On December 6, 2019 IDLO teamed up with the School of Law and Social Sciences of the University of Internal Affairs of Mongolia to organize a prize debating competition where more than 300 students came together to compete in teams presenting arguments around common misconceptions about gender-based violence (GBV).
“As the project's first attempt to host a debate at the Law Enforcement University, we had no idea what to expect,” said Tara Neal, IDLO’s Country Manager in Mongolia. “Much to our delight, 12 teams of three persons each competed in front of an audience of some 300 students training to be police, lawyers and emergency services personnel. Students debated a number of topics related to GBV and expressed an interest in future project activities.”
All twelve teams fought hard and competition was intense, with just two points dividing the top three teams, but in the end the first prize went to the team arguing on the topic “Workplace sexual harassment is the most severe form of GBV”.
The debating competition represented the first event of its kind organized at the University of Internal Affairs, and the University has announced plans to include course credits in gender studies starting in 2020.
Tara Neal, IDLO Country Manager in Mongolia (left), with student winners of the debating competition
“GBV is one of the most widespread human rights violations in the world as well as in Mongolia. This debate competition provided us systematic and integrated understanding on what is gender, gender equality, GBV and its causes. I liked the event, and I’m planning to take part as speaker next year,” commented one of the students taking part in the competition.
IDLO has been working in Mongolia since May 2019 to strengthen the response to GBV through a multi-year program supported by the Government of Canada (Global Affairs Canada) that aims to empower victims of domestic violence to access justice, claim their rights and play an active role in advocating against domestic violence crimes.
Despite government efforts to tackle the problem, including passing a new law on Combating Domestic Violence in 2017, violence against women in Mongolia, in particular domestic violence, remains alarmingly high. According to a nationwide survey carried out in 2017 by the United Nations Population Fund, domestic violence affects nearly 60 per cent of Mongolian women who are married or in an intimate relationship.
Raising awareness about violence against women and how it needs to be combated in all its forms – be it physical, sexual, emotional or economic violence – is an important part of the challenge. The 2017 UNFPA study also found that one in four women in Mongolia, regardless of social and economic status, agreed that a husband is justified in beating his wife if she is unfaithful.
Working with civil society
A major component of IDLO’s Canadian-funded program is focused on strengthening the capacities of civil society organizations (CSOs) – currently the main providers of legal aid to victims of domestic violence in Mongolia – to enable them to provide quality primary advice and professional legal assistance to survivors of domestic violence.
In September 2019, IDLO brought together some 62 participants representing 47 CSOs from the capital Ulaanbaatar and 19 of the country’s 21 aimags (or provinces) for a four-day training delivered by national experts on law and GBV using interactive techniques and victim-centered approaches.
“After completing this workshop, I feel confident that I can provide better primary advice in domestic violence cases. We have two lawyers in our office and now I don’t have to wait for them when there is a crowd of clients seeking assistance from us,” commented Lkhagvasuren Tseepilmaa, a psychologist working at the ‘Setgeliin Goyol Psychological Counselling Center’ in Zavkhan province.
The workshop also marked the creation of a CSO forum which will be maintained throughout the project as a means of sharing best practices and referral resources.
Another participant, Ganbayar Uranchimeg, who works as Legal Advisor for the ‘Lantuun Dohio’ civil society organization in Ulaanbaatar remarked after the event: “Lantuun Dohio works in human trafficking, child protection and domestic violence activities in prevention and raising public awareness. Thanks to this workshop, I gained knowledge in legislation, multidisciplinary team operation and referral services that is helpful for my daily work.”
A second meeting of the civil society forum was held in December 2019 in Ulaanbaatar to build on the success of the first meeting and provide a platform for sharing successes and challenges, as well as collecting data on GBV cases from the past quarter. Representatives from a wide range of CSOs and provinces met to discuss various topics, including training paralegals on domestic violence cases and international best practices of domestic violence case referral.
“The energy and enthusiasm of our civil society participants from across Mongolia is always remarkable. Today's forum proved to be another successful event with participants engaging in creative discussions about joining forces in rural areas to promote legal awareness about GBV and provide increased services to victims”, remarked Tara Neal, IDLO’s Country Manager, after the event.
The December forum also provided guidance to CSOs on how to apply for small grants in support of the project’s public legal awareness campaign, currently being developed by IDLO in collaboration with a working group led by IDLO and involving representatives from the relevant government agencies. The awareness campaign is due to be launched nationwide in January 2020 across all main media channels in Mongolia including television, radio, print and social media.