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A Brief Timeline of the Recent Anti-Violence Movement in Mongolia

By Guest Contributor , on 21 June 2018

 

Mari Valdur is a PhD student at the University of Helsinki, Finland. She is currently carrying out her fieldwork looking at reproductive healthcare, gender and personhood in Ulaanbaatar

The Publicity of Non-Global Tragedies

While the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements elsewhere largely remain linked to the rights of individual women, in Mongolia, the mainstream movement against violence started in autumn, 2017, with an emphasis on the need to protect children and the responsibility, concern and emotionality of being a parent. The social and news media has been central in giving voice to the emotion-laden stories so they can reach the wider public, where they have provided a platform for people to also advocate for justice.

Surprisingly the onset of the Mongolian movement cannot directly be paralleled with #MeToo – at which core lies the Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein’s long-term sexual harassment and abuse empire revealed in The New York Times’ article in October 2017. Instead, it carries similarities to the extensive international media coverage of other assault and violent deaths reported in August 2017. In that summer month, which usually tends to be somewhat uneventful in media terms, the international media reported extensively about the case of Kim Wall who disappeared after boarding Peter Madsen’s submarine in the Danish waters and the gruesome detail of her death that came to fore as weeks passed. There were several other stories repeatedly highlighted, such as the disappearance of the nine-year-old Maëlys de Araujo from a wedding in the French Alps; and seeking of court approval by the parents of a 13-year-old girl in India for their daughter to be allowed to have a late-term abortion after being raped.

The beginning of the movement against violence in Mongolia aligned with the start of a new school year after a girl was found dead in a hotel. Having gained ground primarily as mothers’ fear for their children, and ‘children being Mongolia’s future’, it soon moved onto including discussions of domestic violence. Like #MeToo, hashtags #NudeeNee (#OpenYourEyes) were adopted, but the extensive circulation of these hashtags has often been overtaken by other strands of the movement.

The Advocacy of Fear, Anger and Suffering

The following chronology looks at a range of causes that were advocated for as part of the broader anti-violence topic; And how these could been seen as having given rise to one another but also created lines of division.

1 February 2017. The current Law to Combat Domestic Violence came to force making domestic violence a punishable legal violation.

1 September 2017. The news breaks about the death of a 13 year-old girl whose body was found at a Bayanzurkh district hotel in Ulaanbaatar on 23 August. She was found with signs of violence, including sexual assault, with a fatal blood alcohol content that is later released as the cause of death by the officials. The girl’s father T. Lhagvasuren appears in the media to describe what he saw when entering the hotel room. CCTV shows that she had been picked up from a bus stop by two men. The news on television addressing this spark considerable fear, concern and compassion in parents.

October 2015. Cases of sexual assault against young children are addressed in the media. Lhagvasuren’s daughter’s case is first expanded to a scandal and later to a movement when the rape of boy younger than two years is reported. Another core story involves a 5 year-old girl who was sexually assaulted by her stepfather, taken to the emergency room and is initially turned away due to the lacked of 10,000 tugrik service fee (around £3 or 3.5EUR). In December the stepfather is sentenced to 18 years in prison. Drawing on statistics, domestic violence is given attention as the main context in which child assault takes place.

16 October 2017. Mongolian President Kh. Battulga starts working towards re-establishing the death penalty in connection to the reported crimes, providing validation and a certain outlet to anger and discontent that the reports have given rise to. The removal of capital punishment from the Criminal Code had come to effect only in July 2017.

24 and 26 October 2017. Lantuun DOHIO, a NGO established in 2012 that carries out different activities against human trafficking and domestic violence and abuse, organises two NudeeNee (OpenYourEyes) demonstrations in Ulaanbaatar. Shortly after they also create a Facebook group for the campaign that is extremely active in the last months of 2017. #NudeeNee and #OpenYourEyes are used on social media.

13 November 2017. Lhagvasuren provides an in depth account on the talk show Tsenzurgui Yaria surrounding the death of his daughter. He refutes the defamatory accounts of his daughter that had started to spread and describes the unfolding events during the past months and the lagging of the whole process in the justice system. The extreme level of distress that he reveals in this interview indicates ongoing processes of victimisation and trauma beyond the criminal act itself in a situation where democratic processes of jurisdiction and prosecution are presumed to be in some correlation with the pressures and attention to the case created by publicity.

18 November 2017. There is another Nudee Nee demonstration on Sukhbaatar Square, which is significantly bigger than the first two.

Image 1: Nudee Nee demonstration on Sukhbaatar Square on 18 November. The signs mostly address the sexual abuse of children. Photo: author

 

27 November 2017. President Kh. Battulga addresses a letter to the Minister of Justice and Internal Affairs proposing the restoring of the death penalty in cases of sexual violence, cruelty and murder of young children, linking it directly to the scandals of the past months.

