LGBT rights in Romania

LGBT rights in Romania

Romania, like a number of other Eastern European countries, remains socially conservative with regard to the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender citizens. Despite this, the country has made significant progress in LGBT rights legislation since 2000. In the past decade, it has fully decriminalised homosexuality, introduced and enforced wide-ranging anti-discrimination laws, equalised the age of consent and introduced laws against homophobic hate crimes. Furthermore, LGBT communities have become more visible in recent years, as a result of events such as Bucharest's annual GayFest pride parade and Cluj-Napoca's Gay Film Nights festival. In 2006, Romania was named by Human Rights Watch as one of five countries in the world that had made "exemplary progress in combating rights abuses based on sexual orientation or gender identity." [ [http://hrw.org/english/docs/2006/05/17/global13393.htm On International Day Against Homophobia, Violations Mixed With Victories] , Human Rights Watch]

Laws against gays

The Romanian Penal Code of 1864 criminalised all homosexual acts. This code remained in effect for almost three-quarters of a century, and while it was intermittently enforced, it remained essentially in its original form. Then in 1936, a new code limited reference to homosexuality except in cases of rape. A short time later, Article 431 was introduced, stating that homosexuality could be illegal if it caused "public scandal", but not otherwise. A repeal of that language then appeared in the Penal Code of 1948. In 1968, the basic code was again revised, introducing Article 200 and moving the infraction from the public domain into the private. [Mihnea Ion Năstase, "Gay and Lesbian Rights", in Carey, Henry F. "Romania Since 1989: Politics, Economics, and Society", p.315-6. 2004, Lexington Books, ISBN 0739105922.]

There are currently no laws against gay citizens in Romania, aside from those that deny equality in marriage. Consensual acts between same-sex adults in private were legalised in 1996, although the last anti-gay lawndash Article 200 of the Penal Code, which criminalised public manifestations of homosexualityndash was repealed only in 2001 due to pressure from the European Council and shortly before the arrival of openly gay U.S. Ambassador to Romania Michael Guest.

In late 2007, the far-right Greater Romania Party proposed a law in the Senate that would ban the "propagation of ideas and manifestations by homosexuals and lesbians", designed primarily to prevent Bucharest's annual GayFest pride parade from taking place. The proposal was rejected by the Senate on February 11, 2008, with 17 votes for, 16 abstentions and 27 votes against. [ [http://www.adevarul.ro/articole/propunere-pentru-interzicerea-manifestarilor-homosexualilor-respinsa-de-senat/341033 Propunere pentru interzicerea manifestărilor homosexualilor respinsă de Senat] ("Proposal for banning homosexual manifestations, rejected by the Senate"), "Adevărul", 11 February 2008]

Protection based on sexual orientation in law

Anti-discrimination laws

In 2000, the Romanian Parliament enacted a law that explicitly outlawed discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in a variety of fields, including employment, the provision of and access to goods and services, housing, education, health care, audiovisual programming, the justice system, other public services and social security. [ [http://www.ilga-europe.org/europe/publications/non_periodical/accessing_health_the_context_and_the_challenges_for_lgbt_people_in_central_and_eastern_europe_april_2006 Accessing Health: the Context and the Challenges for LGBT People in Central and Eastern Europe (April 2006)] , ILGA-Europe, April 2006] The law, which is among the most comprehensive in the European Union, [ [http://fra.europa.eu/fra/material/pub/comparativestudy/FRA_hdgso_part1_en.pdf European Fundamental Rights Agency - Report on Homophobia] , 2008, p. 26] has been successfully tested by the National Council for Combating Discrimination (CNCD), Romania's equality body, which has fined a number of individuals and firms for discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. An example of this was when TAROM, the national air carrier, was fined for refusing to allow same-sex partners to take advantage of its discounts for couples on Valentine's Day 2005. [ [http://www.guardian.co.uk/gayrights/story/0,12592,1427606,00.html Valentine's deal 'left out gay people'] , "The Guardian", March 1, 2005] Aside from imposing a fine, the CNCD obliged TAROM to rectify the situation.

