as social workers and health workers to prevent and respond to domestic violence urgently, and;
• Requiring that restraining orders are monitored, and that they are extended and enforced depending on the violation of the order.
The mission of the Our Voices Campaign, organized by the local NGO, National Center Against Violence (NCAV), is to push parliamentarians to pass the proposed amendment to the existing law to define domestic violence as a criminal offence as well as to encourage youth to talk about domestic violence more openly.
As part of the campaign, four women told their personal stories as survivors of domestic violence through a series of photography and story-telling exhibitions that were presented at public spaces including universities, markets, and the central square. The exhibition aimed to inspire the general public to talk more openly about domestic violence and encourage the government to take action. [Read their stories.]
The campaign was accompanied by a website and social media campaign to directly reach out to Mongolia’s youth. Youth were also directly engaged in spreading the word about domestic violence by volunteering to hand out information at the exhibitions which have been shown in Ulaanbaatar and Darkhan and talking to other young people about what domestic violence is and how to get help. The campaign has been successful in emphasizing the important role young people have to play in addressing domestic violence by standing up for their friends, mothers, and sisters and making sure this scourge of violence is not passed onto the next generation.
Funding for the Our Voices Campaign was provided by the UNFPA and the U.S. Embassy. For more information, visit http://mn.our-voice.net/.
Enkhtungalag Chuluunbaatar is a program officer with The Asia Foundation in Mongolia. She can be contacted atenkthungalag.chuluunbaatar@asiafoundation.org. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and not those of The Asia Foundation.
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