Tuesday, June 16th, the Romanian Senate approved a bill which forbids any discussions in all Romanian schools and universities related to gender theory. The bill forbids „activities that meant to promote the gender identity theory – that defines gender as a concept different from biological sex and that gender and sex are not always the same thing.” The bill thus further marginalizes the transgender community that is already experiencing discrimination, with 1 in 5 transgender people in Romania experiencing physical or sexual attacks, based on a 2020 Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) report. The bill is now heading to the President of Romania for approval.
Human rights and LGBTI organizations throughout Romania were quick to condemn the passing of the bill and have asked the President not to sign the bill into law. Major universities in Romania, as well as student-led representation associations, have protested the bill claiming it represents an infringement on freedom of speech and right to education and might be the stepingstone for future moves to ban the teaching of gender studies in Romania.
„I feel angry, I feel erased, the Romanian state is telling me, a transgender Roma woman, that I do not exist! No, politicians do not have the right to decide about my identity,” said Antonella Lerca Duda, Board member at LGBTI-rights organization MozaiQ and president of SWC, the first and only organization fighting for sex workers rights.
If signed into law, the new Education Law would not only de jure ban already approved university courses addressing women’s rights and equal opportunities but also severely limit the curriculum for sexual and health education. Romania historically has had the highest level of teenage birth rates in Europe. By banning conversations about the difference between gender and biological sex, the Romanian state enforces a hostile climate for LGBTI teens; currently nearly 1 in 2 LGBTI youth is hiding their gender identity or sexual orientation when in school. This setback sets Romania on a path similar to neighbouring countries as Poland and Hungary, who have taken steps to restrict transgender rights and suppress public discussions on gender. Moreover, the passage of the aforementioned bill goes against principles stated by the Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention).