With domestic violence only recently classified as a crime in Mongolia, police officers, judges and other justice professionals initially had to navigate unfamiliar territory. Capacity building programs are helping them to support victims in line with the new legislation and resolve cases through coordinated response mechanisms.
According to Mongolia’s Deputy Prosecutor General, improved collaboration between the different authorities involved in responding to cases of domestic violence is leading to more successful prosecution of perpetrators in the courts.
A 'new' crime: legislation on domestic violence
Erdenebat Ganbat, Deputy Prosecutor General of Mongolia
Constituting around one third of all registered crimes, domestic violence poses immense socio-cultural challenges in Mongolia, not least because 40 per cent of the population is nomadic and spread across the country’s sparsely populated vast plains.
IDLO has been working to combat domestic violence through improved mechanisms, coordination and capacities. Its program, funded by the US Department of State, has brought together service providers and representatives from justice sector institutions in a consultative and participatory process to enhance cross-sectoral responses to domestic violence.
Though long recognized as an important social problem, domestic violence was legally recognized as a criminal offense in Mongolia only with the adoption of new legislation in February 2017.
The Mongolian Deputy Prosecutor General, Erdenebat Ganbat, explained that before the criminal code was changed, “domestic violence was a hidden crime. We couldn’t record it as a separate category. Only now that it has been designated a separate offense, can we fully understand the gravity of the problem.”
Mongolia's ‘Law to Combat Domestic Violence’
While the first act of violence carries warnings and fines, the second entails criminal proceedings against the perpetrator. Police officers hold responsibility for protecting people from abuse at the hands of family members, and coordinated response teams ensure adequate support for victims and families. Risk assessments help professionals determine whether an investigation should continue, even if the victim withdraws a complaint.
Yet without the knowledge and skills to recognize different forms of domestic violence and gather evidence, law enforcement officers initially found themselves ill equipped to implement the new law. A lack of awareness of how to interact with victims in a way that is sensitive to their trauma and considers family dynamics – known as ‘victim-centered’ techniques – compounded the difficulties of prosecutors and investigators, and risked exposing family members to further harm.
An innovative approach: multi-agency training
Dr. Tuya Ukhnaa, teacher, trainer and researcher at the Mongolian Institute of Education
With a view to strengthening the capacity of justice actors to respond in a coordinated and effective manner to domestic violence, IDLO introduced an innovative inter-agency training program in Mongolia.
Rather than delivering courses to each institution separately, IDLO’s program brought together police officers, prosecutors, judges, bailiffs, government representatives, and private and public defenders – a microcosm of the justice chain involved in responding to cases. In addition to learning about domestic violence to support them in their professional capacities, participants were trained to become trainers themselves and pass on the knowledge gained.
A large part of the training was delivered by Dr. Tuya Ukhnaa, a Mongolian expert on legal education, adult learning and teaching methodology. Despite years of collaboration with international organizations in Mongolia, Dr. Tuya had never before taught a mixed group of participants from multiple agencies. She thinks this multi-sector approach was the catalyst that fostered a common understanding between different justice actors on how to respond to domestic violence.
“Coming from different agencies, they had conflicting views and found it difficult to cooperate – for example, judges and police officers struggled to understand each other’s responsibilities and acknowledge one another’s work,” Dr. Tuya explained.
“As a result of the training,” she said, “they became much more aware of each other’s roles. Even though they work in different areas, they now understand the commonalities of their work: how to deal with victims of domestic violence, or how to communicate with children. This is very good for their cooperation.”
Bayartsetseg Purevdorj, a newly graduated trainer and senior officer at the Judicial General Council, agreed: “It was amazing to see how we worked together in such a friendly way to reach one goal. The training was a good opportunity to learn new skills and collaborate with other agencies.”
Justice sector cooperation for an effective domestic violence response
Since graduating and forming a corps of local trainers, participants have embraced their new teaching role and have gone on to deliver training to their colleagues across the country. They collaborated on the development of a handbook and other tools giving practical guidance to justice professionals, including a video for police.
Other changes are also coming into place. The Law Enforcement University has incorporated a module on domestic violence into its curriculum, and the domestic violence course will be compulsory as of the 2018-19 academic year. The Judicial General Council refurbished special facilities for family disputes, and IDLO trained judges who will be specialized in family and domestic violence cases. The prosecution service now has at least one trained prosecutor for domestic violence in each province, who have become mentors for other prosecutors.
Mr. Erdenebat, the Deputy Prosecutor General, taught several modules of IDLO’s training course and provided ongoing support and legal expertise to the trainers while they worked on the handbook. He thinks that as a result of the training, justice professionals are working together far more closely to protect victims and punish offenders.
