Mongolia continued its transition from a highly centralized, Communist-led state to a full-fledged, multiparty, parliamentary democracy, although these gains still must be consolidated. The Prime Minister is nominated by the majority party and, with the agreement of the President, is approved by the State Great Hural (Parliament), the national legislature. In July the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP), which held power from 1921 to 1996, won a sweeping victory in the parliamentary elections, leaving only 4 of 76 seats to opposition members. The transition to the new Government occurred in accordance with constitutional procedures, and international observers characterized the elections as free and fair. There are 20 political parties, 3 of which hold seats in the Parliament. The judiciary is independent.
Security forces are under civilian control, and, although he is a retired general, the Minister of Defense is a civilian. The national police have primary responsibility for law enforcement. The military forces are responsible for external security, although border security is the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice and Home Affairs in peacetime. Reduced government spending continued to force downsizing of the military forces. The General Intelligence Agency (GIA), formerly the State Security Agency, is responsible for internal security; its head has ministerial status and reports directly to the Prime Minister. A parliamentary committee oversees the military forces, the police, and the GIA. Some members of the police on occasion committed human rights abuses.
Despite reforms in the 1990’s, the major economic entities remain under state control; however, the private sector produces over 70 percent of the gross domestic product. The economy continued to expand and strengthen, and inflation stayed below 10 percent. Mongolia remains a poor country with a per capita income of approximately $450 per year. It relies heavily on foreign economic assistance. The mainstays of the economy continue to be copper production and other mining, livestock raising (which is done by a majority of the rural population), and related food-, wool-, and hide-processing industries, which meet both local needs and produce goods for export. A growing trade and small entrepreneurial sector in the cities provides basic consumer goods. Garment manufacture and minerals, especially copper, constitute the bulk of export earnings. Lack of transportation and other infrastructure, legal and regulatory deficiencies, petty corruption, and a small domestic market discourage foreign investment.
The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens; however, problems remain in some areas. Members of the police at times beat prisoners and detainees. Pretrial detention and prison conditions are poor, and resulted in the deaths of prisoners in custody. Arbitrary arrest and detention are problems, as is corruption. There are restrictions on due process for persons arrested or suspected of crimes. Government attempts to enforce compliance by newspapers, magazines, television, and radio with moral strictures and tax laws were seen as an attempt to intimidate the media and have resulted in a degree of self-censorship by the press. During the year, lacking a legal framework to deal with refugees and responding to a bilateral agreement to return illegal immigrants to the country of origin, the authorities denied entry to some persons claiming refugee status. Official harassment of some religious groups seeking registration persisted. Domestic violence against women is a serious problem; however, efforts to assist victims increased during the year. Child abuse and child labor also are problems. There were some instances of forced labor, and some women seeking work overseas may have become victims of trafficking schemes. In December the Government passed legislation to establish a National Commission on Human Rights.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
There were no reports of political killings; however, it is suspected that the murder of the Minister of Infrastructure in October 1998 was politically motivated. Although the investigation is ongoing, the inability to solve this case is a major problem for the Government.
Approximately 100 prisoners died in custody during the year, largely due to disease and inadequate prison management (see Section 1.c.).
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Although the Constitution forbids torture and other abuse, and reports of such actions diminished, members of the police in rural areas occasionally beat prisoners and detainees, and unnecessary force in the arrest process is not uncommon. Reforms undertaken by the Ministry of Justice and Home Affairs upon Parliament’s recommendation, following reports by international human rights observers, have changed significantly the way that accused persons and prisoners are treated. The Ministry’s Department for the Enforcement of Court Decisions now monitors conditions; however, the new laws and procedures have not been publicized widely, especially in the countryside, and citizens are not aware always of their rights with respect to detention and arrest.
