Romania rejects decriminalising gay sex
Reuters, June 30, 1998
By Roxana Dascalu
BUCHAREST - Romania's parliament on Tuesday rejected a government
proposal to decriminalise gay sex and align laws with Europe-wide standards, drawing
immediate criticism from the Council of Europe.
The lower house Chamber of Deputies voted against changes to the post- communist
criminal code which would have scrapped jail sentences meted out to homosexuals.
"It would be immoral to legalise homosexual sex," said Emil Popescu, a lawyer
and member of the Christian Democrats, the main party in the centrist coalition
"Homosexual couples are sterile. They cannot breed. We want a healthy
nation," he said to applause from a cross-section of members of the chamber, which is
overwhelmingly dominated by men.
Local human rights groups criticised the vote as a serious mistake liable to unleash a
strong international lobby against Romania's bid to join the European Union and NATO.
The Council of Europe, the continent's main human rights watchdog, had agreed to stop
monitoring the situation in Romania on the assumption that the changes would go through.
Finland's Gunnar Jannson, a spokesman on Romanian affairs at the Council of Europe,
said that the vote was "not a very wise decision on three counts."
"The first and most serious is that when Romania joined the Council of Europe, it
undertook to amend this article 200 to draw into line with European standards," he
told Reuters in Strasbourg.
"Secondly, Prime Minister Radu Vasile, while visiting the Council of Europe in
April 1998, undertook to present this amendment. I cannot blame the government, but if it
has a parliamentary majority, this amendment should have been adopted."
The third reason, he said, was that this would mean that the council's parliamentary
assembly, at its next sitting in September, would now almost certainly demand to reopen
its monitoring in Romania and send a mission to Bucharest.
Romanian Justice Minister Valeriu Stoica, the driving force behind the changes, last
month submitted to parliament a set of changes to the criminal code, which would have
The vote kept in place existing post-communist laws under which homosexual acts are
subject to legal action if they "cause a scandal" - generally meaning if they
are publicly denounced.
Romanian society has been slow to accept gay rights.
A law adopted by the leftists who ran Romania from the fall of communism in 1989 until
1996 made gay sex punishable by jail terms of up to three years, depending on
The number of people held in jails on homosexuality charges is unknown, but one woman
sentenced to three years was released this year after serving half her term.
Tuesday's parliamentary debate degenerated at times into uproar in the chamber, located
in the marble-lined palace built by executed communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.
Conservatives on both government and opposition benches denounced "sexual
"This is against Christian morals," former Finance Minister Mircea Ciumara
said. "We should define clearly the moment when sexual intercourse starts. Does it
start with a kiss?"
The Orthodox Church, one of the most conservative in Europe with the nominal allegiance
of more than 80 percent of 22 million Romanians, considers homosexuality a deadly sin.
Church patriarch Teoctist has denounced homosexual behaviour in pastoral messages for
The parliamentary vote also threw out the Justice Ministry's plans to revise libel laws
under which journalists have been convicted of "insults."
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