More than 15,000 people have marched in Romania’s capital Bucharest for equal rights for gender and sexual minorities as the country’s lower chamber of the parliament is set to vote on a law later this year that bans discussion of homosexuality and gender identity in public spaces.
An amendment to the Romanian Child Protection Law that was proposed by the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR), an ethnic minority party that is part of the ruling coalition, was inspired by a similar law which was adopted by Hungary in 2021.
After being passed by the Senate in April and approved by the Romanian Human Rights Commission, the bill needs the backing of the lower chamber of parliament.
“The way it looks like at the moment, this bill is completely anti-democratic from many points of view, mainly because it hinders the freedom of expression and because it stands against all treaties, conventions, and international recommendations regarding LGBT rights,” said Ionela Baluta, who participated in Saturday’s Bucharest Pride to support the community and oppose the bill.
Baluta, a professor at the political sciences faculty of the University of Bucharest, with expertise in gender studies, political representation and gender equality policies, is concerned about the ambiguous formulation of the bill.
She thinks it could lead to consequences as far-reaching as gender studies being banned in universities and individuals being incriminated for posting information related to gender identity on their personal social media accounts.
The European Parliament’s LGBTI Intergroup expressed their concerns about the bill in a statement, urging members of the Romanian legislature to be “clear and resolute in striking it down”.
Deeming it as “another attempt to galvanise hatred in Romania”, Marc Angel, the group’s co-chair, added that “this bill has no human rights compliance and serves no societal purpose but to ostracise further those already discriminated against”.
A similar law, attempting to ban gender identity information in Romania’s schools and universities, was deemed unconstitutional by the Romanian Constitutional Court in 2020 after being passed by the Senate and the parliament’s lower chamber.
“Back then in 2020 when the law passed through the parliament, it felt like the world collapsed on me because I realised I couldn’t be myself any more,” said Gabriel Gherman, a 20-year-old transgender community activist and community facilitator with ACCEPT Romania – an NGO advocating for LGBTQ rights.
“I’m sure this time it would be the same if it would pass, but nobody with real political power asked us young transgender people in Romania how we feel about it,” Gherman said.
Although same-sex relationships have been decriminalised in Romania since 2001, Romania remains conservative towards the LGBTQ community, with same-sex couples still not being allowed to marry or enter into civil partnerships.