Am postat acum ceva vreme un articol despre un concurs de eseuri. Asta e al meu. Wish me luck! Comentarii, completari sunt binevenite dar depinde de la cine vin.
The aim of the article is to offer a personal, in-depth perspective regarding discrimination in Romania. Although I mention three types of discrimination, namely the ethnic one, discrimination against HIV/AIDS patients and sexual discrimination, I choose to stop at offering a more explicit description of the latter as it is the most discriminated against category. Moreover, the article is not only a statistic-based one, but also offers some insight into the gay movement in Romania and how homosexuals here relate, either personally or on a national scale, to gay communities in other countries of the European Union.
Surveys in the past years done by the CNCD (the National Council for the Combat of discrimination) and the Soros Foundation meant to test the level of tolerance among Romanians have come up with some startling results. The most discriminated groups in present-day Romania are the homosexuals, the gypsies and people infected with HIV/AIDS. The aim of the survey was to show the categories of people which are being discriminated, the degree to which they are being discriminated and the segments, by age, which discriminate the most in Romania. Therefore, the results were presented for the teenager segment on one hand and for adults on the other. Surprisingly, it seems that teenagers are in a larger number openly against minorities than adults.
For example, 75% of the surveyed young people would not accept homosexuals as their neighbors, 68% of them would not accept gypsies and 66% would be against living next door to HIV/AIDS patients. The numbers recorded in the adult surveys are smaller but still constitute reasons for concern; when asked if they would not like to live next door to homosexuals, 59% answered negatively, 46% said ‘no’ in the case of the gypsies and 43% in the case of the HIV/AIDS infected people.
The sad result for the teenager section is that three quarters of them discriminate against homosexuals, two thirds against gypsies and over a third avoid contact with HIV/AIDS patients.
If we were to make a comparison between east and west, the differences in mentalities are overwhelming and yet we can still declare without a blink of an eye that we are all European, we are all members of this great family called the European Union and we are all equal.
In the end, the fault for this cultural clash is that of the people and of the historical evolution which favored, from a number of viewpoints, the west (the most prominent one in our case is the cultural viewpoint) in contrast to the subjugated eastern part of Europe.
In order to better illustrate this clash, I shall further insist, through a comparative presentation and a number of examples, on the situations the homosexuals have been and are facing in Romania.
As I am writing about the situation of homosexuals, one of the best examples one could relate to is the situation of the LGBT community in Amsterdam. Also, from a political point of view it offers the greatest contrast to the situation gay people face in Romania.
In 1989 in Amsterdam the state ruled against two petitions belonging to a gay and respectively a lesbian couple. It was not so much a matter of the possibility to get married as it was about the denial of the legal effects marriage implied. In 1991 a scheme was published – Leefvormen – which proposed a registration at the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages and was also called a ‘heavy registration’.
Homosexuals have a fairly long history of persecution in Romania which goes back to 1936 when homosexual acts started to be punished so as not to give birth to a homosexual identity and ultimately, a community. The continuous charges brought against homosexuality were supposed to eliminate the very idea of same sex relations from the nation’s mind frame because this conduct was seen as odd, unauthentic and contagious. Private acts were incriminated so as not to become public and ‘infect’ the population.
Starting with September 1995, same-sex couples in Amsterdam could register; this decision mostly came in order to satisfy the ever growing pressures of a Dutch lobby for homosexuals, the COC. This decision was, however, not satisfactory as many members of the community believed it only offered a type of ‘second-class’ marriage.
The forces governing Romania have demonstrated an offensive attitude towards homosexuals, attitude which was often enforced by the law. Article 200, much like a large number of other legislative measures threaten the rights of homosexual people. The most shocking aspect is the fact that the right to having a personal life was being denied; people are being punished because of an intrinsic aspect of their personality. Paragraph 1 of this article of the Penal Code stated not until long ago that ‘sexual relations between same-sex persons are punishable with up to 5 years of prison. As a result of international pressure and heated debates, article 200 was changed so as to sanction only the acts which are ‘executed in public or lead to a public scandal’. However, another change was added so as to punish not only ‘the luring of a person’ but also ‘the propagation or association or any other kind of proselyte actions conceived with the same purpose’. Basically the formulation is clear enough as to clear the name of the Romanian authorities but vague enough as to not grant gay people their rights and moreover to still make it possible for them to get punished for acts carried out in public.
Back in Amsterdam, in 1997, the Kortmann Committee decided that there should only be one institution and the registration option should be abolished. It was then that Prime Minister Kok, along with his Cabinet, decided to tackle the matter head-on and submit to the Parliament two bills, one to propose same-sex marriages and one to propose to allow same-sex couples to adopt children.
In present-day Romania, homosexuals and lesbians are denied a series of fundamental rights solely on the basis of being different. Despite de fact that a series of amendments were brought to the penal code in 1996, acts of hate are often committed and not sanctioned by the police.
The Netherlands became the first state to allow same-sex marriages on April 1st 2001. Currently seven countries in Europe allow same-sex couples to get married (The Netherlands (2001), Belgium (2003), Spain (2005), Norway (2008), Sweden (2009) Iceland (2010), and Portugal (2010).
