Moldova is a republic with a form of parliamentary democracy. The constitution provides for a multiparty democracy with legislative and executive branches as well as an independent judiciary and a clear separation of powers. Legislative authority is vested in the unicameral parliament. The 2014 parliamentary elections met most Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Council of Europe, and other international commitments, although local and international observers raised concerns about the inclusion and exclusion of specific political parties. During the year political migration and party switching amid allegations of political pressure and bribery significantly reshaped parliament’s structure and the parliamentary majority. In March 2016 the Constitutional Court ruled unconstitutional an amendment that empowered parliament to elect the president and reinstated presidential elections by direct and secret popular vote. Two rounds of presidential elections in 2016 resulted in the election of Igor Dodon. According to the OSCE election observation mission, both rounds were competitive and respected fundamental freedoms. International and domestic observers, however, noted polarized and unbalanced media coverage, harsh and intolerant rhetoric, lack of transparency in campaign financing, and instances of abuse of administrative resources.
Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.
The most significant human rights issues included torture at prisons and psycho-neurological institutions; harsh prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention; denial of fair public trial; restrictions on freedom of the media, especially in Transnistria; corruption; cases of forced abortion; rape and other violence against persons with disabilities in institutions; and trafficking in persons.
While authorities investigated reports of official abuse in the security services and elsewhere, they rarely successfully prosecuted and punished officials accused of human rights violations, complicity in trafficking, or corruption. Selective prosecution of officials for political reasons continued. The investigation into the disappearance of over $1 billion from the national banking system led to a limited number of arrests and convictions of current and former high-level officials. Impunity remained a major problem. Authorities detained an unprecedented number of high-level officials on corruption and influence-peddling charges during the year.
In 1990 separatists declared a “Transdniester Moldovan Republic” (Transnistria) along the border with Ukraine. A 1992 ceasefire agreement established a peacekeeping force of Moldovan, Russian, and Transnistrian units. The central government did not exercise authority in the region, and Transnistrian authorities governed through parallel administrative structures. Transnistrian authorities allegedly interfered with political and voting activities in both the 2014 parliamentary and 2016 presidential elections. There were regular reports that police engaged in torture, arbitrary arrests, unlawful detentions, and pressure on Latin-script schools.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape or forcible sexual assault and establishes penalties for violations ranging from three years to life in prison. The law also criminalizes spousal rape.
Rape remained a problem, and there were no specific governmental rape prevention activities. During the first three months of the reporting year, the General Police Inspectorate registered 58 cases of rape.
A 2015 report by the Women’s Law Center and the Center for Investigation and Consultation “SocioPolis,” Men and Gender Equality in the Republic of Moldova, found that almost 20 percent of the country’s men had had sex with a woman without her consent. Almost 25 percent had had sex with a woman who was too drunk to consent, and 18 percent admitted to marital rape. Approximately 5 percent admitted to participation in a gang rape.
A study released in March by the international NGO La Strada noted that the legal system in the country did not provide an effective remedy for victims of sexual abuse. According to the study, in many cases, rape was requalified as sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 16, which reduced the potential penalty, and victims’ statements on the lack of consent were not taken into account. In one in three cases, law enforcement officers initiated criminal investigations for less serious offenses than the ones reported by the victims. In 90 percent of the cases, the victims were not present at the preliminary hearings or the first court hearing on the case. Victims were commonly forced to confront their attacker in court.
Sexual violence was the least recognized and reported form of violence. Police reportedly used poor investigative techniques and often mishandled rape cases, further discouraging victim cooperation. NGOs reported that law enforcement agencies used mediation as means to dismiss rape cases, including forcing the victim to marry her rapist to ensure that he avoided prosecution. The majority of victims reported extremely long delays in their cases due to lengthy evidence-collecting procedures and prosecutions, while the need for numerous interrogations and confrontations with their rapist added to the trauma experienced by victims.
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 maximum punishment for family violence offenses is 15 years’ imprisonment. As of September, police initiated 1,583 criminal procedures in domestic violence cases. From March to December, the courts issued 799 protection orders. As of September, there were 3,859 family aggressors listed in the police register; 3,678 of the total were men; 181 were women.