Pretrial detention and prison facilities are poor–including insufficient food, heat, and medical care–and threaten the health and life of inmates. Different authorities administer the pretrial detention system and the prison system, which creates tensions between the two and limits management improvements. Many inmates entered prison already infected with tuberculosis or contracted it in prison. With the help of foreign donors, the prisons continued a 1997 program for surveying and treating tuberculosis among inmates, bringing the number of cases down to 890; the percentage of inmates who die of the disease has decreased by 50 percent. Approximately 100 prisoners died in custody, largely due to disease and mismanagement by the authorities; this also is a 50 percent decrease from 1999. Pretrial detention facilities, where suspects can be held for up to 36 months, often are worse than the prisons and contribute significantly to the tuberculosis problem. Although the number of inmates has remained fairly constant, the seriousness of crimes has increased. Overcrowding in both prisons and pretrial detention facilities is common; the detention center population exceeds capacity by approximately 25 percent, aggravating management, health, and funding problems. To address these problems under the continuing reform process, prison inmates in the capital were divided into smaller groups managed by trained personnel and provided health and hygiene instructions. During the year, families were given greater access to inmates, alleviating some of the hardship in obtaining food and clothing. In the capital foreign donor assistance improved women’s and juvenile facilities. Improvements in detention and prison conditions outside of the capital are significantly less or nonexistent due to lack of funding.
The Government permits prison visits by human rights monitors.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
The Constitution provides that no person shall be searched, arrested, detained, or deprived of liberty except by law, but these protections still have not been codified fully, and arbitrary arrest and detention are problems. Under the Criminal Procedures Code, police may arrest those caught committing or suspected of a crime and hold them for up to 72 hours before the decision is made to prosecute or release. A prosecutor must issue a warrant for incarceration of longer duration or when the actual crime was not witnessed. A detainee has the right to a defense attorney during this period and during any subsequent stage of the legal process. If a defendant cannot afford a private attorney, the State appoints an attorney. Detainees may be released on bail with the agreement of the prosecutor.
Citizens are not always aware of their rights in regard to arrest and detention procedures (see Section 1.c.). In June a new amnesty law affected 1,000 inmates and detainees by reducing the sentences of inmates and releasing detainees held on insufficient evidence. The police may detain a suspect for up to 10 months, and the prosecutor can authorize up to an additional 26 months of pretrial detention. However, over the year, the number of suspects detained for more than 6 months has decreased. According to administrative regulation, if a person was wrongly charged with a crime, the State will restore the person’s rights and reputation and compensate him.
The Government does not use forced exile.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the courts are independent in practice, although corruption is a concern.
The court system consists of local courts, provincial courts, and the Supreme Court. The 17-member Supreme Court is at the apex of the judicial system, hearing appeals from lower courts and cases involving alleged misconduct by high-level officials. Local courts hear mostly routine criminal and civil cases; provincial courts hear more serious cases such as rape, murder, and grand larceny and also serve as the appeals court for lower court decisions. The Constitutional Court, separate from the criminal court system, has sole jurisdiction over constitutional questions. The General Council of Courts, an administrative body within the Ministry of Justice and Home Affairs, nominates candidates for vacancies on both the Supreme and lower courts; the President has the power to approve or refuse such nominations. The Council also is charged with ensuring the rights of judges and providing for the independence of the judiciary. During the year, a human rights course became compulsory for the university law curriculum.
All accused persons are provided due process, legal defense, and a public trial, although closed proceedings are permitted in cases involving state secrets, rape cases involving minors, and other cases provided by law. Defendants do not enjoy a presumption of innocence. Defendants may question witnesses and appeal decisions. There were few complaints about the legal system to the local office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), because most citizens still do not know about the organization. Complaints were usually about corruption in connection with civil and property cases that allegedly resulted in unfair court decisions. The UNHCHR staff referred these complaints to nongovernmental organizations (NGO’s) and the Ministry of Justice and Home Affairs.
There were no reports of political prisoners. In a program that began in 1998, the State Rehabilitation Commission makes a one time payment to the families of those individuals who were persecuted from 1922 through the 1960’s. During the year, 1,901 persons received payments of from $500 to $1,000 (500,000 to 1 million tugrik) each under this program. More than 11,000 citizens were compensated in 1999.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The Constitution provides that the State shall not interfere with the private beliefs and actions of citizens, and the Government generally respected these provisions in practice. The head of the GIA may, with the knowledge and consent of the Prime Minister, direct the monitoring and recording of telephone conversations. The extent of such monitoring is unknown. Police wiretaps must be approved by the Prosecutor’s Office and are authorized for only 2 weeks at a time.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The Constitution provides for freedom of speech, press, and expression, and the Government generally respects these rights in practice. An increasing variety of newspapers and other publications represent major political party viewpoints as well as independent views. The media law that went into effect in 1999 bans censorship of public information and future legislation that would limit the freedom to publish and broadcast. This law also bars state ownership or financing of the media or media organizations. Nonetheless radio and television remain state-owned. The law took effect without agreement on regulations and procedures for the privatization of assets, and its implementation was difficult and controversial. Lack of access to information and of transparency in government continue to inhibit political dialog in the media, and led to media complaints.
The new Government monitored all media for compliance with antiviolence, antipornography, antialcohol, and tax laws. While only two newspapers were closed as a result of the inspections, journalists saw it as an attempt at intimidation and control. The media practices self-censorship.
All newspapers buy newsprint directly from private suppliers, and neither party-affiliated nor independent news media report difficulty securing an adequate supply. Due to transportation difficulties, uneven postal service, and fluctuations in the amount of newsprint available, access to a full range of publications is restricted in outlying regions.
The court system places the burden of proof on the defendants in libel and slander cases, which stifles the free media.
There are several television stations including a government-financed television station with countrywide broadcasting capability, a limited-operation international joint venture private television channel, a private television station, which does not broadcast nationwide, a local television station controlled by the Ulaanbaatar mayor’s office, and several radio stations in Ulaanbaatar. State-owned radio is particularly important as the major source of news in the countryside, but the one independent radio station broadcasts widely and there are an increasing number of small local FM stations. The media presents opposition and government news. Many residents of the country have access to television, and Ulaanbaatar residents receive broadcasts from China, Russia, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the United States, and other countries by commercial satellite and cable television systems. An estimated 70 percent of households have television. The Internet is available, and there have been no government attempts to interfere with its use.
The Government respects academic freedom.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The Constitution provides for these rights, and the Government respected them in practice.
c. Freedom of Religion
The Constitution provides for freedom of conscience and religion, and the Government generally respected these provisions in practice; however, the law limits proselytizing, and some groups that sought to register have faced bureaucratic harassment. The Constitution explicitly recognizes the separation of church and state. The law regulating the relationship between church and state was passed in 1993 and amended in 1995. While the Ministry of Justice and Home Affairs is responsible for registrations, local assemblies have the authority to approve applications at the local level.
Although there is no official state religion, traditionalists believe that Buddhism is the “natural religion” of the country. The Government has contributed to the restoration of several Buddhist sites. These are important religious, historical, and cultural centers. The Government does not subsidize the Buddhist religion otherwise.
Under the provisions of the law, the Government may supervise and limit the numbers of both places of worship and clergy for organized religions, but there were no reports that it has done so. However, religious groups must register with the Ministry of Justice and Home Affairs. Some groups encountered harassment during the registration process, including random demands by midlevel city officials for financial contributions in return for securing legal status. Even when registration was completed, the same authorities threatened some religious groups with withdrawal of approval. The registration process is decentralized with several layers of bureaucracy, in which officials sometimes demand financial benefits in exchange for authorization. In addition registration in the capital may not be sufficient if a group intends to work in the countryside where local registration also is necessary. In general it appears that difficulties in registering primarily are the consequence of bureaucratic action by local officials and attempts to extort financial assistance for projects not funded by the city. Of the 260 temples and churches founded in the past 10 years, about 150 are registered, including 90 Buddhist, 40 Christian, and 4 Baha’i, in addition to 1 Muslim mosque and other organizations.
