Can inbreeding be resolved with right policy?
- By Misheel Lkhasuren -
- Jun 25,2021
From ancient times, Mongolians practiced a tradition and culture of keeping genealogies and using their family names to prevent inbreeding.
However, in 1925, the government of Mongolian People’s Republic issued a decree banning Mongolians from keeping family tree and using family name. Since then, for 91 years, the people had stopped using their family name. This is said to have affected the level of inbreeding in the population to a certain extent.
In particular, researcher of the Human Genetics and Ecological Health Department of the Public Health Institute, anthropologist, Doctor of Medicine E.Enkhmaa said that there are cases of people of same lineage marrying each other, and the participants in the study of the level of inbreeding in the population did not know their lineage three to four generations up.
“In other words, the study found that there is an inbreeding problem in Mongolia. This is a serious threat to the security of the Mongolian gene pool today. Therefore, Mongolians need to start keeping genealogies in the future,” she said.
However, it is not easy to study the level of inbreeding in the population. Although there is no comprehensive study to determine this, some scientists studied the level of inbreeding in the population by using the genetic calculation method.
First, scientists calculated the distribution of genes in many genetic systems in the population. This study took more than 30 years. Based on this study, hereditary distribution was determined by more than 340 genes from 11 systems nationwide, according to anthropologist E.Enkhmaa.
Unfortunately, the study showed that there is inbreeding in every province. In other words, there was not a single province with a coefficient F equal to zero. There is an international coefficient F that measures inbreeding. It indicates a value between zero and one. If the coefficient F is equal to zero, it is assumed that there is no inbreeding in the population. But if it is closer to one, it means there is inbreeding.
Although the results of this study do not fully confirm the high level of inbreeding in Mongolia, it warns that it may affect national security and there is a need to take action. Moreover, the fact that Mongolians have not kept a genealogy for over a century increases the likelihood that relatives will marry each other.
In fact, in 1997, a government decree was issued to restore family names. However, there was confusion over the use of family names. Particularly, at the time, many had forgotten their original family or clan names due to disuse, or they wanted a different one, and people chose names arbitrarily, which created disorder.
A clan is a group of people united by actual or perceived kinship and descent. However, in some cases, both husband and wife have the surname Borjigon, which is the most “popular” clan in Mongolia. A husband and wife must have different ancestry. But in real life, they have the same family name.
It can be said that the usage and importance of family name was undermined. This is because 86 percent of the population claims to be of the Borjigon clan, according to the General Authority for Civil Registration. In particular, the population and household database states that there are a total of 704,510 people with Borjigon as their family name.
At the time, people may have wanted to call their clan Borjigon, which descended from Chinggis Khaan. In any case, now every Mongolian family needs to keep their own genealogy and introduce their children to their relatives. The government also needs to develop policies to protect the population’s gene pool nationwide.
POLICY AND REGULATION
Current policies and regulations generally address issues of inbreeding and genealogy, and it is unclear what action can be taken.
The Demographic Guidelines of the People’s Republic of Mongolia was approved by Presidential Decree No. 115 in 1991. Subsequently, Parliament implemented the population policy in accordance with the annex to Resolution No. 22 of 1996, and in 2004, the government approved the population development policy.
In 2003, Parliament also approved a policy on family development, and in 2010, the National Security Concept of Mongolia included some provisions related to the security of the population’s gene pool.
For instance, Article 22.214.171.124 of the concept provides for the reduction of inbreeding, the fight against alcoholism and drug abuse, and the negative impact on the population’s gene pool, while Article 2.7.1 of the five-year guidelines for the development of Mongolia from 2021 to 2025 includes the restoration of the national tradition of genealogy, and Article 2.7.4 of the guideline states that a state policy and legal environment to protect the population’s gene pool and reproduction rights will be created.
Moreover, Parliament adopted a policy on population development in order to ensure sustainable population growth, create a favorable environment for citizens to live long, healthy and productive lives, and improve the quality of life of individuals and families in 2016. The policy, which runs through 2025, provides general regulation about the population gene pool. Particularly, Article 4.3.2 stipulates the prevention and elimination of inbreeding, which may have a negative impact on the gene pool of the population.
The current situation is caused by lack of policy implementation. Specifically, since the merger of the Center for Anthropology with the Public Health Department in 2015, in line with the restructuring of Mongolia’s scientific institutions, the government’s policy in the field of anthropology has been neglected.
There is also no government structure to ensure the implementation of Mongolia’s demographic policy. As a result, demographic policy planning and implementation are lacking. In accordance with Article 11.1 of the Constitution of Mongolia, it is the duty of the state to protect the country’s independence, ensure national security and social order. Therefore, there is a need to establish an independent body to perform this function of the government.
At this session, Parliament is discussing a draft parliamentary resolution on measures to be taken to protect the security of the Mongolian gene pool and support population growth, submitted by lawmakers G.Temuulen, J.Bat-Erdene and L.Munkhbaatar on May 19.
The draft features two articles and seven sub-articles. It instructs the government to take step-by-step measures to strengthen the intellectual capacity, productivity, competitiveness, population growth and national immunity of Mongolians by protecting the security and reproduction of the Mongolian gene pool, demographics and family development, and instructs the relevant parliamentary standing committee to monitor the implementation of the resolution.
Particularly, Article 1.1 of the resolution provides for the development of a national program to revitalize the field of Mongol studies and to preserve the security of the Mongolian gene pool, and to submit the draft program to Parliament in the spring of 2022.
Article 1.2 states that prior to 2024, a nationwide program will be developed to ensure that the genealogy, one of the cornerstones of Mongolia’s existence and the main tool for preventing inbreeding and keeping the Mongolian gene pool “clean” and “transparent”, is maintained in a scientific and correct manner, and if necessary, family names will be scientifically updated based on relevant research and information.
Article 1.3 of the draft resolution stipulates that a decision to establish a state structure responsible for ensuring, managing, regulating and monitoring the implementation of Mongolia’s demographic policy will be made and implemented by 2021.
The bill initiators believe that with the approval of the draft resolution, maternal and child health will be protected, family development will be supported, social problems of large families will be solved, crimes and violations related to domestic violence will be reduced, every family will keep a genealogy, and the Mongolian gene pool will be protected.
In connection with the resolution, some legislators raised the issue of introducing the topic of genealogy in the general education. Teaching this culture and tradition from an early age may be the key to solving the problem. Therefore, it is appropriate to include this proposal in the draft resolution. In fact, no significant work has been done to maintain a genealogy not only among children and youth but also among the public.
During the meeting of the Standing Committee on Social Policy, some parliamentarians suggested that a special resolution be submitted on issues related to the protection of the population’s gene pool. Of course, there is a need to include a comprehensive policy and action in the draft resolution to address this issue.
Elsewhere in the world, there is a lot of experience, legislation, and international treaties and conventions. For example, 23 countries’ relations on the protection of the security of the nation’s gene pool are governed by the Criminal Code, seven countries’ by the Civil Code, nine by the Family Code, and four by dedicated laws.