The anti-gender movement in Romania

The year 2018 brings to the forefront in Romania the notion of “gender ideology” by imposing the Referendum for the Family on the political agenda.

The concept is also used abusively in the context of blocking the 2018 Focșani Conference where Patrick Brăila, transgender director and activist, was scheduled to speak. Valentin Gheorghiță, the director of the Popular Athenaeum "Maior Gh. Pastia", the location where the conference was to take place, stated that discussions about homosexuality, lesbianism and "transghender" are not allowed inside the Athenaeum. ACCEPT filed a complaint with the National Council for Combating Discrimination, which unanimously decided that the cancellation of the event was aimed at silencing a transgender person and this restriction of freedom of expression is an act of discrimination in a public institution and such actions will be sanctioned.

On the same ideological program, Senator Lungu (PMP) initiates in 2019 in the Romanian Parliament a bill amending the National Education Law so that references to gender identity are banned in schools and universities in the country. The bill, law for amending art. 7 of the National Education Law 1/2011, which prohibits in educational institutions the reference to gender identity, was passed by the Senate and it attacks any issue related to gender or gender equality.

This transgression from the compliance with constitutional principles, university autonomy and fundamental human rights was pointed out to the President of Romania Klaus Iohannis by 80 civil society organizations. Based on his constitutional mandate, the president was asked that the law initiated by PMP and supported by PSD and ALDE, not to be promulgated but re-examined in Parliament. Among the applicant organizations are ACCEPT, the FILIA Center, MozaiQ, Identity.Education, the PRIDE Romania, but also other members of society such as women's rights organizations, student and student organizations. Also, the National Council of Rectors, the National School of Political and Administrative Studies, Babeș-Bolyai University, the University of Bucharest, the West University of Timișoara and the “Lucian Blaga” University of Sibiu opposed the exclusion of education on gender and gender identity from the university environment.

In July of this year, President Iohannis notified the draft law to the Romanian Constitutional Court as a discrimination and a restriction of the right to free expression. He also pointed out the fact that the law sent for promulgation violates the European Convention on Human Rights, as it does not respect the principle of proportionality between the measures taken and the protected public interest. These words provided hope for transgender people, who were seen as a ”gender ideology” by the initiators of the bill.

When it comes to the international reaction towards the bill proposed by the Senator from PMP, organizations such as Human Rights Watch, ILGA-Europe - the European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, International Planned Parenthood Federation Europe (IPPF), Center for Reproductive Rights, Transgender Europe (TGEU), Human Rights Without Frontiers, End FGM European Network, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Civil Rights Defenders highlights the fact that anti-discrimination and gender equality legislation is violated and sets a precedent for discrimination against LGBTQI + people. This bill also violates the principles of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the principle of non-discrimination enshrined in the EU Treaties. Through the bill, Romania violates its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) or the Istanbul Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence.

The Constitutional Court of Romania postponed for October 28th the debate after the notification of President Klaus Iohannis regarding the unconstitutionality of the proposed law amendment of the National Education Law 1/2011. In the notification sent to Court by the President of Romania, it is shown that certain provisions of the law “establish a norm that is likely to determine the restriction of the right to free expression, in that its application is based on the subjective criteria of expressing a certain theory / opinions”.
Countless civil society organisations, universities and academics, students, women and tran people have talked about and explained what such a discriminatory law would mean, and also explained the difference between sex and gender and the importance of discussions about diversity, gender identity and invlusive education. However, The Constitutional Court postponed for the 3rd time (28th of October, 18th of November, 9th of December, 16th of December) the decision on the initiative that attacks the rights of academia, women, transgender people and other categories of people. It can be interpreted as a sign of a thorough debate but also as an alarm signal to the easy access in the legislative field of some bills that violate human rights.

Simply put, the initiative to change the National Education Law prohibits:
- access to education and research for pupils and students in the field of gender identity
- the existence of persons who identify themselves as transgender and their invalidation as a person, as well as access to the rights designated by the Constitution and the Charter of Human Rights
- the right to free expression of all persons who are targeted by gender identity
- the emancipation of women and their freedom of expression
- equal opportunities for all genders
- the fight against gender-based violence against women and transgender people

We are happy that The Constitutional Court of Romania gave theier decision on the 16th of December 2020, after 4 months of delays and debate: the law is unconstitutional.
Discussions on diversity and inclusion, identitate and equality should be cornerstones of society and academia.