Amidst the current backlash on LGBTQI rights in Europe, the rights of LGBTQI people and specifically children and young people in Romania find themselves in peril again. On 8 June 2022, the Romanian Human Rights Committee in the Chambers of Deputies gave a favourable report for a draft law prohibiting the dissemination of information on sexual orientation and gender identity to minors (young people under 18). The draft bill had been submitted to the Romanian Parliament by 7 deputies from the Hungarian Minority Party (UDMR) on 23 December 2021, and was tacitly adopted by the Romanian Senate on 2 May 2022. The Romanian Chamber of Deputies is currently deliberating on the draft bill.
This anti-LGBTQI draft bill is yet another direct attack on the rights of Romanian LGBTQI people. If passed, the bill would amongst other prevent LGBTQI young people from accessing gender affirming care and safe and affirming information about their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or variations of sex characteristics (SOGIGESC). It would also prevent non-LGBTQI learners from receiving inclusive information on LGBTQI topics and identities, which has been proven to increase the rates of SOGIGESC-based violence experienced by LGBTQI learners in schools.
Furthermore, the draft bill threatens Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (freedom of speech) and prevents any other person and group (school staff, parents, journalists, civil society organisations, etc.) from safely addressing LGBTQI topics without fearing legal consequences. For instance, publications, radio and television stations might get sanctioned for simply referencing news regarding Romania’s condemnation for violating LGBTQI rights, as they cannot control who listens to them and reads their articles, and minors could be part of the audience. Moreover, the activity of activists and civil society organisations that promote and support the rights of LGBTQI people might get entirely banned, as well as public events for the LGBTQI community, not applying other articles of the European Convention on Human Rights, such as Article 11 (freedom of assembly), or Article 14 (non-discrimination). The draft bill also adds up to the current situation in Romania, and its approval would make it even more difficult for LGBTQI minors (and especially trans children) to get access to affirming services.
Our LGBTQI Inclusive Education Report 2022 shows that 6 countries in the Council of Europe Region currently have laws and policies that make it impossible for learners to receive inclusive content in schools (Azerbaijan, Belarus, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Russia). Some authorities and political parties are using children and young people to push back on legislative and policy measures protecting LGBTQI people. Such bills are indeed nothing but a means to censor, silence and erase the LGBTQI people and community from the public debate by invoking the rights of children and young people while, in reality, they are putting these very rights at stake.
Discrimination and violence against LGBTQI people remains common in Romania, as affirmed by ECRI’s 2019 report, and the hostile political rhetoric against LGBTQI people and women has rapidly escalated over the past few years. Ranked 41 out of the 49 Council of Europe Member States in ILGA-Europe’s Rainbow Index 2022, Romania currently has a low score of 10/100 in our LGBTQI Inclusive Education Index 2022. There are currently no national policies or action plans to tackle anti-LGBTI bullying or promote LGBTQI inclusion and, although some public schools have human rights education classes, civil society organisations report that teachers often skip SOGIGESC issues out of fear of negative reactions from parents or the school.
There have already been attempts to entirely ban the discussion of SOGIGESC issues in school in Romania, including in 2020 and in 2019. As mentioned by our Romanian Member Accept Association, in 2020, the Romanian Senate approved a bill that would have banned the discussion of ‘gender theory’ and its ‘promotion’ in schools and universities. The bill was heavily criticised by civil society, educational facilities, trans young people, the European Commission and UN mandates. In late 2020, the Constitutional Court ruled that the bill was unconstitutional.
We are extremely concerned that anti-LGBTQI legislation threatening the rights of children and young people in some countries can be set as a precedent for such laws to become the norm across Europe. We call on the European institutions to make sure Member States do not actively oppose the right to education of LGBTQI children and young people by passing bills that explicitly prohibit the dissemination of affirming information on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics.
We will keep on monitoring the situation and update you with further developments and ways to support the Romanian LGBTQI community in the face of this new attack.