Winter 2017-2018. Outdoor events come to a halt, while discussions continue online and in the news media.

8 March 2018. International Women’s Day, which is also celebrated as Mother’s Day in Mongolia. A march takes place that advocates more directly for women’s rights drawing obvious parallels to the international women’s movement.

16 March 2018. Bolortuya (Beverly) Dorjsuren, a woman in her 30s, goes public with the story of a severe assault on her on 8 March that left her injured and temporarily unable to work. She posts on her Facebook timeline and the post is shared 569 times reaching the existing anti-violence groups. In the coming weeks she appears on television and social media sharing her struggles concerning the stalling of her case. Talking to Bolortuya more than a month after the attack, it becomes obvious how advocating for her case to be taken seriously and pushing for progress with it has taken over her everyday life, adding to the stress and cost of her on-going treatment. Unlike many other women who she encountered at the emergency room and police department, she acknowledges that she is in a position to do be able to do this due to her stable financial situation, support of her family and her professionally respected platform.

21 March 2018. Odgerel Chuluunbaatar establishes Huuhdiig hüchirhiilliin esreg taivan jagsaaliin alban yosnii grupp (The Official Group for Peaceful Demonstration Against Child Abuse) on Facebook. Only about a month later on 23 April 2018 it has 416,691 members. Odgerel, who has a son herself, says she created the group in reaction to increasing child abuse ahead of a demonstration the following week. She invited six other mothers to join her moderating the group and did not expect such explosive online following. None of the moderators of the group are linked to the Nudee Nee movement and advocate only against child abuse.

30 March 2018. The president compiles a draft law on the death penalty to decrease and tackle violence against children. The Minister of Justice and Internal Affairs Ts. Nyamdorj has not responded to the president’s proposal to restore the death penalty sent in November. Deputy Minister of Justice and Internal Affairs B. Enkhbayar comments at a meeting with the representatives of the Delegation of the European Union to Mongolia that the ministry has not found a legal basis for this.

31 March 2018. The largest demonstration to date addressing violence against children, No More Tolerance (Dahin Tevchihgui) takes place. It is accompanied by aggressive exchanges online about the death penalty, creating division and making some worry that the gathering could become violent.

Image 2: A photo posted on the anti-violence group of a car decorated with stuffed bears and labels that had been seen driven around on 31 March. Photo: Facebook user Happy Time.

 

9 April 2018. Directly unrelated to the movement, 3333 students wearing deels recite the poem Independence (Tusgaar togtnol) on Suhkbaatar Square in Ulaanbaatar as the president attends the event.

Image 3: School children celebrating Mongolia and Mongolia celebrating children on 9 April. Photo: Kh. Orgil on peak.mn.

 

25-28 April 2018. Lantuun DOHIO in collaboration with Gallery 88 showcases clothes of victims worn at the time of their assault, artwork, personal belongings and audio at an exhibition What Were They Wearing? (Ted Yuu Omsoj Baisan Be?) taking a personal and intimate approach to individual stories and portrayal of violence. Meanwhile, also in April, Lhagvasuren’s daughter’s case is still on-going; Bolortuya continues to post on social media, get treatment and add to the number of her visits to the police department; And the number of members of The Official Group for Peaceful Demonstration Against Child Abuse Facebook group is slowly decreasing.

The Exhausting Ways of Justice

This chronological review presents a handful of events that lead towards a brief and non-conclusive outline of the unfolding the recent anti-violence movement. This movement instigated a sudden rise of public interest and involvement of those who were previously not actively advocating against violence. Therefore, it has not done justice to the important efforts of organisations that continuously work toward moving forward the legal and discourse machine.

The freedom of press is shown to be problematic in today’s Mongolia owing to private ownership and links to politically active figures (see 5 May 2018 Defacto Review). However, it is curious how heavily the ideas of democracy and law enforcement remain linked to the sourcing of public knowledge of, and attention to, the particular cases. This is done through sharing one’s struggles on television or via other media, however taxing it may be. The speed of trials is presumed to be linked to the position of defendants: if they belong to wealthy and influential families there can be quite a lot of stalling and confusion with the validation of pieces of evidence, which become relaxed in their interpretative qualities during prosecution, similarly to what Lhagvasuren describes in the interview concerning the reason of his daughter’s death.

The attention to and discussions of law enforcement have been somewhat overshadowed by the emotion-provoking and releasing appeals for re-establishing the death penalty as well as false news on the existing law of punishment. While the Criminal Code could use certain updates and additions, this becomes a secondary focus in this context, where these laws are not implemented properly, or only eventually through other lanes of victimisation for those involved in lengthy legal processes.

