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Romania passes law banning gender identity studies despite protests

Romania passes law banning gender identity studies despite protests

  • The new ban on gender identity studies has now reached the desk of Romania’s president.
LGBT+ protest outside protested outside the Romanian president’s residence, Cotroceni Palace.

Romania is putting a blanket ban on gender identity studies despite protests from human rights groups and universities.

The bill, adapting the National Education Law, passed through parliament last week. Today it has reached the desk of President Klaus Werner Iohannis.

However, demonstrators have protested outside the president’s residence, Cotroceni Palace in Bucharest, asking him not to sign it.

Meanwhile several academics have stated they will not obey the new law.

If President Iohannis signs, the new law will ban all educational institutions from ‘propagating theories and opinion on gender identity according to which gender is a separate concept from biological sex’.

However the National Alliance of Student Organisations in Romania and the National Council of Students have launched a petition to urge Iohannis to reject the law.

They say it will ‘send education in Romania back to the Middle Ages’.

‘A blatant interference in education and free expression’

Protestors wearing trans face masks and flags gathered last Thursday to oppose the new law.

Some wore masks with an ‘x’ taped across them. They carried banners with slogans including ‘This is an attack on the autonomy of universities’ and ‘Open minds not closed doors’.

They asked Iohannis, who has previously supported equality, to refuse to sign the bill and send it back to parliament.

Meanwhile, educators have condemned the legislation.

The University of Bucharest said: ‘The text of the law has no scientific basis and is a blatant example of interference in education and free expression.’

Moreover, the Babes-Bolyai University said it was ‘astounded’ that ‘an academic theory could be banned by law’. They warned it will set ‘an unwanted precedent for academic and scientific activity’.

Indeed, Vlad Alexandrescu, a senator as well as a university professor, said the law is ‘thought policing’.

Meanwhile Gelu Duminica, who teaches sociology at the University of Bucharest, is one of the professors who says they won’t obey the law.

He said if he did obey it, ‘I wouldn’t be doing my duty anymore’.

And he added: ‘My role is to guide my students to understand man’s behaviour in society. And people are diverse.’

Law violates Romania’s constitution

The law may also face a constitutional challenge. The University of Bucharest has already questioned its constitutionality.

Meanwhile Vlad Viski, president of LGBT+ organization MozaiQ, said: ‘We think this is an assault against the transgender community in Romania. All in all, approximately 12 articles of the constitution are violated if this law passes.’

Campaigners also warn it may be the start of socially conservative Romania following the lead of its near neighbors, Hungary and Poland.

Hungary banned gender studies in 2018. And this year it passed a law stopping trans people from changing their legal gender.

Romania only decriminalized homosexuality in 2001 and still has poorer LGBT+ rights than other European countries.

Same-sex couples can’t marry and don’t have legal partnership recognition. Meanwhile trans people can change legal gender but the process has become more complicated in recent years.

In ILGA Europe’s annual report on LGBT+ rights gave Romania just 19% in 2020, one of the lowest scores.