Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law defines domestic violence as a criminal offense, provides for the punishment of perpetrators, defines mechanisms for obtaining restraining orders against abusive individuals, and extends protection to unmarried individuals and children of unmarried individuals. The law covers five forms of domestic violence – physical, psychological, sexual, economic, and spiritual. The maximum punishment for family violence offenses is 15 years’ imprisonment. The law also criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and forcible sexual assault and establishes penalties for violations ranging from three years to life in prison. It requires, however, that victims prove they were subjected to violence. Domestic violence resulting in “nonsignificant bodily harm” falls under the contraventions code, rather than the criminal code, and may be punished by a fine or community service. The law provides for cooperation between government and civil society organizations, establishes victim protection as a human rights principle, and allows third parties to file complaints on behalf of survivors.
Civil society organizations set up a platform of 23 NGOs nationwide, including in the Transnistria region, called the National Coalition for Life without Violence, which contributes to the reduction of domestic violence and promotes the human rights of victims of gender-based violence. The international NGO La Strada operated a hotline to report domestic violence, offered victims psychological and legal aid, and provided victims options for follow-up assistance. The Women’s Law Center also offered legal, psychological, and social support to domestic violence victims. An additional two centers provided counselling and resocialization services to aggressors.
Rape remained a significant problem, and there were no specific governmental rape prevention activities. Marital rape was rarely reported, as 50 percent of women considered that sexual intercourse during marriage was a marital obligation. Survivors of violence were often revictimized by the system and subjected to negative social stigmas. Legislative gaps, negative social stigma, and fear of revictimization contributed to a culture of impunity for perpetrators of sexual violence. Few survivors of sexual offenses reported the crimes. In 2020 survivors faced additional obstacles in reporting sexual violence due to quarantine measures imposed by the government during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The government did not take sufficient measures to develop specialized health services for survivors of sexual violence. Public information on forensic bodies examining sexual violence cases was unavailable, which limited survivors’ access to specialized services. In September the General Police Inspectorate’s Criminal Investigation Department introduced internal guidelines and procedures for the effective investigation of sexual assault crimes, but enforcement was delayed because of a lack of a relevant legal framework.
Between January and October police registered 1,913 domestic violence cases, including 16 domestic violence cases that resulted in death and 10 cases of marital rape. The General Police Inspectorate issued 4,656 emergency restraining orders, and courts issued 600 protection orders. Police registered 4,690 domestic violence abusers.
The law authorizes the Ministry of Justice to use electronic devices for monitoring accused abusers in domestic violence cases. According to National Probation Inspectorate (NPI) official data, during the year the agency issued 492 protection orders requiring abusers to wear electronic monitoring devices. Prior to using the devices, the NPI reported a 70 percent recidivism rate among abusers. During the year the NPI reported a 19.65 percent recidivism rate. The NPI also registered and filed cases against 80 abusers who broke protection order rules.
During the year police and human rights NGOs continued to report an increase in domestic violence complaints. COVID-19 quarantine measures, social distancing, restrictions on freedom of movement and other pandemic-related restrictive measures contributed to this increase. According to a 2020 study conducted by La Strada, more than 90.4 percent of persons who experienced domestic violence were women. From January to November, La Strada’s Women and Girls’ Trust Line received 1,780 calls, including 1,068 complaints of domestic violence, a significant increase over 2020 when 390 calls were received during the same period. According to La Strada, the number of calls from urban areas was 50 percent higher than the number of calls from rural areas. The number of calls was reportedly influenced by the increased effectiveness of police interventions in domestic violence cases. Police interventions were more effective because of the hotline, which routed all calls from women and girls reporting domestic violence to a special office trained to respond to domestic violence cases.
According to La Strada, the subject of sexual violence remained sensitive in the country. The most frequent sexual violence crime was rape. In Transnistria domestic violence without “substantial bodily harm” (such as broken bones or a concussion) remains an administrative, rather than criminal, offense that is only punishable by a fine.
