Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses
Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, of both women and men, is illegal. The law provides for five to 10 years’ imprisonment for rape and two to seven years’ imprisonment for sexual assault. If there are no aggravating circumstances and the attack did not lead to death, police and prosecutors may not pursue a case on their own, but they require a survivor’s complaint, even if there is independent physical evidence. In some cases the government did not enforce the law on rape and domestic violence.
Several human rights activists reported that some police officers tried to dissuade survivors of rape or domestic violence from pressing charges against their aggressors and, in some cases, refused to register criminal complaints submitted by victims. In some instances, police delayed action against sexual abusers. According to media reports, after being notified regarding cases of domestic violence, some members of police ignored the problem or tried to mediate between the victims and their aggressors.
The law classifies family violence as a separate offense and stipulates that when murder, battery, or other serious violence is committed against a family member, the penalty is increased. The law also states that, if the parties reconcile, criminal liability is removed. The law on equal opportunities for men and women includes cyberviolence among the forms of domestic violence and defines it as the occurrence of online harassment, online messages that incite hate based on gender criteria, or the nonconsensual publication of private graphic content that aims to humiliate, scare, threaten, or reduce victims to silence. The FILIA Center for Gender Studies and Curriculum Development – an NGO that aims to promote gender equality – stated that there were no regulations to implement these amendments.
Gender-based violence, including domestic violence, continued to be a serious problem that the government did not effectively address. The law provides for the issuance of provisional restraining orders by police for a maximum of five days and restraining orders by a court for a maximum of six months upon the survivor’s request or at the request of a prosecutor, the state representative in charge of protecting survivors of family violence, or, if the survivor agrees, a social service provider. Violation of a restraining order is punishable by imprisonment for six months to five years, but the Center for Gender Studies and Curriculum Development stated that some judges may issue lesser sentences because of overlapping legislation. The court may also order an abuser to undergo psychological counseling. The center stated that police lacked procedures for the implementation and monitoring of restraining orders. A law that entered into force in May established an electronic monitoring system for individuals under a restraining order. The law directs police and the National Administration for Penitentiaries to procure the necessary hardware and make the monitoring system operational by March 2022.
Courts prosecuted very few cases of domestic violence. Many cases were resolved before or during trial when the alleged survivors dropped their charges or reconciled with the alleged abuser.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: According to reports by media and NGOs, bride kidnapping occurred in some communities and was underreported. On August 22, Buzau County police started a criminal investigation for illegal deprivation of liberty against several persons who kidnapped a 14-year-old girl with the intention of forcing her to marry a 19-year-old man. On July 2, the Constanta Court issued a nonfinal ruling sentencing three persons to three and four years’ imprisonment for illegal deprivation of liberty after they attempted to kidnap a 16-year-old girl to force her into marriage. According to media reports, the girl’s family had promised to arrange a marriage between her and one of the kidnappers’ sons, but the girl refused the arrangement.
Sexual Harassment: Criminal law prohibits sexual harassment, which it defines as repeatedly asking for sexual favors in a work or similar relationship. A victim’s complaint is necessary to initiate a criminal investigation. Penalties range from fines to imprisonment of three months to one year. The law on equal opportunities for women and men defines sexual harassment as the occurrence of unwanted behavior with a sexual connotation, which can be expressed physically, verbally, or nonverbally and has the effect or result of damaging a person’s dignity and, in particular the creation of a hostile, intimidating, degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment. The government did not enforce the law effectively. According to reports by NGOs, police often mocked victims of sexual harassment or tried to discourage them from pressing charges.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.
According to several NGOs and observers, there were infrastructure and information barriers to an individual’s ability to maintain his or her reproductive health, including the lack of community health care and age-appropriate sex education for adolescents. Some women, especially those from poor, rural, or Romani communities, had difficulty accessing reproductive health services due to a lack of information, ethnic discrimination, and poverty. According to the NGO Mothers for Mothers, 25 percent of pregnant women consulted a physician for the first time only after the onset of labor.
Access to government-funded contraception and family planning services was limited because of insufficient funding and training for health professionals. According to the World Health Organization, as of 2020, 71.8 percent of women of reproductive age had their need for family planning satisfied by modern methods of contraception. According to a report released by Save the Children Romania in February, of the 199,720 births in 2019, 17,933 occurred among mothers between the ages of 15 and 19, while 749 occurred among mothers younger than 15. NGOs, health professionals, and social workers identified underreported child sex abuse and limited access to information regarding reproductive health and contraception as the leading factors contributing to high teenage pregnancy rates. Several NGOs reported that the school curriculum lacked sufficient lessons on reproductive health. Parent and religious associations regularly thwarted attempts to introduce such lessons into the curriculum.