For prosecutors in particular, he said, the training was of immense value: “Before, we kept losing cases. Prosecutors didn’t have the skills to investigate and prove domestic violence cases based only on the victim’s complaint. Today, prosecutors have participated in IDLO’s training and understand this new type of crime. Every day, they are getting better at prosecuting domestic violence because they know how important it is to work closely with the victims and first responders to collect evidence and write consistent reports.”
IDLO is now delivering its multi-agency training across all ‘aimags’ or provinces of Mongolia, seeking to build the capacity of justice actors across the whole country to provide a coordinated response to domestic violence. There is strong demand for capacity building, and some trainers are being requested to train others in the sector, such as professionals working in child protection, social support and family development.
A touch of celebrity: training video provides hands-on tips for police
Battsetseg Natsagdorj is a state-honored Mongolian actress who is well known for her work in movies and television programs. Many viewers recognize her as the wife who ran away from an abusive husband in the film ‘Siilen Buur’.
In her most recent role, Mrs. Battsetseg plays the mother of an abused daughter. Only that this time, her audience will be taking careful notes of what exactly happens when the police arrive at the scene.
The short film is an IDLO-produced training video providing practical guidance for police officers responding to cases of domestic violence. Lessons include going to the crime scene in pairs; taking the perpetrator to another room while interviewing the victim; recording the interview; collecting evidence at the scene; what questions to ask the victims; and so forth.
Mrs. Battsetseg is the only professional actress in the video. All other roles are played by real-life justice professionals who recently graduated from IDLO's training of trainers course.
Psychological support for victims
Myagmarjargal Amgalan, officer for family development and protection in Darkhan-Uul aimag
One of the newly graduated trainees is Myagmarjargal Amgalan, an officer for family development and protection at the Authority for Family, Children and Youth Development. The Authority runs family advice centers which provide advice and referral services to families and citizens.
Of those people who seek help, Mrs. Myagmarjargal noted, most have reached a stage of domestic abuse where they feel they have nowhere else to turn to. She described how the right advice can not only help them protect themselves from further violence, but can also give them the conviction and necessary life skills to take action.
Bayarchimeg Jadamba, senior police officer in Darkhan-Uul aimag
“A girl came to us whose partner had been beating her,” said Mrs. Myagmarjargal. “The most important thing was for her to understand that the situation was only going get worse. She needed positive reinforcement that her life would continue. In the end, she left her partner and is living with her parents. Recently she told us that for the first time in a very long time, she felt free. I think that was a productive outcome.”
Police officer Bayarchimeg Jadamba, another IDLO trainee, told us that she feels relieved when she can help victims and sometimes even perpetrators of domestic violence who come to the police station for advice. She said: “It’s all about informing them about the law. We tell them what would happen if the violence continues, and if necessary we can organize a session with a psychologist. We would also take a written statement from the perpetrator attesting that the action will not be repeated.”
Cooperation between law enforcement and institutions such as the Authority for Family, Children and Youth Development is crucial in order to address domestic violence in a comprehensive way. Multi-disciplinary teams comprising social workers and the police are legally mandated by the new law and hold joint responsibility for identifying families at risk. IDLO fosters this cooperation by including the relevant representatives of all parts of the justice chain in its training activities.
“With time, with public awareness, people will change”
No matter how much progress is made through improved protection and prosecution, there is widespread agreement that the key to reducing violence lies with prevention through greater awareness.
Mr. Erdenebat thinks too many people simply don’t understand domestic violence. “Perpetrators don’t know that they are breaking the law. Instead of using only punitive measures and putting everyone in jail, the State must use preventive measures for the public.”
“It’s true that Mongolia is a big country,” he continued. “But we have very good internet everywhere, even in the countryside. Everyone has social networks like Facebook. If we send a message, people can see it.”
There have been some positive developments since the new law was introduced and information distributed. Mrs. Myagmarjargal thinks more people are aware of the problem. “I had one case of a woman who was helped by a stranger on the street, because they recognized the characteristics of domestic abuse and knew who to refer her to,” she said.
Since the adoption of the new legislation, Mrs. Bayarchimeg conducts regular training not only for the police force, but also in schools, kindergartens and companies, where she talks about the characteristics of domestic violence, family relationships, legal provisions and how to cooperate with the police.
People like Dr. Tuya know how important it is for the public to have legal knowledge and understand how laws are implemented. In addition to legal professionals, she thinks civil society organizations have a key role to play in disseminating information to the population.
In the long run, Dr. Tuya is optimistic: “We can’t change Mongolian traditions and it’s very hard to change the attitude of ordinary people. But there are ways, and we saw this in the training. With time, with public awareness, people will change.”