Last edited: December 08, 2004

Romanian MPs Vote to Decriminalise Homosexuality

Reuters, June 28, 2000

By Karin Popescu

BUCHAREST — Romanian deputies voted on Wednesday to decriminalise homosexuality but decided to maintain jail terms for overt sexual activity.

The move to decriminalise homosexuality, which has been illegal in Romania since 1968, was part of attempts to boost the eastern European country’s record on human rights to improve its prospects of joining the European Union.

Gay activists criticised the vote, saying it still discriminated against them.

"Punishing by law a group of people is discriminatory. MPs did nothing but played with words," Adrian Coman, executive manager of Accept, Romania’s only association dealing with gay rights, told Reuters.

The Romanian parliament’s lower Chamber of Deputies voted to maintain a stipulation in the criminal code setting jail terms of up to five years for "abnormal sexual practices, including oral and anal sex, if performed in public."

The law does not specify whether it concerns heterosexuals or homosexuals but gay activists argue that the reference to oral and anal sex targets them..

To become effective, the vote must be also endorsed by parliament’s upper house, the Senate.

The ruling centrist coalition is seeking to amend the country’s criminal code in line with suggestions on improving human rights put forward by the Council of Europe.

"MPs didn’t seem to understand what it is all about. They eliminated one article but kept another one maintaining different treatments for heterosexuals and homosexuals. They persist in discriminations, despite the Council of Europe’s recommendations," Coman said.

In 1997, the Council stopped monitoring Romania after the former communist country made some progress on democratic reform. It gave the country a year to amend legislation.

Justice Minister Valeriu Stoica warned on Tuesday that delaying legal reforms could put Romania under the Council of Europe scrutiny again and jeopardise its EU accession talks started earlier this year.

"It is sad that Romania remains on a list with Armenia, Chechnya and the (Bosnian Serb) Republika Serbska where homosexuals are still criminalised and discriminated against," Coman said.

He said that Romania lagged behind other former communist states which had already decriminalised homosexuality.

Gay activists say that homosexuals are as badly treated in Romania since before the fall of communism in 1989.

"The only improvement is that now we have hope that sometime we might be treated as equals to any other human being," he said.

Coman, while unable to give any data or numbers on gays and lesbians in Romania, said human rights watchdogs estimated that thousands of homosexuals had been put in jail, thrown out of their jobs and houses, committed suicide or fled the country since 1989.

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