Observers reported that throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, some maternity hospitals were open only for patients infected with COVID-19, making access to reproductive and prenatal care more difficult. Although home birth is not prohibited by law, regulations forbid health professionals from providing home birth services. According to UNICEF, skilled health personnel attended 94.8 percent of deliveries in 2018.
The government provided access to some sexual and reproductive health services to survivors of sexual violence, but some women had difficulties accessing these services. Emergency contraceptives were available in pharmacies without a prescription, but according to the Center for Gender Studies and Curriculum Development, they were not affordable for all women.
Discrimination: Under the law women and men have equal rights. The government did not enforce the law effectively. Women experienced discrimination in marriage, divorce, child custody, employment, credit, pay, owning or managing businesses or property, education, the judicial process, and housing. Segregation by profession existed, with women overrepresented in lower-paying jobs. There were reports of discrimination in employment. Women experienced discrimination in access to pension benefits and retirement (see section 7.d.).
Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination
Under the law discrimination and harassment based on ethnic or racial criteria is punishable by a civil fine unless criminal legal provisions are applicable. According to the criminal code, public incitement to hatred or discrimination against a category of persons is punishable by imprisonment or a criminal fine. Special laws criminalize the spread of anti-Semitic or anti-Roma ideas and symbols, as well as ideas and symbols related to fascist, racist, and xenophobic ideologies. Committing any crime on basis of the victim’s ethnicity or race represents an aggravating circumstance, which carries a higher penalty. Prosecutions based on discrimination and violence against racial or ethnic minorities were rare.
Romani groups complained that there were instances of police harassment and brutality, including beatings. On May 3, according to the RomaJust Association of Roma Lawyers, police detained two Romani persons and took them to the police precinct in Baia village, Tulcea County. At the precinct, police officers severely beat and humiliated the two Roma for hours and used racial slurs against them. According to RomaJust, the victims suffered multiple injuries that took two months to heal. RomaJust reported that prosecutors started an investigation against police, which revealed that police officers from the area had a habit of beating Roma suspected of committing crimes.
Discrimination against Roma continued to be a problem. NGOs reported Roma were denied access to, or refused service in, some public places. Roma also experienced poor access to government services, a shortage of employment opportunities, high rates of school attrition, and inadequate health care. According to a report released by the ADHR-HC in December 2020, Roma faced discrimination in the criminal justice system. Some lawyers refused to defend Romani persons, while police, prosecutors, and judges held negative stereotypes of Roma.
A lack of identity documents excluded many Roma from participating in elections, receiving social benefits, accessing health insurance, securing property documents, and participating in the labor market. According to the Ministry of Interior, as of October, 63,777 persons older than 14 residing in the country did not have valid identity documents. Romani rights activists reported that most of these persons were Roma who could not acquire legal identity documents because they resided in informal settlements and housing. Roma had a higher unemployment rate and a lower life expectancy than non-Roma. Negative stereotypes and discriminatory language regarding Roma were widespread.
Despite an order by the Ministry of Education forbidding segregation of Romani students, several NGOs, including the Center for Advocacy and Human Rights, continued to report that segregation along ethnic lines persisted in schools. The Center for Legal Resources reported that some teachers used discriminatory language against Romani students. Media and NGOs reported that on June 3, a sixth-grade student of Romani ethnicity threw himself out of a second-floor window of his school following repeated discrimination by his teacher and classmates.
Researchers and activists reported a significant number of the remaining Romani Holocaust survivors who applied for a pension were denied because of unreasonable administrative barriers raised by the pension offices, problematic standards, lack of knowledge regarding the Holocaust and Roma, and burdensome requirements. According to researchers, despite historical evidence, in hundreds of cases, authorities considered that Roma were resettled and not deported, and consequently granted them smaller pensions.
