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Report submission for the UN Human Rights Universal Periodic Review

May 25, 2023

The Coalition for Gender Equality submitted a report for the fourth cycle of the United Nations Universal Periodiv Review (UPR) for Romania during May 2023.

UPR is a unique process which involves a periodic review of the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States. All the reports for Romania can be accessed on the UN website: the national report prepared by state institutions, the compilation of UN information and the summary of stakeholders’ information where our contribution is also present, focusing on gender equality and women’s rights.

We are providing a summary of some of the contributions and recommendations.

Summary of the Coalition’s submission

International obligations: we recommended that Romania ratifies Convention no. 190 on Violence and Harassment of the International Labour Organisation.

Right to work: we emphasized existing gender inequalities in economic spheres. Women are underrepresented in well-paid posts, whereas they dominate as unpaid family workers or occupy low paid feminized sectors. Women remain economically vulnerable and at a high risk of poverty. We recommend reducing disparities between men and women in labour market and establishing equal salary scales for all sectors. We also recommend investing in childcare facilities and multiplying the social assistance facilities for persons with disabilities and older persons so that women can fully participate in the labor market.

Right to health: we reported on cases of refusal to perform abortions in some public hospitals. Women resort to illegal and unsafe abortions putting their health and life at risk given the financial constraints, the refusal of state medical units to fulfil their legal obligations to perform such medical intervention and the lack of access to emergency contraception.  We recommend the adoption of a national strategy on sexual and reproductive health that focuses on preventing teenage pregnancies and introducing sexual education in schools, as well as securing access of adolescents to youth-friendly family planning services.

Right to education: we reported on the lack of comprehensive, evidence-based sexuality education in Romanian schools, as well as the lack of access of teachers to specific training related to sexuality education. We noted that that the lack of comprehensive and evidence-based sexuality education is one of the contributors to the high rates of teenage pregnancies that Romania is facing. We recommend that Romania offer comprehensive, rights- and evidence-based and age-appropriate sexuality education and information in schools.

Rights of women: we noted that despite Roma women are facing multiple and intersectional discrimination, the Strategy for the Inclusion of Romanian Citizens Belonging to the Roma Minority 2021–2027 doesn’t contain a gender perspective and and hasn’t an intersectional approach to Roma women problems and needs.

We stated that women’s political participation remains an issue of concern. Political parties are not respecting legal provisions regarding equal access of women in the electoral process and we recommend including mandatory gender quotas in electoral legislation and undertaking awareness campaigns on women’s political representation.

Recommendations for Romania of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

The Working Group on discrimination against women and girls states that trafficking in women and girls, primarily for the purposes of sexual exploitation and begging, is a major concern in Romania. The main drivers behind human trafficking are poverty, lack of education, child sexual abuse, lack of protection for children left behind by their parents working abroad, and corruption, alongside discrimination. The Human Rights Committee recommends providing victims with adequate medical, social and legal assistance and allocating sufficient funds for support services for victims. The Working Group on discrimination against women and girls recommends that all centres for victims/survivors of trafficking are operational and have sufficient resources, and that high-quality services are available for the victims/survivors, aimed at their reintegration, taking into account the particular needs of minors and other vulnerable victims/survivors.

Right to work: women face many barriers to accessing decent jobs and frequently suffer  discrimination in theworkplace, stemming, inter alia, from the unequal division of family responsibilities and the disproportionate burden of unpaid care work. The Committee notes the lower employment rates for women – 56.9 per cent for women compared to 74.9 per cent for men in 2020.

The Commitee recommends introducing targeted intersectional and gender-sensitive measures to create more opportunities for women to gain access to formal employment, especially in rural areas, and to integrate women from marginalized communities, such as Roma women and migrant and refugee women, into the labour market. Also, introducing additional and targeted measures to ensure a work-life balance for women, especially for single mothers who are primary caregivers – including introducing flexible working conditions, ensuring access to childcare facilities, and undertaking awareness-raising activities to encourage the use of parental leave by fathers.

The ILO Committee of Experts requests the Government to continue its efforts to lower the gender pay gap by addressing its structural and underlying causes, such as vertical and horizontal occupational job segregation and gender stereotypes on the role of women in the family. The same Committee reiterates its requests to the Government to take measures to train labour inspectors, raise awareness of judges and promote and ensure application of the principle of equal remuneration for men and women for work of equal value through a range of proactive measures, in cooperation with workers, employers and their organizations.

The Working Group on discrimination against women and girls recommends adopting and implementing further policies and strategies protecting women from harassment in the workplace.

Right to education: The Working Group on discrimination against women and girls recommends integrating human rights education at all levels of education, addressing specifically women’s and girls’ rights and gender equality issues, including violence against girls. It notes that despite the high rate of early marriages, sexuality education is very limited. Sexuality education is an optional subject and reaches only a small minority of school pupils. The Working Group recommends guaranteeing comprehensive, scientific, human rights-based and age-appropriate sexuality education for all children.

