Welcome Remarks for the Mongolia national LGBT dialogue

21 Mar 2014

Welcome Remarks for the Mongolia national LGBT dialogue

Sezin Sinanoglu, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative

Dear Ms. Oyungerel, Minister of Culture, Sport and Tourism, Mr. McBride, charge d’affaires of the US Embassy, LGBT Community, Colleagues from USAID, ladies and gentlemen :

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you today on behalf of the United Nations to the Mongolia national lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender - what is often called LGBT – national community dialogue.  This dialogue is organized as part of the ‘Being LGBT in Asia’ initiative, a joint undertaking of UNDP and USAID and LGBT community organizations.  I am pleased to note that on the first day of the dialogue yesterday, LGBT community activists from all over Mongolia and representing different organizations had an opportunity to meet together and discuss issues that the LGBT community faces in Mongolia.  They will be raising these issues and their recommendations for solutions with members of the Government of Mongoliaand other stakeholders today.

‘Being LGBT in Asia’ is currently being implemented in eight countries across Asia including Mongolia with the objective to gain a better understanding of the overall situation for sexual and gender minorities and to promote the human rights of LGBT persons.

Why do we have such a programme? Simply because lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons are vulnerable to a range of human rights violations. In some countries being LGBT is criminalized. People are put in prison, their most basic human rights taken away, face violence and are totally pushed aside – why, just because they have a different sexual orientation. The main premise of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” Any discrimination due to sexual orientation is a violation of that most basic premise.

UNDP has previously worked with the National Human Rights Commission of Mongolia to explore and gain better understanding of LGBT human rights issues in Mongolia.  The ‘Being LGBT in Asia’ expands this work and links Mongolia with other Asia-Pacific countries.  It is a concerted effort to address the human rights of LGBT people who are often marginalized, discriminated against, and face legal, political, social, and safety challenges in their day-to-day life. 

This is also the first initiative in which the UN system has looked comprehensively at the situation of sexual and gender minorities from a human rights lens and not from the traditional HIV/public health lens.  While HIV is a pressing public health challenge and a core area of our focus, we will now also be examining a broader range of laws, policies, enabling environments, media coverage, political views, religious views, and societal attitudes towards LGBT people .

I would like commend the initiatives taken by civil society organizations in the past few years in Mongolia to increase public knowledge and understanding of LGBT issues. In particular, the Pride Week and DemoCrazy Carnival organized in 2013 were innovative ways to raise awareness among the general public, especially among young people.  I would also like to commend the National Human Rights Commission in working towards human rights for all Mongolians.

While LGBT issues remain an under-researched area in Mongolia, there has been some recent progress in this regard.  In addition to the above mentioned UNDP/National Human Rights Commission study, there has been a study carried out by John Hopkins University, UNAIDS Mongolia, and the NGO ‘Youth for Health’ that revealed that obtaining legal assistance, workplace discrimination, and legal recognition of their relationships were among the most difficult problems that LGBT people face.  I am certain that more detailed information about the situation of LGBT people in Mongolia will be forthcoming from this national dialogue.  

Mongolia’s submission to the UN’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2010 made special references to the situation of sexual and gender minorities, which also contributed greatly to bringing LGBT issues to the policy arena in the country.

Art. 14.2 of the Constitution of Mongolia is a non-discrimination clause, which applies to all persons, preventing discrimination “on the basis of ethnic origin, language, race, age, sex, social origin or status, property, occupation or post, religion, opinion, or education.” A recent trend in constitutional drafting is to include an open-ended category “or other basis” at the end of such lists, so as to allow the courts to update the clause to keep pace with social changes. For example, sexual orientation is now a protected category in many countries, but it was not twenty years ago.  Similarly disability was not an explicitly protected category in the Constitution. An open-ended clause “or other basis” will ensure that the principle of equality evolves with the times and that sexual orientation and gender identity might also be covered as a protected category in the Constitution in the near future.

Mongolia’s justice system is undergoing significant changes these days.  This provides unique opportunities for changing legislation and prohibiting discriminatory practices.  I hope the suggestions and recommendations you will provide at this national dialogue will inform important legislative reform processes. 

I would like to end by thanking the Mongolian LGBT community present here, USAID and the U.S. Embassy, and last but not the least the Government of Mongolia for making this national dialogue possible.  We hope that this dialogue will give you the opportunity to engage with each other to identify problems facing the Mongolian LGBT community and propose solutions on how they might be resolved.  My very special thanks also to our hard working UNV officer Magnaisuren, Saurav from our UNDP regional team, and the UNDP Mongolia national dialogue team of Thomas, Davaa, Altanchimeg, Barkhas, and Saikhnaa for pulling off this event successfully. Also, thanks goes to everyone that has helped organize the logistics for this important event.

Let me end by a quote of the Secretary General, “As men and women of conscience, we reject discrimination in general, and in particular discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

I wish us all success in today’s dialogue. Thank you!