Mongolia: A Country of Fragile yet Strong Women
Oyuntsetseg Khurts is a lawyer, one of the founders of the Mongolian Women Lawyers Association, and a real patriot. She participated in the legislative drafting for Mongolia as an authoritative expert. One can communicate with this woman endlessly because she tells about the culture and history of her country so fascinatingly. During the interview, we talked with Ms. Khurts about her professional and social activities, the uniqueness of Mongolian women, and the spiritual strength of the people who defended the independence of their state for many years.
co-founder of Mongolian Women Lawyers Association
Oyuntsetseg Khurts was born and raised in Mongolia. Her father was a significant person in the country. He was a Deputy Minister and then a Minister for Geology and Mining. When Oyuntsetseg was a schoolgirl, he was transferred to the Mongolian embassy in Moscow and moved to Russia with his family. The girl continued her education there. She graduated from a Moscow school and entered the Faculty of Law at Lomonosov Moscow State University.
She graduated from it with honours and started practising the profession. Oyuntsetseg Khurts was appointed a judge and taught at the Institute for Management Training under the Administrative Affairs Office of Government. Later she decided to continue her education in Germany. Professors at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich appreciated her legal training level so highly that they saw no need for a Master’s degree. As Ms. Khurts recalls, she was so proud of her university that she felt a special responsibility not to fail it. It’s important for her to always maintain the quality level, preserve the authority of her father’s name and the reputation of the universities she studied at.
Ms. Khurts considers herself a very happy person because she has been dedicating herself to her favourite profession day after day for many years.
The career of Oyuntsetseg Khurts developed rapidly. The lawyer took an active part in the political life of the country. When the new Constitution of Mongolia was adopted in 1992, Ms. Khurts was one of the leading experts and a member of the group on the development of some bills. She paid much attention to work in corporate law and business development. Oyuntsetseg Khurts was a judge and one of the leading lawyers in the country. In 2008, she was elected to the city council and appointed Advisor to the Deputy Prime Minister of the country. Later, she worked as the Head of the Monitoring and Supervision Department at the Administrative Affairs Office of Government and a Senior Advisor to the National Security Council of Mongolia. However, Ms. Khurts decided to leave top positions not long ago and dedicated herself to a job, which was much more valuable to her.
Mongolia is a country that produces about 1 million tons of oil per year. However, oil processing takes place outside of the country. Oyuntsetseg’s father, as former Minister for Geology and Mining and founder of the Copper and Molybdenum Mining and Processing Plant in the city of Erdenet, is still deeply convinced that Mongolia needs its own large oil-processing plant. Today, such a plant is under construction thanks to the financial support from India.
Oyuntsetseg Khurts, as the daughter of her father and a true patriot, started working as Head of Administration and Personnel Department of the oil-processing plant to contribute to the development of that project.
Lawyer Is a Role Model to Society
Ms. Khurts worked as a lecturer at a leading institute for executive leadership training for a long time. As an educator, she often was an innovator, pioneer, and creator of new training programs. It has always been important for her to not only transfer knowledge but also develop the best human qualities that lawyers need: honesty, commitment to justice, love for people, and respect for the law.
“A lawyer is the guardian of law and social justice. That is why he or she must live in harmony with the spirit and law, observe the rules, and fulfil the opportunities available to people. When seeing the honesty and integrity of lawyers, people believe in the justice of the judiciary and government. That is how society enters the path of progress”, believes Oyuntsetseg Khurts.
The modern world is experiencing an interesting period characterized by rapid and large-scale changes. In many respects, lawyers are the people responsible for the result of changes, both positive and negative. Oyuntsetseg Khurts is sure that by developing new laws and correcting the existing ones, they are able to direct society to a certain path of development.
Mongolian Women Lawyers Association
Public activities have an important place in the life of Ms. Khurts. The Mongolian Women Lawyers Association was established in 1992. Oyuntsetseg Khurts was the organisation’s executive director for more than seven years. Today, she is a member of the board of community management.
Adoption of the law against domestic violence is one of the Association’s most significant achievements. The organisation lobbied it for several years. At that time, Mongolia was one of the first Asian countries to begin addressing the problem.
In the 1990s, after the Perestroika period, the post-Soviet countries were undergoing a transition to market economies. The policy of shock therapy in the country’s economy harmed the vulnerable segments of society making them dependent on other people. Many people lost their jobs and stable income. Special national programmes allowing to protect citizens were created in the country at the initiative of the Mongolian Women Lawyers Association.
In 2015, the Association jointly with another public organisation achieved the adoption of an anti-trafficking law.
Today, the organisation is actively engaged in monitoring the public and public service and the activities of the executive authorities. It monitors compliance of the activities of local governments with anti-corruption laws. In addition, the Association carries out ongoing educational work. Members of the community undergo regular advanced training.
Mongolian Women: Wisdom and Independence
According to Oyuntsetseg Khurts, the whole state historically rested on the fragile shoulders of Mongolian women. Since the formation of the Mongol Empire and later, in the moments of struggle for independence, men were busy with wars a lot. That’s why the burden of not only household duties but also maintaining the country’s economy was the responsibility of ordinary women and rulers of the country. According to Ms. Khurts, many queens in Mongolian history ruled in the absence of men.
For centuries, women have had a significant role in the house. They had the right of property, the right of inheritance, and the right of final approval.
“A woman who gave birth to three sons had the same status as a man and had the right to make decisions in the family. The mother of seven sons in Mongolian society was actually considered a saint”, says Oyuntsetseg Khurts.
Honour, dignity, and good name always come first for Mongolian men and women. They were never tied to property but paid more attention to moral and spiritual values. In many ways, such a worldview approach was formed by their nomadic way of life. This is the spiritual value base of the nomadic civilization. Tolerance to different religions and worldviews is also a bright national feature of people in Mongolia.
The introduction of Buddhism as the main religion was another important point in the formation of the Mongolian mentality. That happened after Genghis Khan’s death when the Mongol Empire was divided into four parts and its capital was transferred to Beijing. By the way, most men became monks at that time. The survival of the state and the solution of economic and political issues largely depended on women.
Today, Mongolian women are still very initiative and independent. Although they are still underrepresented at the highest levels of government (for example, women make up only 16% of the country’s parliament), they are actively fulfilling their potential at the local government level. In addition, it was a Mongolian woman named Sükhbaataryn Yanjmaa who became the first woman parliament speaker in the world.
The population of Mongolia is only 3 million people. Women make up a bit more than half of it (51%). The value of each person in the country is very high because of the small number of population. That’s why women mothers are especially respected in Mongolia.
In the period of socialism, Mongolian women received education and learned relevant professions, which made it possible for them to strengthen their social status. Being role models to the younger generation, women of Mongolia showed that they can achieve great success in career and remain caring keepers of the family hearth.
Women managed to maintain a balance and not ‘replace’ men but harmoniously accompany them. According to Oyuntsetseg Khurts, that is where the deep wisdom of the Mongolian woman lies.
Viktoria Yezhova, Global Women Media news agency
Translated by Nikolay Gavrilov