In the following interview, Director of the Department of Family Policy Implementation and Coordination of the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection N.Bayarmaa delved into the activities of one-stop service centers and shelters, social care for domestic violence victims, recent research and measures to prevent domestic violence.
The recent studies show that the economic crisis has had a strong impact on gender-based violence, as the number of cases and women resorting to shelters has increased significantly since the start of the pandemic. Women constituted 93 percent of the victims and approximately 90 percent of the crimes were committed in a household setting. Police and NGO-run helplines report an increase in calls of 19 percent and 30 percent, respectively, while reduced mobility during the quarantine period and social distancing measures resulted in victims of domestic violence having reduced options for support and counseling. The number of victims of domestic violence requesting shelter services jumped by 54 percent, reaching over 910 during the first quarter of 2020, from about 600 victims during the same period in 2019.
Domestic violence survivors suffer a range of serious physical and mental health consequences that require urgent responses including emergency services, medical and psychological assessments, and immediate shelter options.
How many domestic violence shelters and one-stop service centers are operating in Mongolia?
As of the end of 2022, 35 one-stop services and shelters are operating. Last year, domestic violence shelters and one-stop service centers provided services to more than 6,000 people. About 3,900 of them were children. In one-stop service centers, professional social workers and psychologists work to reduce and soothe domestic violence survivors’ emotional distress and help them overcome physical and emotional trauma. These centers also provide brokering services. For instance, the centers help people in need of social welfare to get services. They also assist people with legal services until their case is resolved. Some centers even have lawyers and attorneys.
Stateless and undocumented people also come to these centers to receive services. The employees of the centers and shelters help these people to get documents by contacting the General Authority for Intellectual Property and State Registration. Victims also learn how to get jobs and careers. In particular, some services have built winter and summer greenhouses and train them to grow vegetables and flowers. By doing these activities, domestic violence survivors are able to forget their emotional trauma. The temporary shelters also meet their food needs to a certain extent with the vegetables they grow. Moreover, some centers have embroidery workshops. Victims make their own handicrafts, clothes and shoes.
Last year, greenhouses were established in five provinces with the financial assistance of UNFPA. Today, UNFPA also handed over 28 types of new interesting books worth 17 million MNT to 31 one-stop service centers and shelters that provide services to survivors of gender-based violence throughout the country. Books for children and on psychological well-being, health, personal and cognitive development were presented to one-stop service centers and shelters in the hope that they would be used to spread hope and happiness in the life of the children and mothers served by the facilities. The book helps victims overcome their mental issues and trauma. Victims in one-stop services read a lot. Even the pages of some books are worn. One-stop service centers and shelters provide a full range of protection services to victims. The centers also allow them to develop in many ways.
Year by year, the activity of our centers is improving. Most importantly, we pay attention to the specialization of our social workers. Since 2019, we have been introducing art therapy as a means of psychological correction of emotional disorders in one-stop service centers. We are working on training our social workers in this direction. Through this kind of therapy, victims of domestic and gender-based violence are learning ways to express their feelings through paintings and relax.
You just mentioned that victims read a lot. Do the centers and shelters have specific books for victims’ psychology?
The centers often have books on meditation and self-discovery for victims. There are also parenting books that help them learn how to treat and raise their children. They also have books in English. But the centers have different books. One-stop service centers are enriching their book fund by their own efforts. UNFPA has officially initiated the centers to have a book fund. So, in the future, we need to enrich and improve our book funds with books on psychology, communication and human development, so we plan to focus on this direction.
Is the number of people in shelters decreasing?
In general, about 4,000 to 6,000 customers come to the centers annually. There has been a slight increase in recent years.
You said that most of the victims of violence in the one-stop centers are children. Can you elaborate on this?
All who are in shelters are victims of domestic violence. Most of them, 60 to 70 percent, are children. Some of them follow their mothers to these shelters. It means that children who come to these centers with their mothers has also been subjected to domestic violence. A child seeing domestic violence means being abused.
On the other hand, there are children who come alone and receive services. In specific, there are children whose parents are addicted to alcohol, abandoned or physically abused. The fact that 60 to 70 percent of the people in temporary shelters are children means that children are subjected to violence. Therefore, we need to pay special attention to this. The Family, Child and Youth Development Center, government agency, has special shelters for children. There are also temporary shelters in the capital districts. In addition, one of the four temporary shelters under the non-governmental organizations became a development center. Specifically, Magic Mongolia 1 center of Lantuu Dohio NGO expanded from being a temporary shelter to a development center. The temporary shelter of Songinokhairkhan District will also be operational this year.
How long do violence survivors stay in temporary shelters and receive services?
The length of stay at victim centers varies. There are people who get three days of service. According to the standard, for 30 to 90 days, victims of violence receive services in temporary shelters. However, in some cases, it is possible to stay in a temporary shelter for less than that.
Last year, we surveyed more than 350 social workers. There are children who have been in temporary shelters for one to two years and whose problems have not been resolved. There is a disabled child who has been in the temporary shelter of the Family, Child and Youth Development Center for almost two years. In general, depending on the case, the length of stay in the temporary shelter varies. For example, for six months to three years, the centers work on children and women who have been sexually abused. Victims of violence are placed in temporary shelters to ensure their safety until their court cases are finalized.
What measures is our country taking against gender-based and domestic violence?
The Law on Combating Domestic Violence, revised in 2016, has been enforced. The Coordination Council for Crime Prevention of the Ministry of Justice and Internal Affairs works in this direction. It has also sub-council. The country organizes preventive measures every year. Particularly, the government annually organizes the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence in cooperation with international organizations to prevent domestic violence. There is also a police family and child abuse crime unit. The unit organizes preventive measures against domestic violence.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Protection also provides professional and methodological social protection services to violence victims. There are centers working at the primary level throughout the country. There are also 741 multidisciplinary teams in soum and khoroos chaired by local governors. About 6,000 employees work in these teams. They implement primary preventive measures and protect victims in accordance with the law.
The ministry has been working since last year to create a database to check whether all members of these multidisciplinary teams are doing social work correctly, and register them. We are developing a collaborative team social worker database. Through this database, the issue of registration and incentives for social workers will be resolved. On the other hand, a database linking 35 one-stop services and temporary shelters will be launched. With this database, we will be able to record the number of days victims of violence stayed in temporary shelters, the level of social work and services provided. The budget for this will be provided in accordance with the law.
Does the shelters and one-stop service centers keep in touch with their clients?
Under the Law on Combating Domestic Violence, more than 30 regulations have been approved. In accordance with these regulations, these centers keep in touch with the people who have been in shelters before. For example, in the period of 14 days to three months, the joint teams of soums and khoroos contact them. As I said before, we also do brokerage work. There are many good examples of social workers recruiting them. The National Center against Violence has a sewing workshop for women.