07/29/2004, 00.00
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Containing violence by learning to talk within the family

Husbands and boys brandish knives against wives and friends: communism and poverty among the causes.

Ulaanbaatar (AsiaNews/UCAN) – Violence has become endemic in Mongolian society and its effects are particularly felt by women. For the Church, learning how to talk and listen to one another is the way out. For this reason she is committed to the development of a culture of dialogue within families.

A series of meetings on anger management and parenting has been put on for some weeks at the Catholic Mission Center under the stewardship of Nellie Zarraga, a sister with the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

"While in Western societies people are more likely to talk things over, in Mongolia, people — especially men — immediately give vent to their anger by violent acts," said Oyunsuren, a 26-year-old Catholic psychologist.

According to Selenge, a historian, "the problem flows from a growing lack of education. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 families have tended to send daughters to higher education, while sons were 'sacrificed' by being sent to work."

Yet, women are taught not express anger but to react to male violence through silence and submissiveness. However, this too is a form of violence according to Oyunsuren. She explains: "Ignoring and not talking to the other person hurts more than a punch in the face."

Other factors behind violent behaviour in husbands and boys —such as brandishing knives— have an historical or sociological explanation. "Ulaanbaatar's explosive growth from half a million people to 1 million during the past decade and poverty (up 40% according to official sources) have contributed to the surge in anger," Selenge said. "In Mongolia, anger has been repressed over the past 80 years, ever since the establishment of the communist regime in the 1920s. People abandoned the old nomadic lifestyle of independent and self-reliant herding and became dependent upon the state. They were not allowed to express themselves or practice traditional customs like celebrating the Lunar New Year and Naadam, a traditional festival with wrestling, archery and horse racing."

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