Survivors of domestic violence in Transnistria are not protected by the “law,” which lacks a definition of domestic violence and does not allow for domestic violence cases to be distinguished from other crimes, which resulted in the absence of official statistics on the number of domestic violence cases. According to local NGOs, as of October 31, the Trustline hotline for preventing domestic violence registered 1,340 calls. According to the NGO Rezonans Center, one in 10 residents in the region believed that a husband has the right to beat his wife. Transnistrian “authorities” often did not take any action when women were beaten by male abusers.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment remained a problem. The law provides criminal penalties for sexual harassment ranging from a fine to a maximum of three years’ imprisonment. The law prohibits sexual advances that affect a person’s dignity or create an unpleasant, hostile, degrading, or humiliating environment in a workplace or educational institution. There are no criminal penalties or civil remedies for sexual harassment in employment. According to NGOs law enforcement agencies steadily improved their handling of sexual harassment cases, addressing harassment of students by university professors and several instances of workplace harassment. Civil society groups, however, criticized the judicial system for displaying inadequate concern for the safety of victims and for not holding perpetrators accountable for their behavior.
A study on sexual harassment in educational institutions conducted May to November by the Partnership Development Center and East European Foundation found that only 35 percent of students viewed inappropriate looks and gestures, unwarranted hugs, and the use of words with sexual connotations as sexual harassment. The study showed that female students were better informed to identify sexual harassment cases compared to their male counterparts. One in five students interviewed confirmed that he or she was sexually harassed during their lifetime, and more than 40 percent of these students did not report the cases or request support.
According to a 2020 informative note on a bill published by the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Social Protection calling for the review of national legislation on sexual harassment, one in five women in the country experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. Societal attitudes and lack of interest from law enforcement discouraged victims from reporting instances of sexual harassment.
A 2020 study by the Women’s Law Center and the Women in Police Association, Women in police: Perceptions about sexual harassment, revealed a high number of incidents of women in law enforcement who were victims of sexual harassment. According to the study, 7.9 percent of women in the police force confirmed they were victims of sexual harassment, and every fourth woman experienced unwarranted comments regarding their private life or the way they looked. One in 10 women experienced instances of sexual harassment, such as staring at their bodies, inappropriate looks, or inappropriately sexual conversations. The women reported that 71 percent of the perpetrators of harassing behavior were coworkers, while 22.4 percent of women admitted they received threats, coercion, or the promise of professional benefits from superiors. Every seventh respondent (14.5 percent) answered that she remained silent when she experienced an act of sexual harassment. Nearly one-quarter of respondents (23.2 percent) did not report harassment out of fear they would not be taken seriously. Half of women employed in the police force was not sure if she could safely report an act of sexual harassment.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.
The law provides that minors under the age of 16 must have permission from a parent or legal guardian to obtain reproductive health services; a medical provider may waive this requirement if the minor’s life or health are in danger. The state provides contraception free of charge to citizens through primary care providers. Although minors have access to contraception without parental consent through a network of Youth-Friendly Health Centers, many were reluctant to request contraception from family doctors due to social stigma.
As in previous years, women continued to face discrimination and difficulties in accessing health information and health care, particularly women in rural areas, women with special needs, displaced women, ethnic minorities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons, sex workers, drug users, HIV-positive women, refugees, undocumented migrants, stateless women, women with disabilities, and single mothers. Marginalized women faced exclusion, stigmatization, and discrimination, which often kept them in poverty and impeded their access to public services. Teenagers and young women in rural areas had particularly limited access to accurate information on reproductive and sexual health.
According to a report released in March by the Moldovan Institute for Human Rights, the sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls in residential institutions and psychiatric hospitals were not respected. Many of the girls interviewed by the institute in 2020 did not have basic knowledge concerning life skills and their sexual and reproductive rights which would impact their future ability to live independently and set up families following deinstitutionalization. The institute noted that female residents in these institutions did not have knowledge regarding contraceptives or free access to hygiene products. The personnel were not properly trained to provide qualified medical counsel on sexual and reproductive rights. In addition, these institutions were characterized by a stereotype that women with disabilities did not require sexual-reproductive education because they did not have sex or the capacity to become parents.
Victims of sexual violence had access to sexual and reproductive health services on the same basis as other citizens. Emergency contraception was not universally available to survivors as part of clinical management of rape. Emergency contraception was only provided by family doctors and was not available in emergency centers.