Right to health: The Working Group recommends ensuring full access to quality health-care servicesb for all women and girls. It recommends that Romania take all appropriate legislative and educational measures to end discrimination against Roma women and girls in access to health care – such as training health professionals, creating accessible complaint mechanisms, sanctioning discriminatory practices, and increasing the number of Roma health mediators.

The Human Rights Committee is concerned about the high maternal and infant mortality rates, which disproportionately affects Roma. The Committee recommends that the State continue its efforts to eliminate preventable maternal and infant mortality and ensure non-discriminatory access to affordable quality health care for all women and girls, especially Roma and those residing in rural areas.

The Human Rights Committee is concerned about the high rate of teenage pregnancies. The Working Group on discrimination against women and girls stats that teenage pregnancy is particularly common in rural areas. It notes the lack of a comprehensive national strategy on sexual and reproductive health, despite the high rate of teenage pregnancy.

The Human Rights Committee recommends intensifying efforts to prevent the high number of early pregnancies and unsafe abortions, including through effective mandatory age-appropriate educational programmes in schools on sexual and reproductive health. The Working Group on discrimination against women and girls recommends ensuring full access to reproductive health services, including contraceptive information and services, for all women and girls, including adolescents.

The Human Rights Committee is concerned about reports of women resorting to clandestine and unsafe abortions, which put their lives and health at risk, and about the obstacles faced in practice by women in accessing safe legal abortions. The Working Group on discrimination against women and girls observes that in some hospitals access to abortion services was compromised due to the exercise of conscientious objection.

The Human Rights Committee recommends ensuring that women have effective access to safe legal abortions and post-abortion care, especially in rural areas. The Working Group on discrimination against women and girls recommends ensuring that legal abortion is accessible in practice by removing existing barriers, including through the proper monitoring and regulation of the practice of conscientious objection.

Rights of women: The Working Group on discrimination against women and girls states that conservative views about women, related to gender stereotypes, are still prevalent. Although attitudes had been changing, particularly in urban areas, women’s primary responsibility is seen as bearing children and taking care of the household. The Working Group recommends undertaking educational and awareness-raising campaigns aimed at eliminating harmful gender stereotypes and involving the family, the media, and community and religious leaders in the creation of a culture of gender equality and respect for human rights.

The same Working Group reported that Roma women and girls, in particular, face intersecting and multiple forms of discrimination and are often portrayed stereotypically in the media. The Working Group recommends ensuring effective implementation of relevant laws, policies and strategies, and introducing further measures that are focused on achieving substantive equality and addressing the specific needs of women facing multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, such as Roma women and girls, and women with disabilities.

The Working Group notes that women’s participation in politics is low and is concerned that no appropriate steps had been taken in terms of institutionalizing measures to increase women’s representation in Parliament. The national average of women elected as mayors is only 4.55 per cent. Women are underrepresented on county and city councils, with some exceptions. Generally, women are well represented in the different public institutions but their representation in senior positions is mostly low.

The Working Group recommends increasing the representation of women at all levels of government, particularly in managerial positions, with a view to achieving gender parity and their participation in elected positions, through the introduction of temporary special measures and measures to support the empowerment of women candidates.

The Human Rights Committee reiterates its concern at the high number of cases of domestic violence and allegations that violence against women and children remained underreported. The Committee is concerned about the high rate of withdrawal of complaints by victims and the limited scope of ex officio prosecution. The Working Group on discrimination against women and girls notes the problem of the high tolerance of domestic violence, including by the victims, as well as the existence of victim-blaming attitudes in society and institutions. The same Working Group notes a lack of sufficient resources, the persistence of gender stereotypes in public institutions, corruption, insufficient availability of comprehensive services for victims/survivors and insufficient availability of gender-sensitized qualified personnel. It recommends ensuring effective implementation of the law on preventing and combating domestic violence, including adequate implementation and monitoring of protection orders, and setting up integrated emergency centres for victims/survivors of sexual violence. It recommends improving services for victims/survivors of gender-based violence, including psychological and psychiatric services, and access to a shelter for the period needed, in particular for women in vulnerable situations, such as Roma women, older women, women and girls with disabilities, and migrant women.

The Working Group states that sexual violence is of concern and is seriously underreported, partly due to the lack of trust in the criminal justice system. The Criminal Code did not define the crime of rape by lack of consent, but by coercive circumstances. The Working Group recommends reviewing legislation on sexual violence to ensure that all non-consensual sexual relations are adequately prosecuted. It recommends taking measures to prevent and address sexual harassment in the education system and public institutions, revenge pornography and online sexual abuse against girls, in cooperation with non-governmental organizations and girls’ networks.

The Working Group recommends addressing violence against women engaged in sex work/prostitution, including by decriminalizing sex work/prostitution.

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