Romania through gender lens: November 2013 - June 2013

1.       Parliamentary elections on the 9th of December 2012. Women only 11,5% of MPs

At the parliamentary elections in Romania on the 9th of December 2012, political parties didn’t dedicate any special attention to women's political representation. Following the elections, only 11.5% of the elected MPs are women, Romania remaining among the last countries in Europe with regard to gender balance in political positions.

Apart from socio-cultural background that puts women in the second place in all spheres of activity and also in the private space, other causes of the poor political representation of women are the lack of transparency and democracy within the parties and the voting system that makes political parties choose candidates based on notoriety, financial, human and media resources and also based on the support received from local political leaders, called by the Romanian press "local barons".

Women's representation in Romanian legislature after 1989 has been very low and remains among the lowest in Europe.

 

Legislature

Percentage of seats held by women in national parliament

1990-1992

4,9%;

1992-1996

3.7%

1996-2000

4,7%

2000- 2004

10,8%

2004-2008

10,2%

2008-2012

9.8%

2012-present

11.5%

Source: Permanent Electoral Authority

 

In the electoral competition for the parliamentary elections in 2012, 340 women candidates from 2451 candidates (13.8 %.) were nominated. Following the elections, the percentage of women who have obtained parliamentary seats was 11.5% (68 seats out of 588).

In the Chamber of Deputies, women have achieved a rate of 13.3% of the seats (55 seats compared to 357 held by men) and in the Senate they obtained 7.3% of the seats (13 seats compared to 163 seats hold by men).

The only political party that has imposed itself a minimum percentage of women among the nominated candidates was the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR) where it was decided that women should represent minimum 20% of the candidates. However, women candidates were distributed to colleges with almost no chance of winning, so after the elections just one woman from UDMR acceded to the Parliament.

The political party with the highest percentage of women among the mandates (18%) was the People's Party Dan Diaconescu (PPDD), a party created around the figure of a populist politician that brings together politicians that abandoned other parties or have been excluded as a result of corruption scandals, or just candidate on PPDD lists because their parties didn’t offer them the electoral nomination.

Not only that the main political parties from Romania were not concerned with the gender balance on their lists of candidates but, more than that, they accepted and supported politicians known for their sexist attitudes. One example is George Becali, owner of Steaua football team, who in return for substantial money donations was accepted candidate on behalf of the Liberal National Party. Becali was sanctioned on numerous occasions by the National Council for Combating Discrimination for his misogynistic, homophobic and racist statements. During the electoral campaign he refused to talk with female opponent candidates and even with female television moderator on the consideration that only men can be his partners in talk shows.



2.       Including rape and domestic violence in Mediation Law

In 2012 the Romanian Parliament adopted the Mediation Law which states that certain juridical causes of civil, commercial and criminal areas can be solved through mediation. The law provides that all persons who appear in court will be required to attend a meeting in order to be informed about the "advantages" of mediation (this is the expression used in writing the law). The law applies to offenses including rape and domestic violence.

Women's organizations protested and called for the removal of rape from this law. After the protests, the Government decided that mediation law enforcement in criminal cases will be postponed until the entry into force of the new Criminal Procedure Code, scheduled for the 1th of February 2014.

Front Association, Filia Center, AnA Society for Feminist Analyses, Center for Partnership and Equality (CPE), Transcena Association and Group for Feminist Interventions were the organizations that initiated the protest on the street in February 2013 against this law, pointing out that mandatory information meeting during which the rape victim would be informed about the "advantages of mediation" could bring additional pressure to make the victim withdraw his or her complaint and to forgive the abuser.

The organizations warned that in this moment institutionally, culturally and socially, the victims of rape and domestic violence are discouraged from making juridical complaints by those with whom they interact, abuser, family, medical staff and police. The procedure by which victims have to go to report the crime, obtain medical certificates, meet the police, fill in the official complaint, discuss with the lawyers, is hard to be accomplished without adequate support. In Romania there are no emergency centers for rape victims, neither specialized resources and training for psychologists or others to act in the interests of those who suffered sexual assault. Mediation will only further draw back the victims and will give more chances to the abuser to escape.

At the time this article was written, the enforcement of the Mediation Law on criminal cases was temporarily suspended. It is still not decided definitively if rape and domestic violence will be included among criminal cases that can be subject of mediation.

Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence states on art. 48, paragraph 1 that „Parties shall take the necessary legislative or other measures to prohibit mandatory alternative dispute resolution processes, including mediation and conciliation, in relation to all forms of violence covered by the scope of this Convention”.

Romania has not signed the Convention, but recently there have been more public effort in this direction. More women in the National Parliament and the European Parliament called for its signature.



3.       Sexual abuse in the Police

In December 2012 a huge scandal erupted in the Romanian Police. A female police agent from Bals city stabbed her supervisor and said she had done it because in the last year she had been subjected to sexual abuses by him. The intense coverage of the Bals case forced the Minister of Interior, Radu Stroe, to order an investigation at national level to see how many female police agents are in a similar situation.

