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Mongolia: Domestic Violence Made a Criminal Offense

(Apr. 12, 2017) On February 1, 2017, Mongolia’s newly amended Law to Combat Domestic Violence entered into force. The new Law was adopted on December 22, 2016, although it had originally been approved by the Great Hural (the parliament) on May 13, 2016, and scheduled for entry into effect on September 1 of that year.  (The Law to Combat Domestic Violence (Dec. 22, 2016, in force on Feb. 1, 2017), MONGOLIAN LAW (in Mongolian); Lila Seidman, Mongolian Parliament Recognizes Domestic Violence as a Criminal Offense, UB POST (June 16, 2016).)  Mongolia’s first law on domestic violence was adopted in 2004, but proved to be “largely ineffectual” because of a lack of “adequate budgetary support and its provisions conflicted with existing laws, preventing proper implementation.”  (Seidman, supra.)

For the first time, with this change in the Law, domestic violence can incur criminal punishment. The Law provides that while the first instance of domestic violence will not be deemed a criminal act, the second instance will be.  (Ashleigh Griffiths, Mongolia’s Amended Law Makes Domestic Violence a Criminal Offence, ASIA FOUNDATION (Feb. 8, 2017).) Under the Criminal Code, “administrative measures (fines or warnings) will be taken for first instances of domestic violence.  If actions considered as domestic violence are continuously committed, it will be viewed a criminal offence and appropriate measures (confinement) will be taken.”  (Id.)

The new Law covers, among other subjects:

  • the principle of domestic violence and definitions;
  • forms of domestic violence (ie., physical violence, emotional abuse,. economic abuse, and sexual abuse);
  • prohibitions against domestic violence;
  • protections for the rights of victims;
  • government policies to combat domestic violence (including the approval of annual operating costs, reflected in the state budget, to combat domestic violence;
  • powers of the Government of Mongolia in the fight against domestic violence;
  • functions of various responsible state bodies (e.g. those in charge of legal, crime prevention, education, health, cultural, and prosecutorial matters);
  • functions of local government bodies;
  • functions of public authorities responsible for child and family issues;
  • functions of non-governmental organizations;
  • detection and suppression of domestic violence
  • the role of social workers and health workers;
  • protection of children from domestic violence;
  • situational assessment and victim services; and
  • behavior modification training.  (The Law on Domestic Violence, supra.)

Related Provisions in the Criminal Code

Mongolia’s new Criminal Code, adopted in 2015, has a section on family violence that penalizes less grave offenses with restriction of movement for from one week to three months, or imprisonment for one week to three months and more grave offenses with from one month to six months’ restriction of movement or imprisonment for from one month to six months. (Criminal Code (Dec. 3, 2015; click on middle tab above the seal to view more recent amendments), § 11.7, MONGOLIAN LAW (in Mongolian).)  The Code also has a provision, under its section on state commutation of sentences, that recognizes the legitimacy of self-defense for victims of abusive spouses who are exposed to constant abuse and harassment.  (Id. § 6.5.)

According to MP Ts. Oyungerel, who has promoted the Law to Combat Domestic Violence “for more than a decade,” under the previous Criminal Code a woman who killed an abusive husband would often be given an enhanced sentence of an additional five to ten years if the judge determined they were motivated by revenge.  (Seidman, supra.)  The new Code eliminated this “revenge provision,” and its provision on the legitimacy of self-defense “is retroactive, meaning that women currently charged under the revenge provision will have their sentences recalculated. Some women’s sentences will be reduced and others will be released.”  (Id.)

Changes to Other Related Laws

In addition to changes made in the Criminal Code “to create the proper infrastructure needed to support” the Law to Combat Domestic Violence, five other laws were also reportedly amended or to be amended, including the Criminal Procedure Law, the Law on Victim and Witness Protection, the Law on Law Enforcement, the Law on Administrative Violations, and the Law on Marshals Service.  According to MP Ts. Oyungerel, “this is the first time that domestic violence has been addressed in laws beyond” the Law to Combat Domestic Violence.  (Id.)

Domestic Violence in Mongolia

According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Mongolia, which “supported a wide range of initiatives to revise the 2004 law, and get it approved by the Parliament” and helped “get related laws amended and approved to ensure that the legal system in relation to domestic violence is consistent,” the new Law “is extremely important” for a number of reasons.  (A. Esguerra & B. Oyun, Mongolian Parliament Approves Domestic Violence Law, UNFPA MONGOLIA (May 26, 2016).)  Among them is that a violent relationship exists in one out of five families in Mongolia, that for every five women one suffers from physical violence, and that “one out of 2 children and one out of 4 elderly are victims of violence.”  (Id.)  In addition, during a five-year period as of 2015, 80 lives were lost and 3,299 people were injured as a result of domestic violence; according to the UNFPA Mongolia, in Mongolia “88.3 percent of domestic violence is against women and 64.6 percent is against children.”  (Id.)