The law permits excluding an abuser from lodging shared with the victim, regardless of who owns the property. According to amendments to the law on preventing and combating domestic violence that came into force in March, law enforcement officials may apply emergency restriction orders requested by domestic violence victims. NGOs reported cases in which authorities issued conflicting protective orders, providing both the abuser and the victim with protection against the other and resulting in confusion in the courts.
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 victims. The NGO La Strada, for example, operated a hotline to report domestic violence, offered victims psychological and legal aid, and provided victims options for follow-up assistance. Access to such assistance remained difficult for some, however.
There was progress in building institutional capacity to protect women and children against domestic violence. The Ministry of Internal Affairs continued training for police officers handling domestic violence cases. According to various NGOs and UNICEF, the effectiveness of protective orders depended on the attitude of authorities. Reports continued that police officers were not diligent in ensuring either the protection of victims or proper execution of protective orders. The situation improved slightly, with authorities issuing an increased number of protective orders within 24 hours as required by law. NGOs expressed concern that authorities were insufficiently proactive in combating indifference toward domestic violence among police, prosecutors, and social workers. There were cases reported of authorities not issuing protective orders until a month after the alleged mistreatment. NGOs also maintained that authorities relied excessively on them to publicize remedies that were available and to assist victims in requesting protection.
The law does not provide criminal penalties for abuse resulting in “nonsignificant bodily harm” (e.g., slapping, hair pulling, pushes) that does not leave marks or result in work being missed. Under the law, abuse involving “nonsignificant” harm is punished administratively.
During the year the Women’s Law Center trained more than 200 judges, criminal investigators, and prosecutors on preventing and combating domestic violence.
According to NGOs, after release from detention, abusers commonly returned to their homes and continued to abuse.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment remained a common 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. 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.
Coercion in Population Control: Women were often subject to forced abortions and contraception. Psychiatric institutions and social care homes registered isolated cases of forced abortions and of forced contraception. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: .
Discrimination: Women and men enjoy the same legal status in family, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance law and in the judicial system. The law requires equal pay for equal work, which authorities generally respected. The law requires that women fill a minimum of 40 percent of decision-making positions in government and political offices; bans publicity that promotes discriminatory messages or stereotypes; prohibits sexist and discriminatory language and images in the media and advertising; spells out employers’ responsibilities in ensuring a workplace free of discrimination and sexual harassment; and introduces two-week state-paid paternity leave.
In March the government approved the Gender Equality Strategy for 2017-2021 to promote a complex approach to gender equality; improve institutional mechanisms for ensuring gender equality; combat stereotypes and promote nonviolent communication; promote gender equality in the security and defense sectors; and provide for gender-sensitive budgeting.
The UN Development Program (UNDP) National Human Development Report 2015/2016 released in June noted that, although women represented half the work force of the country, they were mostly employed in low-paying jobs. Women earned on average 12 percent less than men.
Birth Registration: Persons may acquire citizenship through birth in the country, from citizen parents, or after adoption by citizens. Registration of birth is free of charge for all citizens. The lack of registration certificates for a number of children, especially in rural areas and in Romani families, remained a problem. Observers estimated that more than 1,000 children lacked identification documents.
Education: Primary education was free and compulsory until the ninth grade. Education of Romani children remained a problem; only half of Romani children attended school and only one in five attended preschool. According to Romani representatives, absenteeism and school dropout in Romani communities was due to poverty and fear of discrimination.
Child Abuse: Although the law prohibits child neglect and specific forms of abuse, such as forced begging, child abuse remained a problem. A special unit for minors and human rights in the Prosecutor General’s Office was responsible for ensuring that particular attention and expertise was devoted to child abuse victims and child offenders.
The Prosecutor General’s Office reported that 1,029 children were victims of various crimes in 2016, including 211 cases of sexual abuse and 75 cases of domestic violence. In the first six months of the year, the Prosecutor General’s Office initiated 579 criminal cases in which 625 children were alleged to be victims of various crimes.
