-Horse racing in winter and spring puts child jockeys in danger-

A group of children’s rights NGOs and associations have joined hands to stop child jockeys from taking part in spring and winter horse races, raising their concerns at a press conference on February 20.

During the conference, representatives stressed that due to the very cold weather conditions of Mongolia, it is not safe for child jockeys, who can be as young as seven years old, to take part in winter races.

The NGOs said that although Ministry of Labor issued an order on February 8, 2016 to ban all types of horse racing which uses child jockeys between November 1 and May 1 each year, the order hasn’t been implemented in reality. The order also banned the involvement of children in any tasks related to training or breeding horses outside.

There is a rumor that the Dunjingarav horse race will be organized in March, which violates the ministry’s order.

Head of the organizing committee of Dunjin-garav Ya.Boldbaatar said, “Horse enthusiasts like to watch Dunjingarav. We have a long lasting tradition to organize this horse race. We will organize it in the beginning of March. The exact date hasn’t been decided yet. We will announce the date soon.”

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Representatives from the National Network for Eliminating the Worst Forms of Child Labor, National Network for Child Protection, Institute of Training and Research for Child Rights, National Civil Society Coalition, ECPAT Mongolia Network, Save the Children, and World Vision attended the press conference.

They noted that racing in early Spring means that child jockeys are training in extreme winter temperatures, greatly increasing their risk of accidents and injuries, and exposures to dangers, jeopardizing children’s well-being and raising education-related issues.

Due to prolonged races and training, child jockeys can also miss out on important schoolwork, meaning they get left behind in lessons.

The NGOs also say that races organized during the winter and spring are not traditional, unlike the races which take place as part of the Naadam Festival in the summer, and are organized for commercial gain. Because of this, they say adults should take part as jockeys rather than children.

Child jockeys are at greatest risk of being hurt when horses race in the extremely cold weather and at their highest speed, they underlined.

According to statistics, over 1,500 child jockeys were injured during training and races in the last five years, many children became disabled for life as a result of these races, and more than 10 lost their life during a race.

“Horse racing is part of the cultural heritage of Mongolia, but horse racing in winter and spring has never been part of the traditional Mongolian culture,” children’s rights activists said.

They also added, “We reviewed 381 files related to horse racing which is being kept in the General Archival Authority. From 1803 to 1920, the Naadam Festival was celebrated between May and August. Horse races also took place from May to August. There were no horse races in winter.”

They urged that using child jockeys during winter and spring should be viewed as a dangerous form of child labor.

“It puts their lives and health in danger, and it is a serious breach of their rights as children,” said a children’s rights NGO spokesperson.

They appealed to the government, and city and provincial authorities to continue to ban winter and spring horse races involving child jockeys.

They also noted that the notion that protective gear and warmer clothes can ensure safety is wrong. “Most people think child jockeys will be safe if they wear protective gear. This is a false notion,” they added.

During the press conference, head of the National Network for Child Protection P.Tseveen spoke to reporters about the use of child jockeys in winter races.

It isn’t 100 percent clear that the Dunjingarav horse race will be held in March. Did you meet the Federation of Mongolian Horse Racing Sport and Trainers?

The Federation of Mongolian Horse Training Sport and Trainers will organize Dunjingarav this March. I tried to meet them but they refused. I hope they will get back to us. We didn’t contradict or ban a traditional sport of Mongolia. We are just protecting the rights of child jockeys, and asking them to not allow children to participate in winter and spring races.People have to understand this.

What would you do if Dunjingarav is to be organized?

Head of the Mongolian People’s Party M.Enkhbold is the president of the Federation of Mongolian Horse Training Sport and Trainers and Minister of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry P.Sergelen is the secretary-general. So I hope they will become a role model to other MPs and make the right decision.

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