Notes from the Field

Mongolia’s Draft Law Could Protect Trafficking Victims, but Will it Pass?

March 2, 2011

Over the last decade, Mongolia has seen a rapid increase in human trafficking, especially of young women being forced into prostitution across Asia. While analysts say the resource-rich country could be one of the fastest growing economies of the next decade, many young women will be shut out of the boom there and search for better economic opportunities elsewhere.

Traffickers here take advantage of this vulnerability by luring women into false promises of employment and study abroad. The Gender Equality Center, the Foundation’s long-term partner, has identified more than 350 victims of trafficking since 2003. Many of these victims end up in China, Macau, South Korea, and other Asian countries. Often, their passports are confiscated, their freedom of movement is limited, and they are sexually exploited or forced into labor with little to no wages.

The Government of Mongolia is working to improve efforts to combat the trafficking situation. In 2008, the country amended Article 113 of the Criminal Code to include a definition of trafficking in compliance with the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, a supplement to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. Last year, the State Investigation Department of the National Police Agency established a specialized counter-trafficking unit to focus on investigating cross-border trafficking.

Despite the government’s recent efforts, important work remains to be done. For example, without legal provisions that protect victims, they are often reluctant to testify against their traffickers. As a result, as of early 2011, there have only been 12 cases involving 80 victims leading to 23 persons convicted under Article 113.

In October 2010, The Asia Foundation and the Human Security Policy Studies Centre (HSPSC) supported the Mongolian Women Lawyers’ Association (MWLA) for a National Conference on the Need for a Standalone Law on Combating Trafficking in Persons. Participants, including women lawyers, members of the Parliament, officials from the Ministry of Justice and Home Affairs and the Ministry of Social Welfare and Labor, and police investigators from across the country discussed the recently developed draft legislation on combating trafficking in persons that the parliament plans to consider this spring. The aim of this standalone law is to prevent trafficking and protect victims through improved rehabilitation and reintegration assistance and compensation.

Anti-trafficking activists are anxious and hopeful that the law will be passed in the upcoming spring session. With the U.S. State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and MWLA, we are conducting an eight-week advocacy campaign. The MWLA, the country’s only association of female legal professionals, has already collected more than 600 signatures from its members from all 21 provinces. The Association is actively reaching out to legislators to show the importance of this legislation, including the preparation of fact sheets with the latest statistics and trends on trafficking in Mongolia. If the legislation passes, it will be the first ever comprehensive law to protect victims of trafficking and will represent a major milestone in the country’s fight to end trafficking.

Jargalan Avkhia and Naran Munkhbat are program managers and program officers, respectively, for The Asia Foundation’s Anti-Trafficking program. They can be reached at jargalan@asiafound.org and naran@asiafound.org.

View all posts by Jargalan Avkhia

View all posts by Naran Munkhbat

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