Discrimination: Women and men have the same legal status in family, labor, property, nationality, inheritance law, and in the judicial system. The law requires that women fill a minimum of 40 percent of decision-making positions in government and political offices, including a minimum quota of 40 percent of candidates for parliament on the electoral lists of political parties, distributed evenly across the entire electoral list, and sanctions for noncompliance. During the July parliamentary elections, 46.5 percent of candidates were women, of which 42.7 percent were among the top 10 on the party lists. The 101-member parliament includes 40 women.
While the law strictly forbids discrimination and spells out employers’ responsibilities in ensuring that workplaces are free of discrimination and sexual harassment and prohibits sexist and discriminatory language and images in the media and advertising, discrimination remained a significant problem. Women experienced discrimination in the workplace (see section 7.d.). In addition, some political candidates and media outlets used misogynistic rhetoric during the campaign season for the July parliamentary elections.
According to a 2020 report issued by the Union for HIV Prevention and Harm Reduction and Promo-LEX, female drug users, sex workers, and inmates were the most vulnerable to multiple risks, such as HIV or AIDS, human trafficking, harassment, and violence due to discrimination, criminalization, stigmatization, and exclusion from society. Despite such vulnerabilities, authorities did not protect basic rights to health care and justice for women in these categories.
The law requires equal pay for equal work, but discrimination with respect to employment, pay, and access to pension benefits persisted in the country (see section 7.d.).
The constitution provides that all citizens are equal before the law and public authorities, regardless of race, nationality, ethnic origin, language, religion, sex, opinion, political affiliation, wealth, or social origin. The Law on Ensuring Equality governs the equality principles; prevents and combats discrimination; and provides for equality in political, economic, social, cultural life, and other areas regardless of race, color, nationality, ethnic origin, language, religion or belief, sex, age, disability status, opinion, political affiliation, or any other similar criteria. Discrimination and hate-based crime were reported throughout the year, particularly against Roma and the Jewish community.
Roma continued to be one of the most vulnerable minority groups in the country and faced a higher risk of marginalization, underrepresentation in political decision making, illiteracy, and social prejudice. Roma had lower levels of education, more limited access to health care, and higher rates of unemployment than the general population (see section 7.d.). According to a study released in 2020 by the Partnership for Development Center, the employment rate among Roma was only 6.4 percent. The unemployment rate among the Romani community stood at 45 percent. Romani women were particularly vulnerable to social exclusion and discrimination.
Some Romani communities lacked running water, sanitation facilities, and heating. Other problems facing Roma included lack of emergency health-care services in secluded settlements, unfair or arbitrary treatment by health practitioners, and lower rates of health insurance coverage. Authorities lacked an effective mechanism to address vulnerable families whose children did not attend school.
During a press conference in May, representatives of the National Roma Center and Center for Roma Rights said that the situation of the victims of crimes motivated by hatred, prejudice, or contempt or hate speech had remained unchanged over the past 10 years. Romani leaders accused law enforcement bodies of failing to investigate hate speech and holding discriminatory attitudes towards Roma. In one case investigators refused to launch criminal proceedings into a speech that members of the Romani community stated was “full of hatred, racists and offending statements about the Roma” delivered by former President Igor Dodon. Roma representatives also reported that police failed or refused to investigate cases of discrimination against Roma.
According to a 2019 survey of 476 Romani women from 48 localities conducted by the Roma Women Network in Moldova, the most serious problems reported were limited access to education, the job market, medical services, and information on health and hygiene. The survey showed that only 36.6 percent of Romani women attended some form of state-guaranteed education, while 57.8 percent said they did not have an opportunity to continue their studies. Some 84.7 percent of respondents were unemployed, and many of them alleged that they were subject to discrimination when trying to get a job. According to the survey, one-third of Romani women reported discrimination when consulting a doctor, and 70 percent reported not having access to information on health and hygiene.
According to Romani leaders, the community faced a high rate of emigration, and the state did not provide financing for Romani community mediators, as prescribed by law.
Birth Registration: Persons may acquire citizenship through birth to a citizen parent, birth in the country to stateless persons, birth to parents who cannot transmit their citizenship to the child, or through adoption by citizen parents. Registration of birth is free of charge for all citizens. The lack of registration certificates for many children, especially in rural areas and in Romani families, remained a problem.
