Sunday

9th Aug 2020

Student unrest over Romania gender-studies ban

  • Universities in Bucharest and Cluj both came out against the amendment that would restrict the school curriculum, condemning the law for interfering in education, and saying it has no scientific basis (Photo: PES)

Student bodies, academics and LGBTI-rights organisations have criticised a legislative change in Romania forbidding educational institutions from "spreading theories and opinion on gender-identity according to which gender is a separate concept from biological sex".

Universities in Bucharest and the city of Cluj, in central Romania, both came out against the amendment that would restrict the school curriculum, condemning the law for interfering in education, and saying it has no scientific basis.

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  • Opponents have been dubbed as supporters of 'a Marxist ideology toxic to the development of children' (Photo: MozaiQ)

The University of Bucharest said in a press statement that the new law "contradicts fundamental rights guaranteed by the Romanian constitution and international conventions such as: freedom of conscience, freedom of opinion and university autonomy".

The amendment to the education law, approved by the Romanian parliament, is pushing the country closer to the authoritarian policies found in neighbouring Hungary and Poland, critics say.

"Romania aligns itself to the likes of Viktor Orban's Hungary, and Poland, countries that police freedom of thought. The amendment contradicts the anti-discrimination and gender-equality legislation, both mandatory for Romania's accession to the European Union", Vlad Alexandrescu, a senator, university professor and vocal opponent of the ban told EUobserver.

On the other side of the argument, Vasile Lungu, a senator who is in favour of the ban, explained to EUobserver that he opposes the idea that a person's biological sex might be different from gender.

"The reason behind my amendment is to stop a Marxist ideology toxic to the development of children. According to this ideology the biological sex you have at birth can't define a child as being man or woman, each child being left to choose from the 114 invented genders concocted by the supporters of this theory.

"The danger is real. NGOs get in our schools and teach this theory to our kids."

NGOs and LGBTI rights organisations consider the law a direct attack aimed at Romania's transgender community, as transgender teachers and students might not be allowed in schools and universities.

"It is a first step in criminalising the LGBTI community bringing Romania closer to the anti-LGBTI governments of Hungary and Poland. We are against this law that endangers free speech", Vlad Viski, MozaiQ director and activist told EUobserver.

Hungary voted last month to ban legal gender changes on identity documents such as driving licenses and passports, and has shut down gender studies since 2018.

In Poland, too, the anti-LGBTI rhetoric has been used politically, this time in the re-election campaign of president Andrzej Duda.

Some professors say they will not be enforcing the ban and will continue to include gender-identity references in their curriculum.

Student organisations have launched a petition asking the Romanian president to reject the law.

President Klaus Iohannis, an ethnic German usually known for advocating equality and inclusion in his public statements, is expected to be against the ban.

Romania decriminalised homosexuality in 2001, but same-sex marriage and civil partnerships are not recognised. The country ranks low amongst other EU countries on gender-recognition and non-discrimination.

Author bio

Cristian Gherasim is a freelance journalist contributing to EUobserver, Euronews, EU Reporter, Katoikos, Von Mises Institute, and bne IntelliNews, with a particular focus on European and regional affairs.

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