The government submitted the revised draft bill of the Child Protection Law to Parliament on October 13. We talked with Director of the National Center Against Violence, N.Arvintaria about whether the law can solve the problems and how the legal framework is seen. The center has analyzed the revised draft bill of the Law on Child Protection and is preparing its suggestions on the provisions that need to be improved. In addition, female members of Parliament submitted a bill to amend the Child Protection Law. A working group was established within Parliament with the task of combining these projects, preparing for discussion in the standing committee and the general assembly session, and drafting proposals and conclusions.
WITHOUT EDUCATING FIRST, YOU CANNOT ACHIEVE SUCCESS BY DEALING WITH CONSEQUENCES AFTERWARDS
Mongolia adopted the Child Protection Law in 2016 and is currently implementing it. Has this seven-year-old law done its job?
It can be concluded that there was no significant progress in the past period. Violence against children has not decreased but has become a major social problem. Based on reading the bill, the members of our organization concluded that it needs to be improved a lot and developed our proposal. The working group that developed the project has described it as a procedural law. However, if you take a closer look, it is difficult to say that it is a process, the activities are not coordinated.
Why are these activities not coordinated? Can you give us an example?
In terms of logic, it is appropriate to have prevention and informative measures first. In specific, to prevent the violation of children’s rights, a wide range of work should be carried out, such as providing information to the public and limiting, and prohibiting activities that create risky conditions. The basis of child protection policy should be awareness of the role of individuals, families, and organizations in protecting children’s rights, and activities aimed at reducing and eliminating the impact of risk factors. In this way, the public will understand what is considered a violation of children’s rights and what should be done as a priority to prevent it. The second step is to stop violations of children’s rights and provide effective and prompt responses and services. The third is rehabilitation, or services aimed at bringing the child and family back to normal life. It means that it will help improve the physical and psychological well-being of children and family members who commit violence and drink alcohol. This is the order in which the child protection process works. However, the draft law provides for immediate assistance first, followed by protection and rehabilitation services, with preventive action as last. That is why the coherence of the process is lost. Efforts aimed at the root cause or educating the citizens will not be successful if they are not carried out on a broad scale with the coherent participation of many sectors.
UNABLE TO MAP THE SYSTEM
Child protection is achieved, based on the participation of many organizations. How are the roles and activities of relevant organizations mapped in the law?
We tried to map the child protection system. Each organization has a different function. It is not possible to map the system because it is not clear how to connect them together. For example, one group works to reduce violence against children. However, the other part is making films and works promoting violence, discrimination, bullying, and alcoholism and broadcasting them without any control. In addition, the types of services are also vague. For example, it is indicated that a child at risk can be placed in a safe place. But, it is not clear what exactly is considered a safe place. Is it a one-stop service center or a temporary shelter? Or should the local governor, child rights inspector, and child protection specialist temporarily keep them in their room considered as a safe place? In addition, although it is included in the bill to determine whether the child is in a dangerous situation, it is not known who will determine by what method. It is impossible to know immediately if someone is in danger or not. Since this is not included in the draft law, in some cases there will be loopholes and misunderstandings. Assessing potential risks to children is the first step in professional services. Therefore, it is important to make it clear.
Relevant officials are talking about improving human resources and financing within the framework of law reform. Will the basic problems be solved by increasing budget and manpower? What is your opinion on this?
It is not clear what the funds for child protection are used for. Funds are not allocated to primary units providing services. I think most of the budget is allocated for supporting, developing, and empowering services of newly established institutions, instead of child protection. The budget is expected to increase in the future. More than 500 social workers will be added. Instead of increasing the number of posts and infrastructure after each problem, it is important to carry out activities aimed at eliminating the root causes more effectively on a larger scale and not to overburden the civil service. For example, it is
necessary to carry out the educating work at the national level. In other words, we believe that it is important to effectively prevent the violation of children’s rights. Because if there is unemployment and alcoholism, violence against children will continue. Another new regulation included in the draft law is that organizations and enterprises will spend one percent of their salary fund on child protection expenses. This means that the tax on employees will increase by one percent. I expect that it will cause difficulties.
Does it mean that the revised bill did not make progress compared to the current law?