Education: Primary education was free and compulsory until the ninth grade. Education of Romani children remained a problem; only half of Roma children attended school and one in five attended preschool. According to Roma representatives, absenteeism and school dropout rates in Romani communities stemmed from poverty and fear of discrimination.
During the year the authorities introduced a hybrid system with some schools, and educational institutions switching to partial or full-time online schooling, depending on the number of COVID-19 infections among students and teaching staff. Most kindergartens remained operational but worked at half-capacity, which drew criticism from some parents. During the year authorities and several international organizations provided technical support for online schooling.
Child Abuse: Although the law prohibits child neglect and specific forms of abuse, such as forced begging, child abuse remained a problem. The Ministry of Health, Labor, and Social Protection has noted that social norms created a permissive environment for violence against children at home and at school.
The Ministry of Education and Research reported 7,181 cases of violence against children during the 2020-21 academic year. In most cases children were subject to physical violence, neglect, psychological violence, and labor exploitation. Local public authorities failed to monitor all cases of abuse against children, claiming a lack of experts. The ombudsman for children’s rights stated that most child neglect cases were due to alcohol abuse in the family.
According to the General Police Inspectorate, law enforcement bodies documented 212 cases of child sexual abuse in 2020, including 69 cases of sexual abuse by members of their families. A total of 440 children subjected to violence at home were removed from their biological families and placed in family-type centers. In 2020 police initiated 1,880 cases against parents who subjected their children to neglect, abuse, or violence or barred their access to education.
A 2020 study by the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Research and the National Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse noted that children were exposed to more risks during the COVID-19 pandemic due to increased psychosocial stress, a sense of fear and panic generated by the pandemic, the suspension of school activity, infection with coronavirus or quarantine, access to and improper use of disinfectants and alcohol, increased vulnerability to exploitation for child labor, social discrimination, and the limited availability of services for children with disabilities. A special unit for minors in the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Juvenile Justice Unit, is responsible for ensuring that particular attention and expertise are devoted to child abuse victims and child offenders.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 16 for women and 18 for men. There were no official statistics regarding child marriages.
Child marriage was most common in Roma communities, where there were reports of girls between the ages of 12 and 14 being married. This either took the form of a forced marriage, whereby a girl is married off to an adult man against her will, or an arranged marriage, whereby “matchmakers” arranged for two children to be married in the future. In such cases marriage takes place without official documentation or registration. After marriage girls commonly dropped out of school to take on household duties.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The exploitation of a child in a commercial sex act is punishable by 10 to 12 years’ imprisonment. Authorities punished commercial sex with minors as statutory rape. The law prohibits the production, distribution, broadcasting, import, export, sale, exchange, use, or possession of child pornography, for which the punishment is one to three years’ imprisonment and fines. These laws were generally enforced. The minimum age for consensual sex is 16. The country was a destination for child sex tourism. According to the International Organization for Migration’s 2020 Violence against Children and Youth Survey report for Moldova, 7.6 percent of girls and 5.4 percent of boys between the ages of 13 and 17 experienced sexual violence in the previous year.
The Prosecutor’s Office to Combat Organized Crime and Special Cases is responsible for investigating and prosecuting child sexual abuse cases, and the Antitrafficking Bureau of the Prosecutor General’s Office is responsible for investigating and prosecuting child trafficking and child sexual exploitation. During the first 10 months of the year, law enforcement officials identified 49 victims of child online sexual exploitation and other child sexual abuse crimes, ranging in age from eight to 17 years old. La Strada’s Child Safeguarding Team registered 76 new cases of child sexual exploitation and sexual abuse that included nine cases of rape, eight cases of child pornography, three cases of child trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation, and 17 cases of other forms of sexual abuse. Law enforcement bodies referred 63 cases for assistance.
According to La Strada, from February to May, 855 children requested counseling on various aspects related to child safety online and 22 children reported cases of online child sexual abuse. The reported cases increased three times during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Institutionalized Children: The government, with support from civil society organizations, continued the deinstitutionalization of children, though this process was slow because of the pandemic. Children with disabilities were placed in three state-run residential institutions. The government also operated family-type homes, maternal centers, and daycare centers that provided various services for deinstitutionalized children, including children with disabilities. Children raised in residential institutions were at greater risk of unemployment, sexual exploitation, trafficking, and suicide as adults compared with their peers raised in families.