The law does not prohibit proselytizing, but limits it by forbidding use of incentives, pressure, or deceptive methods to introduce religion. With the opening of the country following the 1990 democratic changes, religious groups began to arrive to provide humanitarian assistance and open new churches. Some friction between missionary groups and citizens developed because this assistance was mixed with proselytizing activities. Proselytizing by registered religious groups is allowed, although a Ministry of Education directive bans mixing foreign language or other training with religious teaching or instruction. The edict is enforced, particularly in the capital area. Contacts with coreligionists outside the country are allowed.
There were no reports of religious detainees or prisoners. A report that in April a Christian in Bayan-Olgiy (a predominantly Muslim province) was imprisoned for distributing religious material was determined to be false.
When draft amendments to the law that would have limited religious freedom were circulated by the Ministry of Justice and Home Affairs in 1999, religious organizations, human rights groups, and foreign diplomatic mission protested, and the Government did not pursue the amendments.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The Constitution provides for freedom of movement within the country as well as the right to travel and return without restriction, and the Government generally respected these rights in practice. Due to unusually harsh winter weather and drought conditions, an increased number of persons sought shelter in the capital. The authorities responded by raising bureaucratic obstacles to qualify for residency and social benefits in the capital.
The country is not a party to the 1951 U.N. Convention Regarding the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol and it has no laws for granting refugee status. The Constitution contains a provision that addresses political asylum, but there are no implementing regulations. The issue of granting of first asylum did not arise during the year.
The Government cooperates with the U.N. High Commissioner for refugees and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees. During the year, persons with a valid claim to refugee status were given safe passage to a third country. However, border control is governed by bilateral agreements, and some persons who were suspected of being illegal immigrants were denied entry.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
The Constitution provides citizens with the right to change their government through periodic, free elections by secret ballot and universal suffrage. Presidential, parliamentary, and local elections are held separately. In July parliamentary elections brought the MPRP back into power. International observers deemed the elections generally free and fair, although there were some irregularities, and made recommendations to improve elections practices and procedures. The formation of the new Government highlighted constitutional questions concerning the President’s relationship to Parliament and the Government, and the right of Members of Parliament to serve in the Government. Constitutional amendments meant to address these questions went into effect on July 15.
There are 20 registered political parties; 3 are represented in the Parliament.
Although there are no legal impediments to the participation of women or minorities in government and politics, women are underrepresented in government and politics. There are only 8 female members in the 76-member Parliament. There are no female ministers. Women and women’s organizations are vocal in local and national politics and actively seek greater representation by women in government policymaking.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
A number of human rights groups operate without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials are generally cooperative and responsive to their views. A human rights course is a requirement in the university law curriculum.
In December Parliament passed legislation establishing a National Commission on Human Rights to receive complaints from both citizens and foreign residents. The Commission will consist of three senior civil servants nominated by the President, the Supreme Court, and the Parliament for terms of 6 years.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status
The Constitution states that “no person shall be discriminated against on the basis of ethnic origin, language, race, age, sex, social origin, or status,” and that “men and women shall be equal in political, economic, social, cultural fields, and family.” The Government generally enforced these provisions in practice.
Rape and domestic abuse are illegal, and offenders can be prosecuted and corrected under assault laws after formal charges have been filed. There is no law specifically prohibiting spousal rape. Domestic violence against women is a serious problem. There are no reliable or exact statistics regarding the extent of such abuse but a wide range of qualified observers believe that it is common. After many years of government and societal denial, there is increasing public and media discussion of domestic violence, including spousal and child abuse. The large economic and societal changes underway have created new stresses on families, including loss of jobs, inflation, and lowered spending on social and educational programs. Some statistics show that over 70 percent of the cases of family abuse are related to alcohol abuse. The high rate of alcohol abuse has contributed to increased instances of family abuse and abandonment, and has added to the number of single-parent families, most of which are headed by women. Although women’s groups advocate new statutes to cope with domestic violence, there is no known police or government intervention in cases involving violence against women beyond prosecution under existing assault laws after formal charges have been filed.
The family law which went into effect in 1999 details rights and responsibilities regarding alimony and parents’ rights, and is intended to bring about timely dispute settlement and avoid the causes of some domestic violence. The National Center Against Violence made progress in providing hot line services, shelters, and conducting training for police on how to deal with domestic violence cases and began to expand its work outside the capital.