In any case, the bill needs to be improved a lot. Therefore, we offered to join the working group and contribute. Because this is a problem that cannot be solved by a single organization or expert alone. Our center receives and provides services to many children who are at risk and victims of crime. Underage girls become victims of rape and become pregnant and give birth. Girls who are only 13- to 15-years old are treated as adults and are not accepted by orphanages. There is no regulation in the draft law on how to help such children. At-risk child protection services are currently contracted out to non-governmental organizations based on public participation. It is not clear in the bill how this will be handled.
IT IS IMPORTANT FOR CHILDREN TO BE SAFE TO GO BACK TO THEIR FAMILY AND ENVIRONMENT
In September, a child disappeared and then died. In this regard, I understood that the bill was submitted in haste?
It is true that it was immediately submitted as soon as the case related to the child occurred. The policies developed only on statistics without getting to the bottom of the problem and understanding it will become “lifeless”. If policies and procedures are coherent and everyone’s roles are clear, the response will be swift and effective. Preventive work should be the base work, effective and prompt services should be provided in each detected case, and measures aimed at reducing the risk conditions should be implemented. However, we have assigned all the responsibilities to the primary unit, the joint team, and the social workers. Branch ministries, relevant departments and departments only perform the functions of review and providing methodology. In fact, the professional management of child protection should directly manage the response to high-risk cases. In the Philippines, child and family specialists are concentrated in the shelters, where they develop policies and procedures, test them, and improve them while providing services. Why can’t it work like this for us?
Each province has an Authority for Family, Children and Youth Development. So, it seemed that they could improve child protection services to a sufficient level and empower their local staff as well. What is your position on this?
The crime prevention coordination council has a branch in each province. If the related organizations can work in harmony, there is no need to add many positions and be busy. The main problem is not the staff. If you don’t find your solution above, you won’t find your solution below. The Authority for Family, Child and Youth Development does not work with families
much. Child protection operates only by calling 108. After spending a week in a shelter, abused children are sent back to their alcoholic and violent environment. Or the parent’s parental rights are taken away and the child is sent to an orphan-
age. They do not work with the family. Protecting children’s safety for a few days is a way to reduce risk but does not focus on solving the underlying problem. The most important thing is for the child to be safe when they return to their family and familiar environment. This is what the relevant organizations should focus on. This is the main thing we want. However, it seemed that the bill could not bring that change. That’s why we want to improve it. Otherwise, it will be an inefficient law that increases the number of positions, salaries, and expenses of government employees, and increases the tax burden on working people. If we want to pass a law that works, we need to carefully reflect on the process.
There are 33 shelters and one-stop service centers in Mongolia. What are their conditions? Does the bill mention about improving its operation?
Shelter services need to be diversified and developed. This can be regulated by law. The Law on Combating Domestic Violence provides services to children affected by domestic violence. The Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act regulates services for sexually exploited children. There are shelters specifically designed for them, and it is unclear where and how other children whose
rights have been violated will be cared. Children who left their homes, who have been involved in crime, or who have been neglected, should not be kept together with victims of sexual abuse and exploitation. Rape victims cannot be housed with victims of sexual exploitation. The way to provide service and security is different. Also, most shelters do not accept children with disabilities. This is discrimination. In addition, if an abused mother and child goes to shelter, only the child
is taken. Not taking the mother is related to child protection costs. If children are protected, they get money from the state. There are no shared costs for adults. In this way, mother and child are separated. This should be solved by law.
The draft law on family was recently submitted to Parliament by the Ministry of Justice and Internal Affairs. Has your center analyzed the law? Are child protection clauses included?
We submitted our proposal of revised draft bill of the Family Law to the Ministry of Justice and Internal Affairs. It was a relatively clear and neat project. Logically, the revision of the Family Law should be approved first. Otherwise, there will be a need to amend the law if it’s not approved together. There are quite a few terms that need to be added or cleared up in the draft laws. For example, the term “foster family” was introduced in the Law on Child Protection. It is not in the Family Bill. To read the draft law on the family, it is included that fathers and mothers who have committed violence against children will be deprived of their parental rights, and they will undergo behavioral training. If the parents are treated, the right to be a parent will be restored. However, the child’s surname and name can be changed and adopted by others. In other words, unless parental rights are revoked, it is impossible to live with the child again. I suggest parents who have really understood and corrected their mistakes should be given the opportunity to live with their children out of compassion.