This post was written in early May 2018. For an alternative perspective and a high-profile rape allegations case against a Mongolian MP, D. Gantulga, please see Lily Kuo’s article in The Guardian.

 

 

Ideologies of mortgage financing in Mongolia

By Rebekah Plueckhahn, on 16 March 2018

Rebekah Plueckhahn is a Research Associate on the Emerging Subjects Team at UCL – Anthropology. This post draws from research that forms part of her book Shaping Urban Futures in Ulaanbaatar forthcoming with UCL Press.

Visiting Mongolia in November-December 2017, many people I spoke to were preoccupied with the topic of the current influence of the recently implemented oversight by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and their influence in numerous sectors of Mongolian economic governance as they prepared to make sizable loans to the country. The influence of the IMF is currently extending into a vast number of areas, including macroeconomics, national ministries, as well as Ulaanbaatar municipal budgets. One area that had implications across these areas was the IMF’s current recommendations for the systems of financialisation that have made Mongolia’s 8% mortgage (ipotek) program possible through Mongolia’s secondary mortgage market.

As part of their recommendations, the management of Mongolia’s secondary mortgage market is being transferred away from Mongol Bank (the Central Bank of Mongolia), to the government, in particular, the Ministry of Finance (IMF 2017, 15 and 67). This has come as part of redefinitions and restructurings of the role of Mongol Bank vis a vis the Mongolian government, that has been cemented through the recently passed amendments to the töv bankny tuhai huul’ or the Law on the Central Bank of Mongolia. Part of these restructurings has been attempts to increase the central bank’s independence from government, including limiting its influence in state budgets, and putting measures in place so that it can better act as an agent of government, more involved in price stability rather than inflation and exchange rates (IMF 2017, 44). Talking with people and reading about these types of restructurings brought into view different anticipatory conceptual ideals of what an economy or financial arrangements should look like or become. The IMF recommendations followed their Safeguards Assessment of 2017, an initiative that encourages standardisation of central banks internationally. This forms part of a much longer history of central banks worldwide becoming institutions that adhere to the ‘rules and rhythms of the market’ rather than political influence (Bear 2015, 190-193). Mongolian parliament member D. Damba-Ochir, quoted in news outlet montsame.mn, stated that the amendments to the law on the central bank will encourage togtvortoi baidal or stability in times of financial crisis (ediin zasgiin hyamral). Another person I spoke to said the move to transfer the ipotek program to the Ministry of Finance was done to encourage sustainability.

Expanding monetary circulations

Hearing these updates at the end of 2017 gave me an opportunity to reflect upon other perceptions on the roles and make-up of Mongolia’s secondary mortgage market and the ethics of mortgage provision. It also gave me a chance to reconsider the links between these factors and the ways this scheme has unfolded and manifested throughout areas of Mongolia’s systems of financialisation, built environments and personal spheres. During the course of my research from 2015-2017, different manifestations of economic ideologies have proliferated throughout the entangled assemblage of actors that comprise Mongolia’s banking and construction sectors. Through following different, interlinked forms of monetary circulation (möngönii ergelt) that allow people to access apartment mortgage financing, what I was alerted to were the different and sometimes (but not always) competing perceptions of how things should be and how the housing ‘market’ should be formed.

Out of the multiple influences of a slowly emerging housing finance program during the 2000s, initiated partly through assistance from the Asian Development Bank and USAID, as well as a hugely increased housing stock brought on by Mongolia’s speculative boom in foreign direct investment from 2009-2012, Mongolia’s mortgage ipotek system was launched in 2013 as an attempt to reconcile the huge demand for housing and the lack of affordable mortgage financing then available. This mortgage system, run by the Mongolian Mortgage Corporation (Mongolyn Ipotekiin Korporatsi) (MIK), provided an interlinked secondary mortgage market through funds issued by the Central Bank of Mongolia to participating commercial banks, allowing them to issue 8% interest ipotek (mortgages).

The 8% interest ipotek is the only kind of more affordable form of housing finance available on the market in Mongolia. It is also quite new. The alternative, for apartments bigger than 80sqm, is to take out a oron suutsnii bankny zeel (apartment bank loan), a loan drawn from savings within commercial banks themselves (savings-based loan), which is often offered at 17-20% interest and a shorter time frame in which to pay it back. For the 8% interest ipotek mortgage, the 30% deposit and the considerable employment history required in order to qualify for it means that this option often does not meet the intended market of low-middle income buyers, nor has it allowed a great deal of people from the peri-urban ger areas of Ulaanbaatar to access apartments. However, among people who can afford it, the demand has been, and remains, extremely high. However, due to a depreciation of the Mongolian tögrög and a lack of funds to inject in the system, the issuance of the 8% ipotek loan from the central system has been varying, including it being paused at the end of 2015, and resumed in varying ways at different points since.

