Romania Deputies OK Sodomy Reform
Summary: Another effort to make its sex laws meet European standards seems to show
that Romanian politicians just dont get what discrimination is.
Under continuing pressure from Europe, Romanias Chamber of Deputies has once
again made a move to decriminalize consensual homosexual acts but once again has
done so in a way that leaves the door open for abuses, human rights groups say.
Romanias politicians have been struggling for years between the economic lure of
European participation and the pull of powerful religious and nationalist sentiments. But
while the deputies earliest debates on the topic of homosexuality ended in
near-riots, the current proposal passed by 180 - 14 with 40 abstentions. If the Council of
Europe doesnt see decriminalization and a number of other legal reforms by August 4,
it will renew its supervision of Romanias human rights situation, and that would
certainly delay the countrys hoped-for membership in the European Union.
The latest legal reform deletes specific references to gays, but continues to punish
public "perverted sexual acts" defined as "abnormal sexual practices
including oral and anal sex" and "any unnatural acts in connection with sexual
life" with up to five years imprisonment. Public heterosexual acts can be
punished with up to two years imprisonment. Enactment of the new law will require approval
by the Senate and President Emil Constantinescu.
The Romanian gay and lesbian activist group ACCEPTs (The Bucharest Acceptance
Group) managing director Adrian Coman told the Associated Press of the current bill,
"The issue has not been solved. What am I supposed to do now? Should I go downtown
and kiss a man to see whether I am punished?" The issue is not unlike Romanias
first stab at sodomy reform in 1996, which left a gaping loophole for actions causing a
"public scandal," meaning offense to another person. That loophole continued
harassment and extortion by police and incarceration of gays and lesbians in violent and
Coman told Reuters, "Punishing by law a group of people is discriminatory. The
Deputies did nothing but played with words. Deputies didnt 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 discrimination, despite the
Council of Europes recommendations. It is sad that Romania remains on a list with
Armenia, Chechnya and the [Bosnian] Republika Serbska [as the last European nations] where
homosexuals are still criminalized and discriminated against."
Since the fall of Communism in 1989 Coman said, "The only improvement is that now
we have hope that sometime we might be treated as equals to any other human being."
At least its been reported that currently no one is incarcerated in Romania for
consensual homosexual acts and if so that is an improvement in just the last couple
of years. In the celebrated case of Mariane Cetiner, simply asking another woman to have
sex with her in 1995 resulted in some 3-1/2 years in prison until Constantinescu
ultimately arranged for her release under international pressure.
But ACCEPT does not necessarily accept the official story that no one is incarcerated
now, and its members are well aware that police abuse continues.
The Romanian Orthodox Church, which counts more than 80% of the nation among its
nominal membership, issued a statement before the vote that "condoning"
homosexuality would "be harmful to the Christian belief." It said that the
Council of Europe, instead of demanding equal status for gays and lesbians, "should
accept us with our specific nature, and not try to impose another way of being"
an ironic choice of words for the subject of sexual orientation.
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