Romania’s Gays Celebrate End of Ban
Gay Gatherings Are No Longer a Criminal Offence
December, 20 2001
By Shirin Wheeler in Bucharest
Human rights campaigners in Romania are celebrating the scrapping from the
statute books of a law which effectively criminalised the practice of
The notorious Article 200 of the Penal Code, conceived during the Communist
regime of Nicolae Ceausescu, was used to harass and imprison thousands of gay
and lesbian people.
But the law has been repealed only 12 years after that regime collapsed—under
fierce pressure from the European Union.
Heaven is Bucharest’s newest nightclub and the place to be seen for
Romania’s increasingly confident gay community.
With the anti-homosexual article now gone, the club opened last month
without fear of prosecution.
Gay gatherings are no longer a criminal offence, and the clientele here are
"I am really happy we have got a club where we can meet, have fun and
feel free," said one customer.
"Everyone has a right to their freedom and that includes their
sexuality," said another.
"I feel good—it is super."
Romania’s gay rights group ACCEPT led the campaign against a law which
criminalised homosexual relationships and organisations, with maximum
sentences of five years in prison.
Its director, Adrian Coman, says the law was only scrapped because the
European Union made it a precondition for Romania’s eventual membership of
"The fact that law was repealed does not necessarily show that people
in this country became more tolerant towards gays and lesbians in Romania.
"Whatever the reason, this is an important step forward. You could say
that finally the state is out of your bed."
Cool public reaction
Last year a public opinion poll found that 86% of Romanians would not want
a gay or lesbian person as their neighbour.
On the streets of the capital Bucharest the changes to the statute books
and the repealing of the Article 200 clearly have not met with universal
"It is not good they repealed that law, it would destroy the
family," said one passer-by, while another referred to homosexuals as
"I think it is a good thing for society but morally it is not good
because we are Christians," said a third.
The Orthodox Church still exerts huge influence in Romania.
When politicians debated Article 200, the voice of the church was equally
loud. It warned of the dangers to Romania and to the family.
The Holy Synod insists it does not favour prison sentences for gays—just
re-education programmes funded by the state.
But its senior priests say laws and punishment are still necessary to stop
what they call gay propaganda.
"We need healthy young people in mind and body, like any civilised
country and we must try to protect them from contamination by such serious
sinners," says a spokesman for the Holy Synod bishop Vincentiu Ploisteanu.
He believes pressure from the European Union to change Romania’s law on
homosexuality is completely misguided.
"We want to join the European Union, not Sodom and Gomorrah."
The church may not approve of clubs like Heaven nor of the changes this
But the tide is turning in favour of those who want to see Romania adopt
the freedoms others take for granted.
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