Discussing 8% ipotek mortgage issuance with loan officers at different banks in November 2017, I was informed about the high demand for these mortgages and the fact that some customers are still waiting for money to appear even though their mortgages had been approved a year ago. Attempts to meet this high demand have given rise to different kinds of monetary circulation in order to make this possible. Expanding beyond the secondary mortgage market, within Mongolia the systems of financialisation and monetary links comprise of an ever-expanding set of circulations, arrangements, exchanges and connections. While the economy has stalled, the 8% interest mortgage has remained a kind of idealised form of housing finance regardless of the changing nature of the systems that support it or the fluctuating levels of funding different economic institutions receive.

One such way to meet this demand has been the cooperation between banks and construction companies in an attempt to maintain the 8% ipotek mortgage as an option. Speaking with a loan officer in a bank in Ulaanbaatar, they told me how customers can qualify for 8% interest house loan through their bank if they buy an apartment in buildings built by particular construction companies. This circulation of money between a bank, an individual and a construction company allows construction companies a better chance of attracting customers in order to recoup construction costs through attempting to meet the high demand that the system will no longer support. These ‘circulations’ sometimes consist of the conversion of other forms of capital into an expanded type of circulatory network. As seen in the following advertisement posted in January 2017, this construction company at that time received land (including compensating for self-built buildings or baishin) and cars in lieu of a 30% down payment (urd’chilgaa tölbör):

Figure 1: In January 2017, a construction company advertises a variety of different and flexible conditions on acquiring an 8% interest mortgage through their partner bank, including items that can be accepted in lieu of a deposit. They promise a ‘quick decision’ on apartment loan applications.

Considering the construction company’s role in promoting arrangements like this expands our understandings of how Mongolia’s secondary mortgage market can be conceptualised and redefined. During fieldwork in 2015 and 2016, construction companies were often engaging in forms of bartering of cars and building materials in order to complete projects and sell apartments. Collaborating with banks forms another aspect of doing business.

Expanding ideologies

Such a collaboration between a bank and construction company that provides a different way of financing of a singular (relatively) affordable option allows banks to continue to participate in a form of mortgage financing in the hope that the secondary mortgage market will become increasingly reliable. The idealisation of 8% interest ipotek mortgage extends not only for its ability for a wider group of non-elite people to buy apartments, but also an idealisation of the system itself and what it can bring to the Mongolian economy. Echoing in a different way the IMF stance outlined above, one loan officer told me the secondary mortgage market could ‘ediin zasagiin zöv goldrild oruulah,’ or ‘turn the economy onto the proper course.’ While people are also skeptical of the different arrangements making mortgage financing possible, in the minds of many people the system initiated by the Central Bank exists in its potentiality as much as its practice. Mongolia’s secondary mortgage system is quite new, and like other arrangements and entanglements that make up the mortgage market, it is still in the making. In the meantime, people rely on other connections (Narantuya and Empson, forthcoming), that support this system from within (Maurer 2012, 414). Its proposed transfer to the Ministry of Finance in September 2018 (IMF 2017, 47), will form another substantiation of this network’s financialisation that will undoubtedly give rise to new political and economic relationships, connections and circulations. These, like other forms of financialisation, will further shape this nascent but important network and continue to expand and give rise to different economic ideologies within Mongolia.

I’d like to sincerely thank Batbayaryn Erdenezayaa for her assistance with this research.

References:

Bear, Laura. 2015. Navigating Austerity: Currents of Debt Along a South Asian River. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.

Bumochir Dulam. 2016. “The Politics of the Mortgage Market in Mongolia.” Emerging Subjects Blog, 29th January 2016. https://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/mongolian-economy/2016/01/29/the-politics-of-the-mortgage-market-in-mongolia/. Accessed 5th February 2018.

International Monetary Fund. 2017. “Mongolia – First and Second Reviews under the Extended Fund Facility – Press Release; Staff Report; and Statement by the Executive Director for Mongolia.” Washington DC. December 2017. https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/CR/Issues/2017/12/21/Mongolia-First-and-Second-Reviews-Under-the-Extended-Fund-Facility-Press-Release-Staff-45505

Maurer, Bill. 2012. “The Disunity of Finance: Alternative Practices to Western Finance.” In The Oxford Handbook of the Sociology of Finance, 413–30. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Narantuya, C. and Empson, R. (Forthcoming) ‘Networks and the Negotiation of Risk: Making Business Deals and People among Mongolian Small and Medium Businesses’ Central Asian Survey.