There are reports that some women and teens work in the sex trade in Asia and eastern Europe; an unknown number of them may have been trafficked (see Sections 6.c. and 6.f.).
The Constitution provides men and women with equal rights in all areas and, both by law and in practice, women receive equal pay for equal work and have equal access to education. Women represent about half of the work force, and a significant number are the primary earners for their families. The law prohibits women from working in certain occupations that require heavy labor or exposure to chemicals that could affect infant and maternal health. The Government enforces these provisions. Many women occupy midlevel positions in government and the professions, and many are involved in the creation and management of new trading and manufacturing businesses.
There is no separate government agency that oversees women’s rights; however, there is a National Council to coordinate policy and women’s interests among ministries and NGO’s, and the Ministry of Social Welfare and Labor has added a Department for Women and Youth Issues. There are approximately 36 women’s rights groups that concern themselves with such issues as maternal and child health, domestic violence and equal opportunity.
Increased stress on the family structure and throughout society has had adverse effects on many children, and the Government has been unable to keep pace with the educational, health, and social needs of the most rapidly growing segment of its population, although it is committed to children’s rights and welfare in principle. The Government provides children of both sexes with free, compulsory public education through the age of 16, although family economic needs and state budgetary difficulties make it difficult for some children to attend school. In addition there continues to be a severe shortage of teachers and teaching materials at all educational levels.
The society has a long tradition of support for communal raising of children. The Government is more willing to admit the extent of the problem of orphaned children, but it lacks the resources to improve the welfare of children who have become the victims of larger societal and familial changes. NGO’s continued to assist orphaned and abandoned children. Groups working in this field disagree on the number of street children; some report that the figure was 700 to 800, while others count all poor children who may or may not be homeless and estimate that it was as high as 3,000. Although evidence is limited, there are reports that female street children sometimes faced sexual abuse (see Section 6.d.). The Government provides only minimal support for the few shelters and orphanages that exist; those facilities must turn to private sources to sustain their activities.
The family law, which took effect in 1999, stipulates the obligations regarding divorce, custody, and alimony to the benefit of the parent caring for children. It provides for more speedy resolution of divorce cases where the relevant agencies have determined that domestic violence is involved.
There is growing awareness that child abuse, often associated with parental alcoholism, is a problem. In conjunction with efforts to counter violence against women, NGO’s have begun to address the issue. The Ministry of Social Welfare and Labor has added a Department for Women and Youth Issues. Awareness of child labor as a problem is growing (see Sections 6.c. and 6.d.). The Government declared the year the Year of Supporting Child Development and established a National Committee for Children.
People with Disabilities
There is no discrimination against disabled persons in employment and education, and the Government provides benefits to the disabled according to the nature and severity of disability. Those who have been injured in industrial accidents have the right to be reemployed when ready to resume work. The Government also provides tax benefits to enterprises that hire the disabled, and some firms hire the disabled exclusively. There is no legislation mandating access for the disabled and, therefore, it is difficult for the disabled to participate fully in public life. Disabled citizens groups have demonstrated for higher government subsidies. Approximately 30 NGO’s participate in activities assisting the disabled.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The Constitution entitles all workers to form or join unions and professional organizations of their choosing. Union officials estimate that union membership dropped from 450,000 persons in 1998 to 400,000 during the year, and was less than half of the workforce. Union membership decreased due to restructuring and privatization of former state enterprises and as increasing numbers of workers either became self-employed or began working at small, nonunionized firms. No arbitrary restrictions exist on who may be a union official; officers are elected by secret ballot.
Union members have the right to strike. Those employed in essential services, which the Government defines as occupations critical for national defense and safety, including police, utility, and transportation workers, do not have the right to strike. During the year, there were approximately 50 strikes involving 4,500 workers.
