Romania: Penal Code Reform Rejected

The Romanian Chamber of Deputies has rejected a package of revisions to the Romanian penal code, a package which would have included amendments to Article 200--Romania's notorious law criminalizing consensual homosexual acts between adults.

The amendments would have represented a potentially worse legal situation for gay, lesbian and bisexual persons. Article 200, paragraph 1 of the penal code currently punishes any adult, consensual homosexual act with one to five years' imprisonment. The proposed revisions would have reserved the same punishment for homosexual acts "committed in public or which cause public scandal" where the term "public scandal" would be defined by a 1938 Romanian law describing it as "an act which becomes known to more than two persons who disapprove of it." An additional provision would have imposed one to five years' imprisonment for "organizing, associating, or any act of proselytism" for homosexuality.

The proposed revisions had been widely criticized by Amnesty International and other human rights organizations for their vagueness and for potential threats to freedoms of speech, assembly, and association. However, the possibility of even a partial liberalization of laws affecting homosexuality had roused a storm of controversy in Romania. The Orthodox Church spearheaded a year-long petition campaign calling for increased penalties for gay and lesbian sex.

In the November 21, 1995 Chamber of Deputies vote, three extremist parties--the Party of Romanian National Unity, the Greater Romania Party, and the Socialist Workers' Party--cast the deciding votes against the penal code package. All three cited the alleged easing of sanctions against homosexuality as a crucial reason behind their opposition. The Government must now introduce new proposals for penal code reform in the next parliamentary session.

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission is concerned that the Romanian Government has no intention of observing the commitments made to the Council of Europe two years ago to decriminalize homosexual acts between consenting adults in private. The two attempts at penal code reform over this period have both been rejected in the Chamber of Deputies, each time starting the process anew. Moreover, the proposed revisions that were considered were blatant attempts to accommodate the Council of Europe's reservations about "acts in private", and yet still maintain the status quo and even outlaw the right to organize politically, socially, or culturally in defense of lesbian and gay emancipation.

We urge you to help pressure the Romanian government to move quickly to meet international human rights norms as well as its own treaty commitments. Please also mail a copy of your letters to the Council of Europe officials (listed below) to remind them of the continued failure of their 1993 recommendation of Romania in bringing about democratic reform in the Romanian penal code.

Send letters to:

The Honorable Petru Tanase Tavala
Chairman, Committee for Human Rights
Senate of Romania
Palatul Parlamentului
Bucharest, ROMANIA
The Honorable Oliviu Gherman
Chairman, Permanent Bureau of the Senate
Senate of Romania
Palatul Parlamentului
Bucharest, ROMANIA
The Honorable Adrian Nastase
Presidinte
Camera Deputatilor
Palatul Parlamentului
Bucharest, ROMANIA

Send copies to:

Mr. Daniel Tarschys, Secretary General
Mr. Gunnar Jansson, Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights
Mr. Friedrich Konig, Political Affairs Committee
Mrs. Halonen (Finnish Delegate to the CoE)
at:
Council of Europe
Parliamentary Assembly
B.P. 431 R6
F-67006 Strasbourg Cedex
France