Violence Against Women Rife in Romania

“Sexual violence is swept under the rug” as the systems are failing women.

Photo by Women’s March Bucharest, taken during their 2018 march. Image Description: Photo of a gathering of people in winter gear, snow on the ground, holding up signs that read: Love Trumps Hate and more.

As we enter into this year’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, we’re putting a spotlight on what’s happening in the regions where Women’s March Global chapters are based.

We start our journey in Romania, where a horrifying 34,798 cases of domestic abuse were recorded by the police between January and September 2020. A country already struggling with creeping “anti-gender” ultraconservativism and persistent gender inequalities has been hit hard by the added challenges brought into the mix by the pandemic.

From a spike in domestic violence figures to some victim support centers in the country refusing to house victims due to the risk of spreading the virus, Romania is experiencing the symptoms of the pandemic that are hitting women the hardest around the globe. How have public authorities been responding to these intensifying threats for women in the country? According to Women’s March Bucharest:

“The National Committee for Emergency Situations, that has become some kind of God during the state of emergency, has taken zero measures for the gender-based violence victims during the pandemic.” Women’s March Bucharest

But Romania’s fight for gender equality certainly didn’t start during the pandemic. The obstacles run much deeper than that, and Women’s March Bucharest has been fighting for change for some time now.

A New Law from the “Middle Ages”

Back in June, the Romanian Parliament adopted an amendment to the National Education Law that prohibits the provision of information on gender, gender equality, and gender identity in educational spaces.

It outlaws what they view as “sex proselytism” in favour of so-called “gender ideology,” insisting that only biological sex actually exists, and that gender is, in fact, no more than an ideological invention.

This silencing of modern gender and sexuality education has a detrimental impact on comprehensive sex education, transgender peoples’ rights, and women’s rights and empowerment more generally.

There have been mass protests and flash mobs in response to the new law. The National Alliance of Student Organisations in Romania and the National Council of Students also launched a petition, urging President Klaus Iohannis to reject the law, arguing that it would ‘send education in Romania back to the Middle Ages.’ Nearly 30,000 signatures were collected in the first 24 hours.

Gender-Based Violence

Gender-based violence was already a serious problem in Romania, and the onslaught of restrictions due to Covid-19 made matters worse this year. But Women’s March Bucharest emphasises that the issue of gender-based violence runs deep in Romania — pandemic aside. Daniela Draghici, on behalf of Women’s March Bucharest commented:

‘Sexual violence is swept under the rug. Victims are horrified when they have to talk about that before a court, or in front of friends or specialists.’Women’s March Bucharest

That being said, 71% of young people in rural Romania still report violence in their schools, suggesting that even these shocking figures aren’t the full story. On top of that, here’s a rundown of the types of violence still recorded by the emergency service in this time period, despite the widespread fear of reporting violence:

• 596 cases of verbal violence;

• 778 cases of psychological violence;

• 772 cases of physical violence;

• 28 cases of sexual violence;

• 36 cases of economic violence;

• 46 cases of social violence;

• 3 cases of cyber violence.

(*Several types of violence are usually reported during one call.)

The Bottom Line

We must use the setbacks from 2020 as a trigger to call for radical change in the way we are working to end violence against women.

2020 has been an incredibly challenging year in various ways — but perhaps most notably in the way in which it has amplified existing inequalities and injustices, by intensifying the struggles of so many women and non-gender conforming people around the world. We are calling for a wake-up call: we hope that governments and citizens alike can open their eyes to the violence that so many people face — often behind closed doors — and take necessary action.

We stand with all women and allies worldwide and hope that together, as a global collective, we can support each other to ensure that women everywhere are supported and heard — as our specific challenges make up the global fight that we are all a part of.

We would like to use this campaign to amplify what is happening on the ground around the world — but we need you!

Please fill out this short form to let us know what you need our global audience to know about gender-based violence where you are located.

#OrangeTheWorld #EndViolenceAgainstWomen

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