Ethnic Hungarians continued to report discrimination related mainly to the use of the Hungarian language. Ethnic Hungarians reported that the government did not enforce the law that states that ethnic minorities are entitled to interact with local governments in their native language in localities where a minority constitutes at least 20 percent of the population. There were continued reports that local authorities did not enforce the law requiring localities with at least a 20 percent minority population to have bilingual road signs. On July 19, media reported that a doctor in the Satu Mare County Emergency Hospital berated an elderly ethnic-Hungarian woman for speaking Hungarian while at the hospital. The patient, who spoke poor Romanian, was struggling to explain her symptoms to the doctor. According to the results of the most recent census, 37.6 percent of the population in Satu Mare County was ethnic Hungarian. The management of the Satu Mare County Emergency Hospital initiated disciplinary proceedings against the doctor.
In February unknown persons vandalized the Hungarian writing on a welcome sign located in the city of Cluj-Napoca and painted the Romanian flag on the Monument of Szekler Martyrs in the city of Targu Mures that commemorates several Hungarian revolutionaries. During a rally on March 29 in the city of Pitesti by the Alliance for the Unity of Romania Party, several hundred participants chanted, “Hungarians out of the country!” The Miko Imre Association for Minority Rights stated that government authorities have not provided forms and information related to the COVID-19 vaccination campaign in Hungarian.
Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship by birth from at least one citizen parent. Although birth registration is mandatory by law, it was not universal, and authorities denied some children public services as a result. Most unregistered children had access to schools, and authorities assisted in obtaining birth documents for unregistered children, but the education of unregistered children depended on the decision of school authorities. The law provides simplified birth registration for children whose mothers do not have proper documentation to register their children.
Child Abuse: The law prohibits violence against children, but this has not been interpreted as prohibiting all corporal punishment. Child abuse, including emotional, physical, and psychological violence and neglect, continued to be serious problems. Media outlets reported several severe cases of abuse or neglect in family homes, foster care, and child-welfare institutions. In January media outlets carried a video recording showing an educator employed by a residential center for minors in Rosiorii de Vede, Teleorman County, humiliating, hitting, and inappropriately touching several institutionalized children. According to a report by the NGO Save the Children Romania, parents widely use corporal punishment to discipline children. The government has not established a mechanism to identify and treat abused and neglected children and their families.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal age of marriage is 18 for both men and women, but the law permits minors as young as 16 to marry under certain circumstances. Illegal child marriage was reportedly common in certain social groups, particularly among some Romani communities. NGOs reported cases of Roma girls as young as 11 being sold into marriage by their families. Child protection authorities and police did not always intervene in such cases. There were no public policies to discourage child marriage.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law provides one- to 12-year prison sentences for persons convicted of sexual acts with minors, depending on the circumstances and the child’s age. Sexual intercourse with a minor who is 14 to 16 years of age is punishable by a one- to five-year prison sentence. Sexual intercourse with a person younger than 14 is punishable by a two- to nine-year prison sentence and deprivation of some rights. The law also criminalizes sexual corruption of minors (which includes subjecting minors to sexual acts other than intercourse or forcing minors to perform such acts), luring minors for sexual purposes or commercial sex, and trafficking of minors. Pimping and pandering that involve minors is an aggravated circumstance and increases sentences by 50 percent. The law allows authorities to maintain a registry of individuals who committed sexual offenses against or exploited adults and children. Child pornography is a separate offense and carries a sentence, depending on the circumstances, of up to seven years’ imprisonment. The maximum sentence is increased to nine years if the perpetrator was a family member or guardian or if the child’s life was endangered.
In July the Judicial Inspectorate, an autonomous disciplinary unit within the Superior Council of Magistrates, released a report on the way the justice system handled cases of child sex abuse. According to the findings, prosecutorial offices and courts had different opinions on the age of consent, and consequently, in some cases, sexual intercourse with minors as young as 12 was treated as the lesser crime of sexual acts with minors instead of rape. Child-protection NGOs noted that some judges lacked awareness of the issue and showed bias against victims, who often come from socially disadvantaged groups. Investigators found it hard to prove sexual coercion of minors because of a lack of infrastructure, such as child-friendly interview rooms and the use of widely recognized methodologies developed by child psychologists to conduct forensic interviews with underage victims.
Institutionalized Children: During the year there were several media reports of abuses in centers for institutionalized children, including sexual abuse, physical violence and degrading treatment by colleagues or staff, and trafficking in persons. Numerous reports noted a lack of adequate food, clothing, medical treatment, and counselling services. Lack of hygiene, inadequate living conditions, insufficient food, and lack of physical therapy was a problem in many residential centers for children with disabilities.
