On the 16th of October 2018, Roxana Marinescu (Societatea de Analize Feministe AnA) represented the Coalition for Gender Equality in a meeting with PES women politicians in order to exchange on women’s rights and gender equality issues in Romania. PES representatives were hosted by PSD, as a member of the Party of European Socialists. The meeting was organized by OFSD (PSD’s women’s organisation).
The message of the Coalition for Gender Equality for PES representatives included an overview of the current situation in Romania. Some progress has been made regarding gendered violence: the Parliament adopted Law 174/2018 on domestic violence – obtaining a temporary restraining order from the police. We are looking forward for its implementation and we are expressing our concerns that it will not be fully operational (e.g. electronic monitoring of the aggressors is still far away).
On the other hand, Romania holds the first place in the EU for teenage mothers, yet no law regarding sexual education and/ or reproductive health has been drawn or proposed.
The Government adopted the National Strategy for the Promotion of Gender Equality between Women and Men and the Prevention of Domestic Violence (2018-2021). It has good objectives and generous intentions. For example: including notions of gender equality and gender violence in the school syllabus, awareness campaigns for reproductive health, gender issues on the labour market. We are looking forward for its implementation.
Also, in February 2018 the President and the Government announced that companies would have to hire gender equality experts. We are still waiting for the start of this project. The Coalition for Gender Equality and other partners released an open letter to the Presidency, the Prime Minister and the Agency for Equal Opportunities between Women and Men (ANES) requesting fair, open and professional selection of these gender experts.
Anti-feminist and anti-gender messages are prevalent in society, and they are supported by all mainstream political parties, including the Social Democratic Party (PSD). Some examples include allowing and supporting hate speech in the Romanian media, in the Parliament, in the public sphere: against the Istanbul Convention; against sexual and health education, against gender issues (“the gender ideology”), against the LGBTQ+ community, against diversity in general. This tense context was followed by the withdrawal from public debate of the Strategy for Parental Education by the Ministry of Education.
Moreover, there is a total lack of interest to update the Reproductive Health Strategy that expired in 2015. In the meanwhile, the Government is allowing the illegal situation whereby some public county hospitals no longer offer free abortion services by claiming doctors’ right to conscientious objection. Also, there are zero (free) contraceptives through the public family planning system; there is a lack of concern for maternal health and, particularly in rural areas; and lack of screening for breast cancer and cervical cancer prevention.
Another important issue is the attempt to annihilate the role of civil society. For example, the “Plesoianu” proposal (PSD), by which NGOs are requested to report all their donors, however small, twice a year, at their own expense, risking dissolution and blocking their activity. And the sudden change of the members of the Social and Economic Council (CES) by the Prime-Minister, with no prior public consultation.
Another worrying situation is that the Parliament is putting the referendum for the redefinition of marriage in the Constitution and of the family on the public agenda, with PSD directly promoting and supporting it by participation in media debates and social media campaigns and paying for outdoor advertising.
The message of the Coalition for Gender Equality for PES representatives included some recommendations. Such as the constant and consistent support of PES and other groups in the EU for the creation of the EU Fund for support for NGOs in order to promote EU values as a measure to combat authoritarian, conservative and illiberal movements in Central and Eastern Europe. Such NGO funding would help consolidate a network support among NGOs in the region. But also, solidarity among Romanian NGOs and common actions in support of gender awareness, gender equality and the promotion of democracy and civic action.