Statement on use of child jockeys
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, 16 July 2013 – UNICEF would like to congratulate the Government of Mongolia and the Mongolian people on this year’s Naadam celebrations, which mark 2222 years of Mongolian Statehood, 807 years of the Great Mongol Empire, and the 92nd anniversary of the People’s Revolution. This celebration highlights and helps sustain the great traditions of the Mongolian nation.
During this year’s celebrations, horse racing – together with wrestling and archery – takes place as part of three traditional manly games. A large number of media and human rights activists have reported that children at very young age have been used as jockeys in these horse races. While exact figures are still not known, international media and private sources have indicated that two children have died and another 24 children have been injured while jockeying in races during the 11-13 July celebrations. UNICEF is very saddened by the deaths of the two young boys, a seven year old child in Tuv aimag and nine year old boy in Arkhangai aimag, and sends its condolences to the children’s families.
As of now, at least 47 additional horse racing events are expected to be organized in different parts of the country this year, which is again raising great concern for children’s safety.
UNICEF takes this opportunity to remind the Government of Mongolia, and all communities around the country, that the use of children as jockeys for the purpose of making profit or entertainment is a violation of children's right to protection from exploitation and harmful labour and places them in great danger. As Mongolia is signatory to international legislations such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the International Labour Organization’s Conventions 182 and 138, much needs to be done to fulfil the rights of these children and to eliminate the worst forms of child labour and respect the Minimum Age for Admission to Employment.
Although there is a legislative framework that specifies the age of child jockeys to be no younger than 7 years old and requires having the child jockey wear safety gears and be covered by accident insurance, the number of injuries to children as result of horse racing is still of high concern.
UNICEF would like to acknowledge government’s continued efforts to improve child well-being in Mongolia, as well as its commitment to these international provisions protecting children, while also recognizing the great Mongolian culture. However, we would also like to remind that all stakeholders, starting from the Government, are obliged to follow the principles laid out in international legislation to protect children.
UNICEF stands ready, with all our national and international partners, to continue working closely with the Government of Mongolia to address the critical needs of the nation’s children to help them survive and thrive, and enjoy their national celebrations in safety.