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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.
The Jewish community numbered between 1,600 and 30,000 persons (depending on source and definition), including up to 2,000 living in Transnistria.
According to the Jewish community, anti-Semitic discourse and hate speech online and in the media against members of the Jewish community remained a systemic problem. Online publications related to the community’s activities often received hateful and insulting comments, some of which blamed the Jewish community for the spread of COVID-19. The Jewish community reported multiple instances of anti-Semitic and offending comments to news with a Jewish component posted on the private news portal point.md. In response to an article regarding the last Jewish citizen who was evacuated from Afghanistan by fellow citizens, anonymous authors posted anti-Semitic comments, such as “as always, there is no Holocaust for them” or “plus, minus one (Jewish citizen), not a great loss.” The news portal did not take any action to remove the anti-Semitic content. The Jewish community reported one case of vandalism at the Jewish memorial in Cosauti during the year, in which unknown individuals vandalized the monument honoring the memory of more than 6,000 Jews killed in the Cosauti forest during the Holocaust. Police opened an investigation but had not identified the perpetrators as of November.
In June the president signed legislation that introduced administrative and criminal liabilities for Holocaust denial and insulting the memory of the Holocaust. The amendments to the criminal code and the Law on the Freedom of Expression adopted by parliament in 2020 provide for punishment, including criminal, for Holocaust denial and xenophobic, racist, and fascist propaganda.
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in education and employment and demands equal access to public facilities, health services, public buildings, and transportation. Authorities rarely enforced the law, and discrimination against persons with disabilities persisted.
The law requires new construction and transportation companies’ vehicles to be accessible to persons with disabilities. Authorities implemented the provisions of the law only to a limited extent. While many newly built or reconstructed buildings were accessible, older buildings largely remained inaccessible. According to the disability rights NGO Motivation, more than 70 percent of public institutions lacked access ramps for persons with disabilities. Persons with mobility disabilities complained regarding the lack of access to public transportation and public institutions as well as the shortage of designated parking places. Despite some improvements during the year, city authorities and construction companies often disregarded legal requirements on accessibility for persons with mobility impairments.
An experiment organized in November in Chisinau by the disability rights NGO Motivation featured several public officials who each simulated common visual, hearing, and mobility impairments attempting to navigate public spaces. The participants confirmed the difficulty of accessing public infrastructure for persons with disabilities, and the lack of knowledge among service providers on the needs of persons with visual or hearing impairments.
Most schools were poorly equipped to address the needs of children with disabilities. Some children with disabilities attended mainstream schools, while authorities placed others in segregated boarding schools, or they were home schooled. Media reported several cases against discrimination of children with disabilities by teaching staff. For example in November the mother of a 15-year-old minor with Marfan syndrome reported frequent discrimination and verbal abuse by a physics teacher at a school in Chisinau. According to the minor, the teacher used such words as “handicapped or stupid,” gave lower grades and often discriminated against the student in front of his classmates. The teacher rejected the allegations. The school administration promised to investigate the case.
Although the law provides for equal employment opportunities and prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities (except for jobs requiring specific health standards), many employers either failed to provide accommodations or avoided employing persons with disabilities.
According to NGOs providing services for persons with impaired mobility, the COVID-19 pandemic negatively affected persons with disabilities, particularly those in wheelchairs. Authorities suspended the provision of most health-care rehabilitation and social services during the public health emergency, negatively affecting the physical and psychological condition of persons with disabilities.
Investigation of degrading treatment of patients in psychoneurological institutions was deficient. In most cases prosecutors refused to investigate complaints submitted by patients, questioning the accuracy of allegations made by persons with mental disabilities. According to Promo-LEX, most prosecutors and investigators lacked technical skills to investigate acts of violence or torture in psychiatric institutions. Authorities also lacked a regulatory framework for the psychological assessment of victims of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment in psychiatric institutions.
During the year members of the Council for Prevention of Torture, as part of the NMPT, conducted preventive visits to residential institutions for persons with disabilities. The NMPT identified pervasive problems in such institutions, including a shortage of personnel in most residential institutions and of qualified medical staff in institutions hosting persons with disabilities; neglect of the special needs of persons with mental disabilities; verbal and physical abuse by personnel of persons with disabilities; involuntary confinement of patients; insufficient qualified staff at specialized institutions for children with disabilities; and lack of complaint mechanisms.
