3 The Luxury Frontier 6/11 (non-gay background story)
March 2011 – Queerty
And IGLHRC’s Felipa de Souza Award Goes To These Wonderful Mongolian LGBT Activists
The Mongolian LGBT Centre is this year’s awardee of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission’s Felipa de Souza award, which honors human rights defenders working on LGBT rights each year at it’s a Celebration of Courage gala. The organization’s Otgonbaatar Tsedendemberel (LGBT Advocacy Programme Manager) and Munkhzaya Nergui (Youth Programme Manager) share their story below.
The establishment in 2009 of an NGO solely dedicated to upholding the human rights of Mongolia’s LGBT community was a milestone in the Mongolian LGBT rights movement, and marked the end of a difficult and frustrating three-year journey for we LGBT Centre founders. We encountered a lot of prejudice along the way, and a lot of unnecessary obstacles were placed in our path as a result of that prejudice. But this was indicative of the level of societal misunderstanding and lack of acceptance of LGBT people that exists across the board in Mongolia. We expected it because it was a fight that hadn’t been waged before, and hence we knew it was inevitable that it would not be an easy journey. But we were prepared to go to the highest court in the land if necessary. We had no intention of giving up, and we didn’t. But certainly people’s attitudes were – and remain – the greatest challenge.
The issues facing the LGBT community in Mongolia are myriad and exist across all conceivable sectors of life. One of our main areas of focus this past year has been on clearly defining those issues and on educating society about those issues and what needs to be done in order to overcome them – and in this we are really stressing two things: The first is individual responsibility – that is, that ending discrimination begins with each and every person – and the second is on the need to establish institutional and legislative protections for LGBT people, such as the enactment of a law on non-discrimination, something we are currently spearheading the push for. In November, we launched the first national LGBT non-discrimination campaign, which is still running. As part of this campaign, we broke the key issues down into the following areas: Hate crimes, domestic violence against LGBT people, discrimination in education, discrimination in the health sector, and discrimination against LGBT relationships. Of course, these aren’t the only areas in which LGBT people face problems, but they certainly represent pressing areas of concern.
These are the main areas in which we are presently actively engaged, as well as undertaking such initiatives as working with Mongolian police to help broaden their understanding and acceptance of LGBT people. This is something that hasn’t been done before, but for which there is an urgent need given the level of police harassment that LGBT have faced. We have already conducted two LGBT human rights training for police, which we will scale up throughout 2011. We have also been working to develop partnerships with a range of cross-sectoral civil society organisations to ensure the integration of LGBT human rights into their agendas as well.
Our visibility within Mongolia has led to us receiving a surprising amount of public support, and our staff have been invited to speak at a number of schools and universities in Ulaanbaatar. And this really is the key to the future success of anything we do. Ours is a young population, and if we can change the hearts and minds of today’s youth, then we believe that future generations of LGBT people will enjoy a completely different reality. IGLHRC has supported us at every step of our journey – and indeed continues to do so. It is so important to have that international support and to be able to call on IGLHRC’s collective knowledge of LGBT human rights and human rights mechanisms when needed (and we’ve needed it often), and in this we would particularly like to extend our deepest thanks to Grace Poore and Ging Cristobal. Without people like them, our work is that much harder.
The Felipa de Souza Award came as a big – albeit welcome – surprise to all of us. And to be honest, it still feels very surreal. Sometimes we feel incredibly far removed from the world’s eyes and the world’s consciousness, so this award reinforces to all of us that people are watching what is happening in Mongolia. No activist works for accolades, but when they do come along they serve as a poignant reminder that no matter how difficult the challenges we face, we are headed down the right road.
The LGBT Centre NGO is Mongolia’s first and only LGBT human rights organisation, registered in 2009 after a three-year battle with state authorities. In a country fraught with hatred towards, and violence against, sexuality minorities, the LGBT Centre is working to build a better and safer society for Mongolia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community. The mission of the LGBT Centre is to instill the democratic and civic value of the non-discriminatory upholding, protection and promotion of those human rights guaranteed by the Constitution of Mongolia, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international conventions; to uphold, protect and promote the human rights of sexuality minorities; and to promote the correct understanding of sexual orientation and gender identity within Mongolian society.
02 April 2011 – LGBT Centre
Murders of LGBT people
Ulaanbaatar: Two killings in as many months have shocked Mongolian LGBT community. A gay male of forty to fifty years of age who went by a nickname S. in the community, a dentist by profession who had a practice in Zuunkharaa town, Selenge province, was found brutally murdered sometime in January 2011. Although the murder took place over two and a half months ago, no definitive headway has been made in the case, and no reports of investigation have been made public. Another member of the community, an HIV positive bisexual male E. of forty to forty five years of age, one of the founders of a community-based non-governmental organisation working for HIV positive people, went missing at the end of February 2011.
According to the reports from the community, his mutilated body was found on 24 or 25 March 2011: his right hand was cut off and his body was burnt. Although it is obvious that these are hate crimes, police questioned only gay and bisexual males in the city in relation to the latest murder as the gay and bisexual males are immediately considered automatic suspects in such cases. The OSCE definition of hate crime is clear: they are "criminal offences carried out against people or their property because of their real or perceived connection, attachment, affiliation, support or membership of a group. A group may be based upon characteristics such as real or perceived race, national or ethnic origin, religion, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or other similar factor".