On January 5, the president of the National Authority for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Children, and Adoption (ANDPDCA) released a video showing employees of a placement center in the town of Voluntari physically abusing a child and threatening him with psychiatric detention. The ANDPDCA president stated that staff in centers for residential institutions frequently threatened children with calling an ambulance to take them to psychiatric facilities where they would receive psychotropic drugs. According to several NGOs, including the Center for Legal Resources, psychiatrists administered psychotropic drugs to thousands of children in residential institutions or in foster care, including to those with disruptive behavior and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
By law unaccompanied migrant children are held in placement centers, where they have access to education and benefits other children receive. The detention of families with children is allowed by law, with preservation of family unity used as justification. Several such cases were recorded during the year.
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.
According to the 2011 census, the Jewish population numbered 3,271. Representatives of the Jewish community stated that the Jewish population numbered approximately 7,000. Acts of anti-Semitism occurred during the year.
On September 12, media outlets reported that unknown persons vandalized a memorial located in the northern city of Bistrita, dedicated to the Jews who were deported to Auschwitz and Birkenau. Several of the victims’ names written on the memorial were covered with paint or scratched.
On March 3, National Liberal Party member of parliament Daniel Gheorghe delivered remarks in parliament glorifying Mircea Vulcanescu. Mircea Vulcanescu was a convicted war criminal who, according to the Wiesel Institute, supported anti-Semitic policies as a cabinet member in the government of WWII leader Ion Antonescu. During a March 8 Senate session, Alliance for the Unity of Romanians senator Sorin Lavric made anti-Semitic statements referring to a conspiracy theory that Jews initiated and promoted communism. Lavric’s statements were made in response to Jewish member of parliament Silviu Vexler’s criticism of statements made by some members of parliament, including Lavric, that glorified Holocaust-era war criminals and members of the Legionnaire movement. The Alliance for the Unity of Romanians posted Lavric’s speech on its official Facebook page and described it as part of the fight for the country’s history and the nation’s soul.
On March 18, the director of the Jewish State Theater, Maia Morgenstern, stated on social media that during a meeting with representatives of public theaters and cultural institutions, one of the participants used anti-Semitic slurs. On March 27, Morgenstern received via email a letter that included anti-Semitic slurs and death threats against her children, as well as threats to set fire to the Jewish State Theater. On March 29, police announced that they had identified the author of the threats, placed him under judicial supervision, and initiated a criminal investigation. In a declaration adopted on March 31, the parliament stated that anti-Semitic incidents were on the rise and condemned attempts to glorify Holocaust-era war criminals and the threats received by Morgenstern.
Streets, organizations, schools, or libraries continued to be named after persons convicted for war crimes or crimes against humanity, according to the Elie Wiesel Institute for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania. For example, Radu Gyr was a commander and anti-Semitic ideologist of the fascist Legionnaire movement convicted of war crimes. The Wiesel Institute requested the renaming of Radu Gyr Street in Cluj-Napoca. As of October the local government had not changed the name of the street.
Material promoting anti-Semitic views and glorifying the Legionnaire movement appeared on the internet. According to a study released by the Wiesel Institute in April, several articles published online claimed that Jews or the state of Israel were profiting from the COVID-19 health crisis and manufacturing harmful vaccines. According to the same study, most anti-Semitic hate speech on social media included Jewish conspiracy theories.
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. Laws and regulations mandate that buildings and public transportation be accessible for persons with disabilities. The government did not fully implement the law, and discrimination against persons with disabilities remained a problem. Persons with disabilities could not access education, health services, public buildings, and transportation on an equal basis with others. Streets, buildings, and public transportation remained largely inaccessible to persons with disabilities.
Discrimination against children with disabilities in education was a widespread problem due to lack of adequate teacher training on inclusion of children with disabilities and lack of investment to make schools accessible. According to official data, 40 percent of children with disabilities were either placed in segregated schools or not placed in school at all. According to a report drafted by the World Bank for the National Authority for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Children, and Adoption, which was released in December 2020, only 21 percent of middle schools had appropriate access ramps, while 64 percent of schools needed an elevator to ensure access for students with locomotive disabilities.