The only fact that made a huge difference from a legal point of view and got things moving in this sector was the fact that Romania wanted to become a member of the EU. At that time, many legislative aspects were out of order with the EU guidelines and therefore had to be adjusted. Article 200 was one of them because it clearly permitted and almost encouraged a stand against human rights.
It was finally canceled in 2001.
Interview with a Romanian escort
While many gay people in Romania choose to live their lives in as discreet a manner as possible, o as to avoid loosing their job, their families and becoming a social pariah, some have lost the chance at a ‘normal’ life because for one reason or another, their families or other significant people in their lives have found out the truth about them. These people, most of them young, between the ages of 15 and 30 often find themselves on the street without money, a shelter or even the opportunity to finish a school, get jobs and have a decent life. It is, in this case, not a big surprise that they become escorts.
In certain circles, Romania is known as one of the countries with the most escorts and the most handsome boys; quite a large number of boys and young men advertise their sexual services on gay dating sites such as Gayromeo. Their clients are most of the time mature men, some are about 40 yours old but most are over 50 and come from countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, The UK, Austria, Spain or Italy. The men usually find their ideal type of boy, they get in touch and after chatting they meet. The boys either travel to their clients or the foreigners come to Romania where they spend time with their boy(s).
As far as money I concerned, prices range from 10 to 500-600 euros depending on the escort, the services involved or the number of people involved.
For the escorts it is advantageous because:
Firstly, they get to meet mature men from other countries with which they usually stay friends and keep in touch.
Secondly, they are paid to do something which most of the time comes naturally and they usually choose the persons they want to be with;
Finally, they get to travel, explore the world, receive an education on the expense of the client;
There are however also many incidents recorded in this sense, either on the side of the escort or of the client.
Quite a few times it has been the case that escorts who got abroad were abducted and used for other purposes than what they had settled for. A few examples would be those of boys forced to beg on the streets for some local clan or the worst case scenario involves boys being lured abroad, kidnapped and killed and sold on the organ black market.
On the behalf of the client, most problems are caused by another minority which is strongly represented in Romania, the rromas. Many rromas pretend to be interested in older foreign men with the sole intention of robbing them. Thus, a large number of young men go gay for pay, set up meeting with potential clients, ask them for money, credit card numbers or other possessions but then vanish leaving robbed clients behind.
Many foreigners actually avoid talking to Romanians, escorts and otherwise, exactly because they have heard about the rromas and are afraid not to get involved in any shady business.
For journalistic reasons, I contacted an escort during the summer and asked him to do an interview with me. I shall proceed to present the abstract of our discussion.
I met C. when I was on holiday a few days in Mamaia, a seaside resort in Romania. Originally he is from the western part of the country but he comes to the seaside every year during the summer and has sex for money.
Although he is over thirty, he looks not a day over 25 with his tanned, sculpted body and his boyish good looks. He seemed to be any guy’s type and already after the first words we spoke I could tell that he was the kind of guy to demand respect both from his clients and from the other working boys.
He started sleeping with men for money but in time he just did it because he loved the fact that people desired him and it amused him that someone would actually even pay for sex. For his clients he only feels pity.
I asked him if he’s ever had any problems with the police doing what he does here. He said that the police know about this part of the beach and what people do here. They don’t interfere because there are a lot of high placed people and foreigners coming here during the summer. Besides, they don’t do anything illegal, they just meet, talk and go on their way.
I asked him if he is thinking about doing this for the rest of his life. He said that it has become clear to him that this isn’t a job someone can have for years and years and he will sooner or later find something steady and settle down. In that sense, he might go abroad to one of his suitors.
I asked him if any boys get lucky enough to get out of this line of work. There are quite a few working Romanians who started out as escorts but then left the country to go and live with one of their former clients. People just happened to develop a certain fondness for each other or it was strictly a professional settlement. As I have mentioned before, many Romanians get involved with foreigners up to the point where they form a couple or the foreigners help them get jobs, a home and settle down in another country.
I asked c. what his opinion was regarding anti-gay movements in Romania and the attempts to boycott gay rights movements. He said it didn’t concern him that much as his line of work demands a discreet nature rather than an outspoken one, but he agreed that it would indeed mean a positive impact if the laws in Romania and the attitude of the Romanians would become less drastic. Moreover, he added, many boys he knew had to work just to have enough money for food everyday and during the summer they would spend the night on the beach; these were the boys who were rejected by their families and discriminated against in their hometowns.
In the present, members of the LGBT community in Romania can address a fairly large number of institutions for help, be it emotional support or legal advice. Among these institutions, there is the CNCD, the NGO ACCEPT (winner of the 2011 ERSTE Foundation Award for Social Integration), Angelicuss or PSI Romania. Also, there is a large number of people which create an online community, represented by blogs such as DarkQ, IdeideGay or the website amales.ro, dedicated to gay and lebian people everywhere in Romania.
In conclusion, discrimination is sadly still a part of the average Romanian’s lifestyle and from this point of view our country is falling behind. However, thanks to the many initiatives carried out on a continental level either by the EU directly or through various organizations such as PSI, international blogs, manifestos or dating sites and especially through projects such as this literary contest, we are able to influence and, hopefully, change for the better mentalities and further integrate eastern, ex-communist lands such as our own into the big picture called the European Union.