According to the Ministry of Education, in the first half of the 2016-17 academic year authorities registered 5,642 cases of violence against children, including physical violence (2,866 cases), psychological violence (1,306 cases), neglect (1,278 cases), child labor exploitation (167 cases) and sexual abuse (25 cases).
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.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The Prosecutor General’s Office is responsible for investigating and prosecuting child sexual abuse cases. Authorities punished commercial sex with minors as statutory rape. The minimum age for consensual sex is 16. The law prohibits the production, distribution, broadcasting, import, export, sale, exchange, use, or possession of child pornography, and violators face one to three years’ imprisonment.
Child prostitution is punishable by three to seven years imprisonment. Child pornography is punishable by one to three years imprisonment and fines of 150,000 to 250,000 lei ($7,500 to $12,500). Engaging minors in illegal activities is punishable by up to seven years imprisonment or a fine of 27,500 to 52,500 lei ($1,375 to $2,625). Engaging minors in illicit use of drugs, medicines, or other substances with intoxicating effects is punishable by up to six years in prison or a fine of 27,500 to 52,500 lei ($1,375 to $2,625).
Observers reported child prostitution and child sex tourism. According to UNICEF, about 10 percent of children in the country were exposed to sexual abuse, and prosecutors announced a high number of cases of sexual abuse of children.
In August officers of the Cybercrimes Unit of the National Investigation Inspectorate and the Prosecutor’s Office to Combat Organized Crime and Special Cases broke up a child pornography ring, stopping the distribution of 7,000 files containing images of children between the ages of four and 12 who were sexually abused by male adults. If found guilty, the suspects face up to three years in prison.
During the year law enforcement agencies, in cooperation with civil society organizations, organized a number of events and movie screenings to educate the public on how social networks and the Internet are used to recruit and sexually exploit children. The international center La Strada operated a hotline and an online platform for children, their parents, and teachers to educate them on online safety.
Institutionalized Children: During the year there were 1,119 children in government residential institutions, including 476 children with mental disabilities, 377 orphans and children without parental care, and 266 children with sensory disabilities. Children in residential institutions were at greater risk of unemployment, sexual exploitation, trafficking, and suicide compared with their peers raised in families.
In 2016 the NGO La Strada and the Antiviolence Coalition of NGOs criticized the lack of government action in dealing with the problem of street children after a television report uncovered over 20 minors living in the ruins of an abandoned Chisinau hotel. Legal protection mechanisms for street children were not functional.
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/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
The Jewish community numbered between 15,000 and 25,000 persons, including 2,000 living in Transnistria. The Jewish community reported two acts of vandalism during the year. In April, an unknown person set fire to plants and stray animals in the Jewish cemetery in Chisinau. In a second case, a monument to the victims of the Holocaust established in Orhei was damaged before the opening ceremony; an investigation of the incident continued as of year’s end.
Anti-Semitic discourse and attitudes were present in recurrent comments and news items in some media outlets. Property restitution continued to be a problem for the Jewish community and there was no law to address it (see section 1.e., Property Restitution.)
In 2016 parliament endorsed the Elie Wiesel Commission’s Report on the Holocaust and condemned attempts to deny or ignore the Holocaust and paid homage to its victims and survivors. In May the government approved an action plan for 2017-19 on Holocaust education and commemoration. The Jewish community reported limited government progress in fulfilling this plan.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, access to public facilities, health care, or the provision of other government services, but authorities rarely enforced the law. It prohibits construction companies from designing or constructing buildings without specific access for persons with disabilities and requires transportation companies to equip their vehicles to meet the needs of persons with disabilities. The law also requires that land, railroad, and air transportation authorities provide access for persons with disabilities and adapt public spaces and transportation to provide access for wheelchair users. The airport administration must provide an escort for persons with disabilities. Authorities implemented the provisions of the law only to a limited extent.
Human rights observers criticized the country’s guardianship system. A person placed under guardianship loses all standing before the law and cannot engage in social and legal acts, such as marriage, voting, claiming social benefits, consenting to medication, or refusing medication.