Limited access to justice for persons with disabilities continued to be a problem. According to a World Bank report released in December 2020, persons with disabilities faced several obstacles in the justice system, including inaccessible buildings, lack of access to information or communication, bias by employees of the justice system, legal procedures that were not adapted to the needs of persons with disabilities, and higher fees and costs related to legal services. In 2020 the Constitutional Court deemed legislation that allowed conservatorship unconstitutional because it did not include safeguards to ensure respect for fundamental rights and freedoms, had no possibility of periodic review, and did not differentiate the degree of incapacitation. Persons with disabilities placed under conservatorship did not have the right to liberty or the rights to work, vote, or consent to medical procedures. The NGO Center for Legal Resources reported that despite the Constitutional Court’s decision, as of October conservatorship for persons with disabilities had not been lifted.
The Center for Legal Resources identified a series of problems in centers for persons with disabilities or psychiatric hospitals, including verbal and physical abuse of children and adults, sedation, excessive use of physical restraints, lack of hygiene, inadequate living conditions, and lack of adequate medical care. According to media and Center for Legal Resources reports, on August 1, an employee of a government-managed center for persons with disabilities in Calinesti, Prahova County, gathered approximately 30 residents in the institution’s courtyard to discipline them. The employee then hit two of the residents several times. On August 4, the center’s medical staff called an ambulance to take one of the assaulted residents to the hospital. On August 5, the resident died after being released from the hospital. The Center for Legal Resources investigated the incident and found that residents did not have access to means of communication to notify authorities of the physical punishments and abuses. According to the center, between August 1 and August 4, its employees did not notify authorities regarding the violent episode and did not request a medical examination for the injured resident. Authorities arrested the suspect, and as of November a criminal investigation was ongoing.
In February 2020 the Center for Legal Resources released the conclusions of a visit made at a residential center for persons with disabilities located in the city of Husi, Vaslui County. There were reasonable suspicions that the residents of the center were subjected to physical punishment and verbal abuse. The NGO also discovered unsanitary living conditions, overcrowding, and lack of basic personal hygiene products. As of November the prosecutor’s office attached to the Huși First Instance Court was conducting a criminal investigation for illegal deprivation of liberty.
The National Authority for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Children, and Adoptions under the Labor Ministry coordinated services for persons with disabilities and drafted policies, strategies, and standards in the field of disabilities rights.
Discrimination against persons with HIV or AIDS impeded their access to routine medical and dental care because in some cases medical staff refused to treat persons with HIV or AIDS.
The LGBTQI+ rights NGO ACCEPT reported that as of October a criminal investigation was pending against several police officers who allegedly abused a transgender woman. According to ACCEPT, in December 2020 several members of the Bucharest police forcefully removed the woman from a bus following a verbal argument she had with passengers who harassed her. Police restrained her, threw her on the ground, handcuffed her, and forced her into their car. The victim stated that while in custody, police made transphobic and homophobic remarks, used physical violence, threatened to intern her in a psychiatric hospital, and took pictures while humiliating her.
According to ACCEPT, hate crimes were severely underreported and authorities have not initiated prosecution in any reported LGBTQI+ hate crime case since 2006.
A survey of LGBTQI+ persons carried out by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency in 2020 revealed that 15 percent of respondents had experienced a physical or sexual attack motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity during the previous five years. Of the respondents who described the most recent physical or sexual attacks, only 4 percent reported the incidents to authorities due to fear of discrimination. As many as 28 percent of respondents indicated fear of a homophobic reaction, transphobic reaction, or both from police as the reason for not reporting a physical or sexual attack.
The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. NGOs reported that societal discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons was common but severely underreported. The legal provisions governing legal gender recognition for transgender persons were vague and incomplete. In some cases authorities refused legal gender recognition unless an individual had first undergone sex reassignment surgery.
In January the ECHR ruled on a case involving two transgender persons who, between 2013 and 2017, requested the courts to recognize their gender identity. The ECHR noted that the government’s refusal to legally recognize the applicants’ gender reassignment in the absence of sex reassignment surgery amounted to unjustified interference with their right to respect for their private life.
Access to adequate psychological and health services was also limited because some psychologists refused to accept transgender patients and medical staff discriminated against them. Intersex individuals faced several challenges, including extreme social stigma and frequent distrust of doctors, that deterred them from seeking medical treatment. In September the mayor of the city of Iasi tried to cancel a pride march organized by the LGBTQI+ rights NGOs ACCEPT and Rise Out by withholding final approval of the event and citing religious reasons and public opposition. Eventually, the march took place on October 1, as planned by the organizers.