The only gay bar in Mongolia

Lila Seldman has been to the only gay bar in Mongolia.

In Mongolia, it isn’t easy for a gay bar to fly under the radar, even in the center of Ulaanbaatar, the country’s biggest city, home to more than a third of Mongolia’s total population of 2.8 million…. Until 2002, homosexuality was illegal and punishable by imprisonment. Gay life in Mongolia is still far from easy. For many Mongolians, gay visibility is seen as an invasion, a foreign influence corrupting traditional life. Bullying at school remains prevalent, labor discrimination is rife, police hostility abounds and healthcare and social services are frequently withheld.

Fewer than 18% of Mongolia residents have internet access, and until recently, information about anything related to gay life was nearly impossible to come by. When it does, it can be despairing. In the ‘90s, a famous and grisly incident disturbed the tiny country, when a Mongolian pop singer who was rumored to be gay was found beheaded in his apartment. Now, same-sex teen suicides crop up in the news with alarming frequency.

In 2010, Mongolia’s newly formed LGBT center reported on over a dozen hate-motivated instances of harassment, violence, and rape before the UN. In 2001, a lesbian woman was abducted, stabbed and raped by two men after the funeral of her girlfriend, who had committed suicide. In 2009, the ultra-nationalist neo-Nazi group Dayar Mongol kidnapped three transgender women in broad daylight and took them to a cemetery where they were beaten and sexually assaulted. None of the crimes were initially reported to “for fear of secondary victimization by police.”

Hopefully pressure from inside and outside will help the Mongolian community to achieve greater liberty and protection.