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March 28, 2017

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From phobia to hope: On LGBT rights in Mongolia

ULAANBAATAR -- LGBT activists and NGOs started carrying out activities in the second half of the 1990s in Mongolia, and as a result, the situation for LGBT people has improved.

The word "phobia" in English, derived from the Greek word "phobos," means fear or aversion. On the one hand, people dislike things they are afraid of. On the other hand, one could be afraid of something unknown, and even feel strong dislike toward it. As American author H.P. Lovecraft puts it, "The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear. And the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown."

Today in Mongolia there are those who accept and positively perceive the rights of sexual minorities or the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, whereas there are others who stigmatize and dislike them. These are the people who do not have adequate understanding and information about the LGBT community members, while believing false word of mouth information, incorrect interpretations and even propaganda concerning the community, thus blindly denying the sexual minorities' rights. And all of this has to do with the aforementioned fear of the unknown. This is called homophobia and transphobia.

Because there was no information about sexual minorities in Mongolia and no platform to discuss these issues openly, transparently and reasonably, LGBT activists and NGOs started carrying out activities in the second half of the 1990s. As a result, the situation has gotten somewhat better. International human rights law, U.N. treaties and conventions, as well as basic principles prohibit discrimination, hatred and unequal treatment of individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

When this happens, local cultures, customs and traditions are usually used as an excuse. This is the case in Mongolia. When we discuss LGBT rights, some people react that this should not be happening in our country. In fact, it is not true if we say Mongolia is a nation without sexual minorities. In 2013, the Undestnii Toim magazine dedicated its whole edition No. 37 (188) of Sept 16, 2013 for the first ever Pride Week of Mongolia (from 2014 it was called Equality and Pride Days), focusing on the rights of sexual minorities. Its journalists wrote on the subject matter by doing research from many different perspectives. One of them keenly observed the masterpiece "One Day in Mongolia" painted by B.Sharav, in which two men are depicted having sex and the journalist concluded that "this could well be an answer to those who view that same-sex relations were imported from the West along with democracy."

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