In Mongolia, victims of sexual violence are the ones blamed, named and shamed in the community. Gender-based violence, in particular child sexual abuse, is not spoken of in public and neglected both at the policy level and by authorities.
Owing to a deeply rooted patriarchal system, girls and women are expected to stay at home and look after housework and childcare and are financially dependent on the males in the family. Those who face abuse are unable to create a new, safe life for themselves.
According to UN figures, it is estimated that one out of two children is subjected to domestic violence. Statistics show that 40 per cent of victims of domestic violence are girls and young women aged 15-34. A recent study found that only 10 per cent of children believed that violence against women was unacceptable. Violence is also pervasive in schools – according to the UN, nearly two thirds of girls had experienced some form of abuse.
The consequences of violence are well-documented: they can include permanent disability, long-term psychological distress and unwanted pregnancy which in turn can lead to complications due to unsafe abortions.
Despite efforts to raise awareness on the issue of violence against children, there is little being done at a systemic level on prevention, with rural areas particularly affected.
Beautiful Hearts Against Sexual Violence (BHASV) was established in Mongolia in 2012 by a group of social workers, psychologists, youth and parents with a common goal to end child sexual abuse in the country.
BHASV targets girls from both urban and rural areas. It lobbies policy makers and raises awareness among parents, schools and the community on the dangers of sexual violence.
Working with girls and young women aged between 4 and 30, BHASV provides psychosocial services, including trauma-informed art therapy and builds the capacity of service providers. It organises events aimed at promoting girls’ rights and has produced music videos that have been viewed thousands of times throughout the country. In 2016, it launched a public awareness project to educate girls on the risks of cyber bullying.
Girls are part of the organisation’s staff and are represented on the Board. They also make up the majority of volunteers. With strong grassroots ties, BHASV has been welcomed by the communities it serves and has capitalised on this support to engage the wider community.
BHASV has made good use of the power of social media and videos to spread awareness. To date it has benefited over 35,000 girls in Mongolia.