Most union members are affiliated with the Mongolian Trade Unions Confederation, but some are affiliated with the newer Association of Free Trades Unions. Both organizations have ties with international labor organizations and confederations in other countries.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The labor law, which went into effect in 1999, defines conditions and regulates relations between employers, employees, the trade unions, and the Government, making adjustments for the changes in the structure of the economy. The Government’s role is limited to ensuring that the contract meets legal requirements as to hours and conditions of work. Wages and other employment issues are to be set between the employer, whether state or private, and the employee, with trade union input, if appropriate. The new labor law also streamlines the process for dealing with labor conflicts. The Labor Dispute Settlement Commission resolves disputes involving an individual; disputes involving groups are referred to intermediaries and arbitrators for reconciliation. If an employer fails to comply with a recommendation, employees may exercise their right to strike. The law protects the workers’ right to participate in trade union activities without discrimination.
There are no export processing zones.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The law specifically prohibits forced or compulsory labor, including forced labor by children; however, enforcement is intermittent. In November a foreign-owned garment factory was discovered to be requiring employees to work 14-hour shifts 7 days a week, deducting unreasonable sums from paychecks for miscellaneous expenses, and requiring 16- to 18-year-old workers to work excessive hours (see Section 6.d.). Some members of the military forces in rural areas are required to help with the fall harvest. In many cases, prisoners work to support the detention facility in which they are held, and detained alcohol abusers and petty criminals sometimes are required, as part of their sentences, to perform menial tasks such as street sweeping.
d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment
The law in general prohibits children under the age of 16 from working, although those who are 14 or 15 years of age may work up to 30 hours per week with parental consent. Those under 18 years of age may not work at night, engage in arduous work, or work in hazardous occupations such as mining and construction. Enforcement of these prohibitions, as well as all other labor regulations, is the responsibility of state labor inspectors assigned to regional and local offices. These inspectors have the authority to compel immediate compliance with labor legislation, but enforcement is limited due to the small number of labor inspectors and the growing number of independent enterprises. In November a foreign-owned garment factory was found to be employing 16- to 18-year-old workers for periods in excess of the legal limits (see Section 6.c.). Due to increasing economic pressures, there are indications that fewer children are staying in school until age 18, especially in the countryside. These children most often herd family animals, but reports of children working in factories or mining coal have increased. The Government prohibits forced and bonded labor by children, and generally attempts to enforce this prohibition (see Section 6.c.). Although evidence is limited, there are reports that female street children sometimes face sexual abuse (see Section 5). The Government is aware of this development and established a National Committee for Children to address this and other child welfare issues.
In January the International Labor Organization (ILO) established a national office for the International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor. In October Parliament approved accession to the ILO Convention Concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The legal minimum wage established for the year is under $18 (18,000 tugrik) per month. The minimum wage alone is insufficient to provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family. This level applies to both public and private sector workers and is enforced by the Ministry of Social Welfare and Labor. Virtually all civil servants earn more than this amount, and many in private businesses earn considerably more. Some employees receive housing benefits.
The standard legal workweek is 40 hours, and there is a minimum rest period of 48 hours between workweeks. For those under 18 years of age, the workweek is 36 hours, and overtime work is not allowed. Overtime work is compensated at either double the standard hourly rate or by giving time off equal to the number of hours of overtime worked. Pregnant women and nursing mothers are prohibited by law from working overtime.
Laws on labor, cooperatives, and enterprises set occupational health and safety standards, and the Ministry of Social Welfare and Labor provides enforcement. The near-total reliance on outmoded machinery and problems with maintenance and management lead to frequent industrial accidents, particularly in the mining, power, and construction sectors. Effective enforcement of occupational health and safety standards is inadequate; the labor monitoring unit’s 86 inspectors must inspect a growing number of enterprises throughout the country. According to the labor law, workers have the right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations and still retain their jobs.
f. Trafficking in Persons
The law does not specifically prohibit trafficking in persons, and there is evidence that Mongolian women and teenagers are working in the sex trade in Asia and Eastern Europe and may have been the victims of trafficking rings. The country is both a source and transit point for trafficking. The problem has attracted increased attention, and debate on its legal and social aspects is underway.