Following the suspicious death of a 34-year-old resident in the temporary placement center for persons with disabilities in Cocieri, the NMPT monitored the institution from July to September and found serious deficiencies in the treatment of its residents. While the NMPT did not find any physical violence that might have led to the death, it noted that the lack of an appropriate medical investigation and care. In another case it reported neglect being used as a form of punishment for a woman with a personality disorder due to epilepsy, which led to the worsening of the patient’s health and ultimately her death because of untreated pneumonia. The NMPT also reported pervasive neglect of patients’ health situation by the center’s staff, inadequate administration of medicine, and lack of professionalism when dealing with patients with mental disabilities. The NMPT concluded that the staff did not properly monitor and treat common illnesses of its residents, which often led to deaths.
A July visit by NMPT to the Psychiatric Hospital in Orhei which hosted 117 patients revealed a number of serious deficiencies, including hospital wards hosting up to six patients with mental disabilities conducive to a hostile environment and aggression between patients and lack of privacy; lack of a ventilation system; lack of artificial light (most wards did not have electric power, limiting patients’ activities to daylight hours); limited access to water due to deficiencies in the old water-supply pipes; inappropriate sanitary facilities (a shower with no doors for 30 patients); lack of hygiene products for female patients; lack of access ramps or accommodations for persons with impaired mobility; lack of appropriate material conditions or minimum interior design that might improve the patients’ well-being; and a lack of any nonmedical activities (at the start of the visit most patients were sleeping and not reacting to NMPT questions). Patients often were not allowed outside walks and were limited to getting “some fresh air” on a joint balcony because the hospital was not fenced and there were no personnel to accompany patients on walks. Monitors also identified cases of labor exploitation, where institutions assigned housekeeping duties to patients in lieu of hiring staff.
According to the Moldovan Institute of Human Rights, systemic deficiencies identified in psychiatric hospitals and temporary placement centers for persons with disabilities were not addressed, and restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic generated new abuses in these institutions. In particular, the institute noted the lack of qualified medical personnel; patients in psychiatric hospitals with COVID-19 being treated by psychiatrists; initial placement of new patients with existing patients without COVID-19 PCR or antigen testing; and insufficient protective and sanitary equipment or medicines for COVID-19 treatment protocols. Experts reported cases of forced medication without a legally mandated court order. Patients isolated in temporary placement centers reported the administration of psychotropic drugs without consent and mistreatment by personnel. The institute also found deficiencies in the documentation, investigation, and management of cases involving persons with mental or psychosocial impairments by police, prosecutors, judges, and health-service providers. According to the Moldovan Institute of Human Rights, the Balti Psychiatric Hospital lacked a separate ward for patients who committed crimes, leaving them to be housed and treated alongside civilly committed and voluntarily committed patients. Persons with different types of disabilities and widely different ages were sometimes lodged in the same rooms, and unjustified restrictive measures were sometimes applied. There was no separation of persons who were civilly committed as presenting a danger to themselves or others from those who voluntarily committed themselves in any of the country’s three psychiatric hospitals.
An audit on the accessibility of polling stations conducted by the Central Electoral Commission and the UN Development Program in 2019 found that only 1 percent of 612 stations assessed were fully accessible for wheelchair-bound persons. Most polling stations had no ramps or accessible toilets, narrow entrances, and dark hallways, which led many persons with disabilities to request mobile ballot boxes. According to Central Election Commission data, there were 170,000 persons with disabilities of voting age. There were no measurable improvements to accessible voting during the year.
According to the ENEMO preliminary findings on the July 11 snap parliamentary elections, while the Central Electoral Commission prepared voter education materials for promoting the involvement of persons with disabilities in the elections, provided precinct electoral bureaus with magnifying lenses, ballot frames in braille and special booths, and trained polling station staff, the measures taken were insufficient. According to ENEMO observers, on election day, 31 percent of observed polling stations were accessible; 31 percent required minor assistance, and 38 percent were inaccessible. ENEMO also noted that the extensive use of mobile ballot boxes for persons with disabilities did not contribute to more active involvement in elections. The same report noted that electoral contestants did not address the needs and problems of persons with disabilities during the electoral campaign and that only two electoral contenders (the Action and Solidarity Party and National Unity Party) published electoral programs and materials in braille.
