Magazine article New Internationalist

Closed Door: Anti-Gay Legislation in Romania

Magazine article New Internationalist

Closed Door: Anti-Gay Legislation in Romania

Article excerpt

Closed door

Anti - gay legislation in Romania

ALEXANDRU wears eye shadow. That is enough to get assaulted on the streets of Bucharest. 'You have to be careful everywhere you go, all the time,' says Alexandru, a 24 - year - old waiter. 'It's dangerous to be gay in Romania.' Romanian homosexuals who hoped life would be easier and safer after the fall of the communist regime are now disappointed. Despite the Council of Europe's insistence on the removal of a ban on same - sex relations, it is still dangerous to be openly gay.

Homophobic thugs regularly launch late - night raids on the handful of informal gay meeting spots in the capital, terrorizing anyone who happens to be there. Gay men such as Alexandru expect no protection from the police.

Romanian laws on homosexuality have long been the toughest in Europe, and new amendments to the controversial penal code have made them even tougher.

Most gay people here live in the closet,' says Bogdan, a gay university student. 'These conditions make life for gay people very difficult, especially in small cities or the countryside.'

Even after the 1989 revolution, Romania's notorious Paragraph 200 - which outlawed same - sex relations - remained in place. Gay people were spied upon, harassed and arrested. Many were victims of police brutality and torture.

But in 1994 the Council of Europe made Romania's membership of its organizations conditional on repealing the ban. Late last year, after an emotional debate, the Romanian Parliament grudgingly revised Paragraph 200. It scrapped the blanket ban on homosexual relations, but expanded other sections of the law.

The amended version somehow meets the Council of Europe's conditions,' says Ion Iacos of the Bucharest - based Romanian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights. 'But, in fact, it's so vague it's worse than the old one. I'm afraid we can expect even more violations than before. …

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