Dear Minister Nyamdorj,
On behalf of Human Rights Watch I write to express concern that the State Registration General Agency of Mongolia has denied registration to the Mongolian non-governmental organization "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Centre." In its rejection letter of June 23, 2009 (No. 7/694), the Agency justified its decision by claiming that "the name ‘Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Centre' has a meaning that conflicts with Mongolian customs and traditions and has the potential to set the wrong example for youth and adolescents."
The Agency's denial of registration to this organization is a violation of international human rights law, the Mongolian Constitution and the Law on Non-Governmental Organizations.
In 1976 Mongolia ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and is obliged to apply its provisions. Article 22 of the ICCPR affirms the right to freedom of association; article 19 affirms the right to freedom of opinion and expression and article 21 the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. These are rights essential to citizenship and political participation. To restrict these rights on the basis of a judgment about the names under which citizens associate and assemble, is to strike at those democratic values. While these rights may be restricted for reasons of "public morals," international human rights law also requires that any such restriction be non-discriminatory in intent and effect. Articles 2 and 26 of the ICCPR affirm the equality of all people, and require all the articles of the ICCPR to be applied in a non-discriminatory way. In the 1994 case Toonen v Australia, the United Nations Human Rights Committee, which is charged with authoritatively interpreting the ICCPR and evaluating states' compliance with its provisions, found that both these articles should be understood to include sexual orientation as a status protected against discrimination. The Agency has clearly discriminated on the grounds of sexual orientation by refusing registration to the Centre, for the reasons it has given.
The denial of registration on the ground that the name "Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender centre" has the potential to set the "wrong example" for youth and adolescents means that the Centre will not be able to distribute information, including information that children could use in order to learn about their own sexual orientation. The denial is in violation of the Convention of the Rights of the Child. Article 13 paragraph 1 of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, ratified by Mongolia in 1990, states that a child shall have the right to freedom of expression; "this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information of ideas of all kinds". The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has held in general comments 3 and 4 of the Convention that these protections include discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Furthermore, article 14, paragraph 2 of the Constitution of Mongolia grants everyone the right to act as a legal person, and prohibits discrimination. Article 16, paragraph 10 of the Constitution affirms that "the citizens of Mongolia shall be guaranteed the privilege to form a party or other public organizations and to unite voluntarily in associations according to social and personal interests and opinion."
Article 5, paragraph 1 of Mongolia's Law on Non-Governmental Organizations, dated January 31, 1997 states that "citizens of Mongolia and legal persons except State bodies may freely establish, individually or collectively, non-governmental organizations on the basis of their interests and opinions without the permission of any State body." Paragraph 2 of the law states that "illegal restriction of the rights of citizens to establish non-governmental organizations is prohibited."
The denial of registration prevents the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Centre from pursuing their stated goals, to "uphold, protect and promote the human rights of sexual minorities, namely lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender persons" and "to promote the correct understanding of sexual orientation and gender identity within Mongolian society".
Furthermore, article 7 of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders provides that "everyone has the right, individually and in association with others to develop and discuss new human rights ideas and principles and advocate their acceptance." The 2007 report of the UN Special Representative on human rights defenders specifically mentions the denial of registration to organizations as a violation of the rights of defenders of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender rights, and cites articles 2 and 12 of the declaration to remind states of their responsibility to protect human rights defenders.
"Lesbian," "gay," "bisexual" and "transgender" are internationally accepted and recognized terms that have been incorporated into many languages worldwide and are understood in multiple cultures to refer to people who experience a gender identity different from their sex at birth, or who desire intimate relations with members of their own sex. To regulate the very terms by which people articulate their identity is to restrict their autonomy and human dignity in ways that are unacceptable, and inconsistent with the protections of human rights law.
On behalf of Human Rights Watch, I urge you to protect the human rights of all persons in Mongolia and uphold the rights to freedom of association, to freedom of expression, and to equality and non-discrimination. I urge you to overturn the State Registration General Agency of Mongolia's decision and accord the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Center legal registration.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Program
Human Rights Watch