Hate crimes are devastating in their effects since they instill terror and fear in the targeted community. Mongolia has no legal definition of hate crimes, nor are there anti-hate crime legislations.
June 23, 2011 – Wall Street Journal
The Luxury Frontier – What happens when a country previously hindered by vastness and foreign rule awakens to wealth on its doorstep? With Louis Vuitton on one corner and one of the world’s largest gold deposits down the road, the previously nomadic society of Mongolia is putting down some rich roots.
by Maureen Orth
There he stands alone on his horse, a fierce giant shimmering out of nowhere rising 131 feet against the vast Mongolian sky. Eight hundred years after he declared the Great Mongolian State in 1206, Genghis Khan rides again, all 250 stainless-steel tons of him. As I bump along on one of the few paved roads 20 miles outside the capital, Ulan Bator, this kitschy monument to the new mineral-rich and independent Mongolia seems more like a huge middle finger raised to its powerful neighbors, China and Russia. July marks the 21st anniversary of Mongolia’s robust democracy after more than 200 years of despised Chinese rule followed by 70 years as a satellite of the Soviets, during which time the proud history of Genghis Khan, who spawned the largest contiguous empire in world history, was banned from public view and utterance. Today, owing to deposits of 80 different minerals, including immense reserves of coal, copper, gold and uranium, as well as ongoing exploration of oil, this sparsely populated country, twice the size of Texas, is undergoing a dizzying transition. No other nation today so squarely faces the choice that Mongolia does. Will it become Nigeria or Chile? Venezuela or Australia?
"Mongolia really is the land of opportunity," says Howard Lambert, head of corporate banking for ING in Mongolia. "Everything can be done here. The financial infrastructure doesn’t exist, so you can be a part of building it. Instead of sitting in an office in London turning a wheel, you can build the machine. Every day I see new buildings, developments going up—people buying sports cars in a country that doesn’t have roads. The social divide is getting wider."
Mongolian Street Style
Nothing illustrates the topsy-turvy nature of Mongolia today more than the capital city’s main Sukhbaatar Square, where a bronze statue of Lenin once presided. Now a gleaming Louis Vuitton store, opened in October 2009, offers clients champagne in a circular VIP room outfitted with a lavish ceremonial Mongolian saddle and antique caviar case. Outside the store, however, several hundred yards away, a group of dissident poor have pitched their round felt and wood yurts (gers in Mongolian) to protest the government’s cozying up to foreigners and not doing enough for them. "We want jobs. The poor need to have a better quality of life," 52-year-old I. Baganuur tells me. "The government is implementing policies for themselves, not for its citizens."
Sharing the same luxury mall with Vuitton are Burberry, Zegna, Emporio Armani and Hugo Boss. Burberry is planning a second store in a Shangri-La hotel currently under construction. Ferragamo and Dunhill are also looking for space. At the same time, the capital, which boasts the most vibrant democracy in Central Asia, does not have street addresses and has just begun to introduce zip codes. "The irony for Mongolia," says American ambassador to Mongolia Jonathan S. Addleton, "is the more successful they are, the more challenging it becomes."
How could it be that luxury retailers have come to Mongolia? The country has only 2.8 million people, almost half of them living in a capital built for 500,000, including 700,000 destitute former nomads whose gers crowd the surrounding hills and who burn coal and even plastic bottles in the harsh winters, choking the city with extreme pollution. I wanted to understand how a luxury brand could turn a profit in this antiquated land where the livestock outnumbers the people 16 to 1.
My first interview with a Mongolian official is the tieless, 38-year-old vice minister of finance, C. Ganhuyag, whose office sports a putting machine with a strip of artificial turf. "I decided to install casual Fridays," Ganhuyag proffers. (In Mongolia, last names go first, often indicated only by an initial, and people are routinely referred to by first names.) After recounting his latest stay at Davos and directing me to his website, which promotes the new Mongolian "Wolf Economy," because wolves can survive in Mongolia’s minus-40-degree winters (Ulan Bator has the lowest average temperature of any world capital), Ganhuyag explains how Mongolia is trying to cope with its two largest mining treasures.
First, in October 2009, a $4 billion deal with Ivanhoe Mines of Canada and Australia’s Rio Tinto for Oyu Tolgoi, the world’s largest undeveloped copper-and-gold deposit, was finally signed by the government. Currently under construction, the mine is estimated to contain a staggering 40 million tons of copper and 46 million ounces of gold and should start operating in 2012. Next, six competing companies are waiting to hear which of them will win an even bigger deal to develop what will perhaps become the world’s largest coal mine, Tavan Tolgoi. Both of these behemoths are situated in the southern part of the Gobi Desert not far from the northern border of the voracious, commodity-hungry China. The area today contains mostly nothing except a few nomads, rare animals and priceless scenery. To manage the coal mine, a city of 60,000 is being planned.