Mongolia’s #MeToo Movement

Mongolia’s viral #OpenYourEyes campaign brings attention, but can it spur changes to combat gender-based violence?

Mongolia’s #MeToo Movement

A Mongolian newscaster from Eagle News speaks at a UNFPA event as part of “16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.”

Credit: Peter Bittner

In Mongolia, like many other Asian nations, gender-based violence (GBV) is a taboo topic. In the small nation of over 3 million wedged between China and Russia, nearly one-third of citizens live nomadically. Although today’s herders widely employ motorcycles and smartphones in their daily routines, the traditional dogma of “what happens inside the yurt stays inside the yurt” still reigns throughout much of Mongolian society.

While the wife-stealing days of Chinggis Khan are a thing of the past, the stigma against discussing GBV applies even in Mongolia’s rapidly growing urban areas, including the capital city, Ulaanbaatar, where roughly 1.4 million citizens reside.

“There are people being victimized all the time,” said Ganjavkhlan Chadraabal, founder of the non-profit organization Lantuun Dohio.

“No one wants to talk about it,” according to Ganjavkhlan, whose NGO works to combat the sexual exploitation and trafficking of children.

Nevertheless, Mongolians are starting to speak out.

As the “Weinstein Effect,” #MeToo and #TimesUp movements continue to draw attention to GBV in the West, activists, artists, and politicians in Mongolia are pushing for greater awareness of sexual violence against women and girls, and stricter laws to prevent such crimes.

A number of shocking and highly-publicized sex crimes in the final months of 2017 have drawn rare public attention to the issue of gender-based violence in Mongolia. While deep reticence to confront issues of sexual violence remains in both the personal and public spheres, the country’s fledgling civil society is pushing to mobilize the public and spur new government policies in response to a number of horrific sexual assaults on girls.