Notes from the Field

In Mongolia: Combating trafficking in persons – Government and civil society making a difference

August 27, 2008

In May of last year, Silvano Jino and Sarangerel Chuluunbaatar were convicted under Mongolia’s Criminal Code Article 113 for trafficking Mongolian women to Macau; they were sentenced to over 10 years in prison. This was the first trafficking in persons case that resulted in a conviction under Article 113 in nearly a decade, and it is an example of the Government’s commitment to pursue perpetrators aggressively.

Between the early 1990s and 2006, only half a dozen cases of trafficking were prosecuted and adjudicated by the Mongolian courts. Of these, only one resulted in a conviction under Article 113, which carries relatively stiff penalties. The other cases were presented under Article 124, Organized Prostitution, which carries relatively light sentences of between one and three years imprisonment.

Beginning in early 2007, the Ministry of Justice and Home Affairs has led an aggressive charge to combat trafficking in persons. This effort was supported by non-governmental organizations, such as the Mongolian Gender Equality Center, which significantly increased victim services and launched massive nationwide public awareness and education campaigns. As a result, the number of victims who came forward and registered their cases increased nearly tenfold — from 13 in 2006 to 115 in 2007. Over this same period, the number of investigations conducted by the Criminal Police exploded, resulting in an increased caseload which prompted the Attorney General’s Office to create a special Office for the Prosecution of Trafficking and Corruption. By April 2008, the Courts had convicted 17 perpetrators in 13 cases ” nearly twice as many convictions as in the prior decade combined.

In February 2008, Parliament ratified amendments to Criminal Code Article 113 and aligned it with international conventions by expanding the range of acts comprising a trafficking crime and increasing penalties — particularly for aggravated offenses involving minors, multiple victims, or repeat offenders. As a result, the number of convictions and the severity of the punishments are anticipated to increase in the future.

Mongolia is predominantly a source country for trafficking, with victims lured by acquaintances, friends — and in some instances, family members — into exploitative conditions. Women and men are recruited through fraudulent pledges of employment, scholarship or marriage. Trafficking occurs most frequently to the People’s Republic of China, Macau, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, and in instances, to Israel, Turkey, Switzerland, Kazakhstan and Hungary for sexual and labor exploitation.

Last summer, a massive public awareness campaign brought 50,000 people together on Ulaanbaatar’s central square for the country’s first anti-trafficking concert. This week, combating trafficking in persons will be among the causes that will be championed at an open-air concert that will feature all Mongolia’s top music groups. With this strong government commitment and civil society mobilization, the prospects for ongoing success in the fight against trafficking are promising.

William Infante is The Asia Foundation’s Country Representative in Mongolia.

View all posts by William Foerderer Infante

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