The government continued the deinstitutionalization of persons with disabilities and provided alternative community-based services under the National Program of Deinstitutionalization of People with Intellectual and Psychosocial Disabilities from residential institutions for 2018-26. Human rights observers criticized the country’s guardianship system. A person placed under guardianship loses all standing before the law and cannot perform social and legal acts, such as marriage, voting, claiming social benefits, and consenting to or refusing medication. Most residential institutions lacked proper accommodation for persons with mobility impairments.
In Transnistria the “law” provides for protection of the rights of persons with disabilities in the areas of education, health care, and employment.
Reliable information on the treatment of persons with disabilities in Transnistria was generally unavailable, but there were reports that children with disabilities rarely attended school and lacked access to specialized resources.
Persons living with HIV continued to face societal and official discrimination.
The law prohibits hospitals and other health institutions from denying admission or access to health-care services or requesting additional fees from persons with HIV or suspected of being HIV-positive. Prison inmates with HIV or AIDS faced high levels of discrimination by both prison staff and other inmates. Official practice requires that positive HIV test results be reported to the public health sector’s infectious disease doctor. In some cases, positive test results were also reported to the patient’s family physician, a practice to which many HIV-positive individuals objected.
The law does not criminalize consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults. The Criminal Code, however, criminalizes homosexuality.
Police frequently condoned or tolerated violence against LGBTQI+ individuals. According to NGO Genderdoc-M, in most cases law enforcement bodies failed to identity and hold to account persons who perpetrated acts of violence against LGBTQI+ individuals.
During the year the Socialist Party criticized activists who spoke out in favor of LGBTQI+ rights and advocated for the adoption of “antigay propaganda” laws. On May 13, members of the Socialist Party in parliament held a press conference to propose several legislative initiatives, including amending the constitution to “prohibit marriage of same-sex partners and include a provision that states that the parents of a child represent a father (male parent) and a mother (female parent).” In May leaders of the party proposed criminal penalties for public expressions of support for LGBTQI+ rights. The party also sought to introduce criminal liability for “propaganda of homosexualism.” The proposed laws, however, were not introduced in parliament’s agenda.
Hate speech and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity remained a problem. In January the newspaper Komsomoliskaya Pravda v Moldove published an article, “Let these bastards be punished as an example! How Stalin declared war on gays.” The article favorably portrayed actions by Stalin and the Soviet government to criminalize and punish homosexuality. As of September, Genderdoc-M reported 20 cases of violations of the rights of LGBTQI+ individuals. In most cases parents applied physical and psychological violence against their minor children after they disclosed their gender identity or sexual orientation. Insults against LGBTQI+ representatives on social media were also frequent.
Civil society organizations reported that, although transgender individuals were allowed to change their names (e.g., from a male to a female name) on legal identity documents, including passports, the government did not permit them to update gender markers to reflect their gender identity. The Public Services Agency continued to refuse to change identity documents for transgender individuals, despite court orders. Transgender individuals also experienced employment discrimination.
The law prohibits employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, but societal discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity continued. The LGBTQI+ community reported verbal and physical abuse and attacks. As in in previous years, police were reluctant to open investigations against perpetrators of abuse. In November a soldier from Moldova, while on vacation overseas, posted a video message online in which he declared that he would not return to the army because he was mistreated after his sexual orientation was disclosed. Subsequently, the Ministry of Defense stated that an internal investigation had been launched, but simultaneously requested the Prosecutor General’s Office investigate an alleged offense committed by the soldier who was in a relationship with a 17-year-old minor. Genderdoc-M noted that the age of consent in Moldova is 16 and called the investigation “a tool for intimidation” designed to transfer responsibility “from the aggressors to the victim of discrimination.” On November 19, President Sandu, in her role as supreme commander of the armed forces, said that she would discuss this case with Ministry of Defense to ensure that all state institutions respect human rights. In a November 25 response to the soldier’s lawyer, the Ministry of Defense stated it had found no evidence of abuse or mistreatment of the individual.
In Transnistria consensual same-sex sexual activity is illegal, and LGBTQI+ persons were subjected to official as well as societal discrimination.