Women in Mongolia

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Women in Mongolia
Mongolian women
Gender Inequality Index
Value 0.328 (2012)
Maternal mortality (per 100,000) 63 (2010)
Women in parliament 12.7% (2012)
Females over 25 with secondary education 83.0% (2010)
Women in labour force 54.3% (2011)
Global Gender Gap Index[1]
Value 0.7204 (2013)
Rank 33rd out of 136

Mongolian women traditionally perceived themselves to have a higher social status than women in many other Asian societies, but were still subordinate to men. Many were herdswomen and mothers, but during the Middle Ages some served as warriors or as members of the Khuriltai, a Mongolian governmental council. Some women even served in commanding roles during military operations.

Traditional subordination[edit]

Western scholars have argued, based on indigenous sources like the Secret History of the Mongols, that Mongolian women had higher social positions and greater autonomy than women in Islamic, Sinic, Buddhist and Christian European societies. Such arguments focus on certain foreign practices like footbinding and professional barriers to entry, but neglect many traditional obstacles for Mongol women, such as strict gender roles, marital violence, and the pressures towards endogamy.[2]

Women herded and milked sheep, and they routinely managed the household if widowed or if their husbands were absent to perform military service, corvée labor, or caravan work. William of Rubruck reports on the full "toleration" of women in the "Mongol" (actually Tatar) armies. Mongols valued fertility over virginity, and women remained subordinate to men and were restricted to the domestic sphere. Unlike other steppe cultures such as the Scythians or Sarmatians, women were sheltered from much more specialized duties; a traditional Mongol saying is "women are short of knowledge", however this appears to be Slav-linked, Chingis Khan advised to heed the advice of women.[citation needed] Marriages were arranged by parents, and Rashid al-Din documented Mongol marriages as being that, "A man has power and is the master, and a wife is only his dependant".

It is characteristic of Mongolian attitudes toward male and female contributions that the care of sheep—which provided Mongolians with their basic, daily sustenance—was the responsibility of women, while the care of horses—which contributed much less to subsistence but more to prestige, war, and sport—was the prerogative of men. Traditional Mongols combined notions of masculine primacy with a flexible attitude toward female participation in male-associated tasks, and women ordinarily filled in for men when no males were available for such activities as milking horses or even riding them in races. Archery contests, one of the "three manly sports" (the others are racing and wrestling), always included a female round. Till the 14th century there were also Mongol women warrior wrestlers such as Khutulun, probably Buddhism and health problems as well as any possible racial admixtures then made this practice cease.[citation needed]

The Mongolian Revolution of 1921 began efforts to bring women into public life and into the extra-domestic labor force. The state's constant efforts to promote population growth also have led to a strong emphasis on women's reproductive capacities; bearing large numbers of children has been considered a civic duty.[citation needed] Tension had existed, however, and frequent childbearing, state-mandated maternity leaves, as well as caring for young children probably have affected the sorts of jobs women hold and their commitment to their occupational roles.[verification needed] Formerly childcare was available.[verification needed]

Education and employment[edit]

The major change in the position of Mongolian women is their nearly universal participation in all levels of the educational system and in the paid work force.. In 1985, women made up 63 percent of students in higher educational establishments and 58 percent of students in specialized secondary schools. In the same year, they constituted 51 percent of all workers, up from nearly 46 percent in the 1979 census. By 1979, medicine and teaching were predominately female fields; women were 65 percent of all doctors and 63 percent of those working in education, art, and culture. Women made up 67 percent of teachers in general schools and 33 percent of teachers in higher educational establishments. They constituted nearly 47 percent of agricultural workers and 46 percent of those in industry.[citation needed] Women's high level of enrollment in higher education reflected the female predominance in medicine, nursing, teaching, and professional child care. This echoed the pattern in the Soviet Union, where most physicians were women and where the social and the economic status of physicians was lower than it was in the United States or Western Europe.

The most highly skilled Mongolian scientists, engineers, military officers, and administrators had been trained in the Soviet Union.[citation needed] In 1989 no figures were available on the percentage of women in these professions. Mongolian accounts[citation needed] of working women indicated that some women worked in such jobs as airline pilot, judge, and sculptor, and that women predominated in the less highly paid food processing, textile, and catering trades.

Mongolian women had legal equality, but once in the labor force they suffered the familiar double burden of housework and child care on top of a day's work for wages. This problem was recognized, and a series of studies begun by the Mongolian Academy of Sciences in 1978 found that the greatest source of strain on urban women was excessive hours spent in transit to and from work and shopping.[citation needed] There were too few buses or routes; retail and service outlets were not only scarce, but they were located too far from many residential areas and kept inconvenient hours. The proposed solutions, all indirect, included state provision of more buses, the opening of more service outlets, including food shops, restaurants, and carryouts, public laundries and dressmakers, and the expansion of nurseries, kindergartens, and extended-day elementary schools. The issues of female over-representation in the lower paying occupations and of the representation of women in the higher professional and administrative ranks in more than token numbers were not addressed.[citation needed]


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Library of Congress Country Studies. (Data as of June 1989.)

  1. ^ "The Global Gender Gap Report 2013". World Economic Forum. pp. 12–13. 
  2. ^ Billé, Franck (April 2009). "Resisting Resistance: Women and Nationalist Discourse in Mongolia". Papers presented at the ASA 2009 conference in Bristol. p. 4. 

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