Isolated cases of violence and abuse, including rape and forced abortion, were reported in segregated institutions for persons with mental disabilities that together house some 2,500 children and adults Human rights NGOs noted that residential institutions posed high risks for physical abuse, involuntary confinement, forced medication, rape, and other types of abuse. Women were often subject to forced abortions and contraception. NGOs reported a high mortality rate in psychiatric institutions.
According to the Promo-Lex presidential election observation mission, in the 2016 presidential elections 36 percent of polling stations were not accessible for persons with mobility impairments and 33 percent lacked proper conditions for persons with vision disabilities.
Most schools were ill equipped to address the needs of children with disabilities. Some children with disabilities attended mainstream schools, while authorities placed others in boarding schools or they were home schooled.
In Transnistria, children with disabilities rarely attended school and lacked access to specialized resources.
While many newly built or reconstructed buildings were accessible, older buildings often were not. More than 70 percent of public institutions lacked access ramps for persons with disabilities. Persons with limited mobility complained about the lack of access to public transportation and public institutions as well as the shortage of designated parking places.
Although the law provides for equal employment opportunities and prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities (with the exception of jobs requiring specific health standards), many employers either failed to accommodate or avoided employing such persons. Transnistrian legislation provides for protection of the rights of persons with disabilities in the areas of education, health care, and employment. Reliable information about the treatment of persons with disabilities in Transnistria was unavailable.
Despite a decrease in reported cases of discrimination, Roma continued to be one of the most vulnerable minority groups in the country and faced a higher risk of marginalization, under-representation 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.). Romani women were particularly vulnerable to social exclusion and discrimination.
Authorities lacked an effective mechanism to address vulnerable families whose children did not attend school.
Approximately 60 percent of Romani families lived in rural areas. 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, lower rates of health insurance coverage, and discrimination in the job market. According to the most recent statistics, only 21 percent of Roma were actively employed.
Latin-script schools in Transnistria continued to be a matter of dispute between the Moldovan authorities and the de-facto Transnistrian authorities.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The law prohibits employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. Societal discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity continued. Gay men were often victims of discrimination, but verbal and physical abuse against lesbians was also reported. In most cases, police officers were reluctant to open cases against the perpetrators.
Genderdoc-M, reported multiple verbal and physical assaults against LGBTI individuals. Genderdoc-M reported that 12 cases of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity were under examination at the ECHR, three of them filed during the year. Most cases involved complaints about hate speech by religious and political leaders. In May President Igor Dodon stated, “I am not the president of gays.” He reiterated that he was “categorically against the actions of the LGBTI community that clearly violate our traditional values and Orthodox religion. We have to maintain our morality and our traditional family.”
Civil society organizations reported that transgender individuals were unable to change identity documents during or following gender reassignment and experienced employment discrimination (see section 7.d.).
In May Genderdoc-M organized the 16th annual LGBTI festival under the slogan “No Fear,” culminating in a solidarity (pride) march on May 21. While dozens of police officers cordoned off the march route, they allowed protesters onto the second half of the route, blocking the march’s completion. A few anti-LGBTI demonstrators threw eggs at the demonstrators, and police chose to evacuate the marchers in buses.
While authorities allowed individuals to change their names (e.g., from a male to a female name), the government did not allow persons to change the gender listed on their identity cards or passports.
In Transnistria, consensual same-sex activity is illegal, and LGBTI persons were subjected to official as well as societal discrimination.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
Persons living with HIV continued to face societal and official discrimination. There were approximately 11,000 people living with HIV/AIDS, but only 4,500 were receiving antiretroviral treatment. A 2015 study on equality perceptions and attitudes by the Council to Prevent and Combat Discrimination and Ensure Equality and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reported that persons living with HIV/AIDS represented the second most stigmatized group in the country after LGBTI persons. According to the study, persons with HIV were mostly perceived negatively, labeled as “leading a disordered sexual life” and frequently associated with drug users.
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/AIDS faced high levels of discrimination by both prison staff and other inmates.
Hospitals disclosed HIV status without consent to persons not entitled to have such information.