Officer Gheorghe Barbu from the Bals Police Station was stabbed on December 26 several times in his belly and legs by the female police agent Melania Renghea, aged 27 years. The female agent, five months pregnant, said her boss raped her repeatedly and forced her to provide sexual favors to other Police officers from Olt County Police Inspectorate. She urged other female victims of sexual abuse in the Police to complain.

The Interior Minister Radu Stroe ordered a national survey to detect other possible cases of sexual abuse among police officers. In various police stations around the country (Craiova, Sibiu) policewomen got the courage and said publicly that they were victims of sexual harassment at their workplaces.

More than 6,000 policewomen were interviewed over several weeks. Men, although they may be victims of sexual abuse at their workplace, as many NGOs warned in an open letter to the Minister, were not included in the survey. Organizations have expressed concern about the effectiveness of the investigation, in the absence of measures to ensure the protection of women interviewed, the privacy and the guarantee that there will be no retaliation against those who report acts of sexual harassment, mobbing or rape committed at workplace.

The investigation revealed other 10 cases of sexual assault among the agents of Romanian Police. In May 2013 was established by Ministerial Order a phone line and email address for notification of any act/ acts of discrimination, harassment or similar treatments behaviors perpetrated among police personnel.



4.       President urges Romanian women to have children as "patriotic act" and speaks about the high birth rate of Roma people


On June 18, 2013, during a meeting of the Business Women's Club, Romanian President Traian Basescu spoke about the country's low birth rate and the demographic problem. He said that having children should be for women a "patriotic act" and that "birth is a mission that women from Romania must uphold". He also referred to the high birth rate of Romani women. "How come Roma woman can rise five to six children, and Romanian ones cannot? It's true, she is not a manager, the Roma woman", he said.

Several non-governmental women and Roma rights organizations have immediately reacted with a flash mob organized in front of the presidential palace on June 20, and a complaint to the National Council for Combating Discrimination (CNCD) against the President some days after.

The organizations sustained that President Traian Basescu’s statements are discriminatory against women, against Roma and against poor women.

Excerpt from the press release sent by the NGOs:

1.       President Traian Basescu's statements are discriminatory against women

To the statement of the President "I think that birth is a mission that Romanian women must uphold" we replied as follows. First, his words reveal a sexist ignorance about the past of this country, in which thousands of women died because the nationalist thinking and the demographic policies of the Romanian communist state were more important than their reproductive rights, health, freedom and dignity. Secondly, the statement of the President is discriminatory to women whose humanity is reduced to bodies producing citizens for the nation. Thirdly, Traian Basescu operates in a patriarchal logic that considers that he, as president and man, may indicate to women to and why give birth to a child, showing a deep incapacity to respect each woman's personal autonomy. Finally, President Traian Basescu perpetuates and encourages gender stereotypes, according to which women must become mothers and are defined by adherence or lack of adherence to motherhood, saying that "motherhood is one of the basic missions of a woman."


2.       President Traian Basescu's statements are discriminatory against Roma people.

President’s words "How come Roma women can rise five to six children, and Romanian ones cannot?" clearly denotes an unacceptable racist and nationalist division of women in desirable mothers and not desirable mothers on ethnic criteria. President Traian Basescu also contributes to the perpetuation of racist stereotypes about Roma women and to the devaluation of their motherhood. In fact, the Romanian president urges female citizens to give birth to white children, Romanian ethnic, in a discriminating and nationalist logic evident in the following excerpt, in which the president predicts "a substantial change in the population structure because we have the Roma minority, which is highly productive". The President’s words come after an extremist organization called to the sterilization of Roma women at the beginning of this year and a local liberal politician supported the initiation of a program to sterilize them. So his statements contribute to worsening racism against Roma women and show a lack of responsibility towards all female citizens of this state.

3.       President Traian Basescu's statements are discriminatory against poor women

President Traian Basescu's statements were made during a business women’s meeting, where he also discussed about the presence of women in political and economical decision-making positions. By his classist statements the Romanian President considered desirable that births be given by white women who have a high social and economic status. The remaining women are discriminated and marginalized in this judgment. The President ignores the economic reality of Romania, where motherhood is often accompanied by poverty, high infant mortality and maternal mortality; women do not have access to decent health care, child care, welfare. President Traian Basescu ignores these poor women, present or future mothers, and denies the responsibility of the state towards them because in the President’s world, desirable and patriotic mothers are those who have money, right color and a high social status.

 



 *Romania has a mixed voting system, part majority, part proportional system. Majority  because voting is done through electoral constituencies and the candidate who wins 50% +1 of the votes in his college automatically access to Parliament, and proportional because candidates how don’t get 50% +1 of the votes are included on a list of which seats are distributed proportionally according to their party results.