On March 28, 2007, the National Audiovisual Council gave a 10,000-lei (3000) fine to Prima TV's primetime satire-comedy show, "Cronica Cârcotaşilor", for making homophobic comments. [ro icon [http://www.7plus.ro/?arhiva=28/03/2007&id=20227 `Circotasii`, amendati pentru ca au ironizat un prezentator gay] ("Cârcotaşii, fined for making fun of a gay presenter"), 7plus.ro, 28 March 2007] In two episodes, the show's presenters had allegedly made fun of Mircea Solcanu, an Acasă TV presenter who had come out as gay. The president of the National Audiovisual Council, Ralu Filip, justified the fine by stating that, "I felt it was unacceptable the way in which they made fun of a sexual orientation in this way, especially since it was about a colleague." [ro icon Alexandra Badicioiu, [http://www.cotidianul.ro/index.php?id=9976&art=26559&cHash=cc79e0788o Cârcotaşii, amendati cu 10.000 de lei] ("Cârcotaşii, fined 10,000 lei"), "Cotidianul", 28 March 2007] This represents the first time an audiovisual programme has been fined for homophobia in Romania, based on Article 46 of the Audiovisual Law, which prevents programmes from containing any discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation. [ro icon [http://www.cna.ro/comunicare/comunic/2007/c0327.html Comunicat de presă: Prima TV amendă de 10.000 de lei; Acasa TV, TV Sport, Prima TV – somaţii publice] , National Audiovisual Council, 27 March 2007] The incident sparked off a public debate regarding homophobia and representations of LGBT people in the mass media. Attila Gasparik, the vice-president of the National Audiovisual Council, stated that "Cronica Cârcotaşilor", as well as other high-profile TV shows, will continue being held under "strict observation. .. because they have a very high impact, reason for which we have to be very rigorous in our monitoring". [ro icon [http://www.cotidianul.ro/index.php?id=10215&art=27169&cHash=ba9403cf7o Cui ii este teama de homosexuali?] ("Who's afraid of homosexuals?"), "Cotidianul", 13 April 2007]

Incitement to hatred and hate crimes

In 2006, the Criminal Code was amended in order to criminalise incitement to hatred and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation. [http://fra.europa.eu/fra/material/pub/comparativestudy/FRA_hdgso_part1_en.pdf European Fundamental Rights Agency - Legal Analysis of Homophobia] , p. 119] However, this law has not been applied yet; indeed, public marches against homosexuality by extreme right-wing activists, containing offensive anti-gay slogans, have proceeded on several occasions without being prosecuted.

Furthermore, the Romanian legal system treats homophobic intent as an aggravating factor in common crimes. That is, the fact that a crime was motivated by homophobic bias may lead to a higher sentence.

Recognition of same-sex couples

There is currently no recognition of same-sex couples in Romania. Since 2007, however, when Romania joined the EU, the country is obliged to "facilitate" and recognise same-sex relationships registered in other EU member states (be they in the form of same-sex marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships).

Other LGBT-related legislation

Since 2002, the age of consent is equal for both heterosexual and homosexual sex, at 15 years of age. [ [http://www.ilga.org/statehomophobia/Legal%20Wrap%20Up%20Survey%20July%202006.pdf World Legal Wrap Up Survey July 2006] , ILGA]

Since 1996, it is possible for someone who has gone through gender reassignment surgery to legally change their gender in their official documents to reflect their new biological sex. Additionally, it is legal for single women, including lesbians, to access means of assisted insemination, such as IVF. [ [http://www.ilga.org/statehomophobia/WorldLegalWrapUpSurvey_Daniel_Ottoson.pdf Legal Survey of LGBT Rights Worldwide] , PDF file] In 2005, the Constitutional Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to deny medically-assisted reproduction, such as IVF, to individuals or those who are unmarried.

Gays are allowed to serve openly in the Romanian army. According to the Ministry of Defence's recruitment policy, "it is the right of every Romanian citizen to take part in the military structures of our country, regardless of their sexual orientation." [ [http://www.evz.ro/article.php?artid=282006 Dilema Armatei romane: cu sau fara homosexuali] , "Evenimentul Zilei", 26 November 2006] Nonetheless, manyndash if not mostndash gay and lesbian members of the military choose to remain closeted in the work place due to continued fear of discrimination.

Like the United States, the UK and several other Western countries, Romania currently bans men who have had sex with men from donating blood, due to a presumed higher risk of infection with STDs. However, in September 2007, Romania's National Council for Combating Discrimination ruled that this ban was illegal, constituting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and creating a "hostile, degrading, humiliating and offensive atmosphere for homosexuals". The Council, which is Romania's equality watchdog, ordered the Ministry of Health to remove the ban on MSMs donating blood. [ro icon [http://www.cncd.org.ro/presa/Comunicat-de-presa-6/ Comunicat de presă, 09.05.07] , National Council for Combating Discrimination, 5 September 2007] In January 2008, in order to comply with the Council's ruling, the Ministry of Health released a new law which removes the ban on men who have had sex with men from donating blood. The law is currently in a stage of public debate. [ [http://www.adevarul.ro/index.php?section=articole&screen=index&id=338087&search=homosexuali Vis împlinit pentru homosexuali: fără discriminare la donarea de sânge] ("Fulfilled dream for homosexuals: no discrimination while donating blood"), "Adevărul", 16 January 2008]

LGBT culture and media

Open homosexuality is still uncommon outside of major urban centers, and rural gay and lesbian Romanians typically remain closeted. The largest and most visible LGBT communities exist in Bucharest and in Cluj-Napoca, which have some gay clubs and cultural events. GayFest pride marches have been held in Bucharest annually since 2005, organised by ACCEPT, the largest organisation in Romania advocating for LGBT rights. There are also several events held in Cluj-Napoca by Be An Angel, another LGBT rights organisation. These include the annual Gay Film Nights, an international LGBT film festival, the Gay Prize Gala, which recognises those who have contriuted to LGBT culture and rights, and Miss Travesty Romania, a transvestite beauty pageant.

Increased Internet access in the past few years has led to the development of a vibrant online LGBT media and blogosphere. Key online newsletters include Angelicuss and GayOne.ro. In October 2008, Be An Angel will launch Romania's first LGBT television channel, Angelicuss TV, which will only broadcast online. [ [http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5gS_HBIjUl_zwI6kqhhyrTs992hOw Romania launches online gay TV] , AFP, 27 August 2008] At the same time, most traditional LGBT media has ceased operating; there are currently no print magazines or newspapers.

ocial attitudes

Although the last anti-gay law, Article 200, was repealed in 2001, societal attitudes towards gay and lesbian citizens are still quite discriminatory, particularly in rural areas. GayFest pride marches in Bucharest have been met with significant and sometimes violent opposition from far-right groups (particularly Noua Dreaptă), even though police protected pride marchers from harm. Furthermore, Noua Dreaptă has organised "Marches for Normality" on the same day as the GayFest pride parade, with slogans against gay rights and the recognition of same-sex relationships.

In September 2006, the British Council conducted a survey in various Romanian cities which, among other things, sought to ascertain the beliefs of Romanian young people (aged between 15 and 25) regarding LGBT rights. Of those surveyed, 39.1% believed that LGBT rights should be extended, 35.9% believed that the LGBT rights situation is satisfactory in Romania, while 15.6% of people stated that LGBT people have too many rights. 9.4% were undecided. Additionally, 71.9% of the young people surveyed stated that LGBT rights should be protected, indicating relatively high levels of acceptance among this demographic. [ro icon [http://www.britishcouncil.ro/presa1/O%20perspectiva%20asupra%20valorilor%20tinerilor%20romani.pdf O perspectivă asupra valorilor tinerilor români] ("A perspective on the values of young Romanian people"), British Council in Romania] .

A Eurobarometer survey on discrimination in the European Union, conducted in late 2006, revealed that attitudes towards discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation were similar with those of other EU countries. 47% of Romanians believed that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was "widespread", slightly less than the EU average of 50%. Additionally, 55% of Romanians were in favour of specific measures to provide equal opportunity in employment despite sexual orientation, notably lower than the EU average figure of 66%. 67% of Romanians would agree to anonymously reveal their sexual orientation in the census, "if that could help combat discrimination in Romania", while only 16% would be totally opposed (lower than the EU average of 28%). 58% of Romanians believe that homosexuality was still a taboo in Romania, higher than the EU average of 48%, but lower than for countries such as Italy, Greece, Ireland, Austria and Sweden. [ [http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_263_fiche_ro.pdf Eurobarometer: Discrimination in the European Union, Romania Country Report] , January 2007]

Other opinion polls have shown Romanians to be more intolerant with regard to homosexuality, including a 2003 poll conducted by Gallup for the Institute for Public Policies. In the poll, 45% of respondents said homosexuals should not be treated the same as others in society; 37% thought homosexuality should be criminalized; and 40% thought homosexuals should not be allowed to live in Romania. [ [http://www.ipp.ro/altemateriale/IPP-Gallup_Caiet%20Sondaj_Extremism-2003.pdf Intolerance, Discrimination and Authoritarianism in Public Opinion] , Gallup report for the Institute for Public Policies, 2003]

Summary table

See also

*Same-sex marriage in Romania
*ACCEPT
*Be An Angel

Notes

References

*ro icon [http://www.adevarul.ro/articole/ars-de-distrigaz-pe-motiv-ca-este-homosexual/320668 „Ars“ de Distrigaz pe motiv că este homosexual]


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