Romania: discrimination of Roma people, gender equality and ill-treatment are pressing issues

Review of Romania | HR Committee | Oct. 2017

Forced evictions of Romani people in Romania. Photo credit: Amnesty International

The fifth periodic report of Romania was reviewed by the Human Rights Committee on the 25th and 26th October 2017. Members of the Committee commended the State delegation on its impressive size, expertise and gender balance. Romania’s last report dates from 1999, so considerable changes have been made in the State party since then. Problematic themes were the discrimination of Roma people, ill-treatment by law enforcement officials, gender equality and linguistic rights of minorities.

Other issues raised by the Committee were the rights of persons with disabilities, the fight against corruption, discrimination of LGBTI persons and persons affected with HIV, human trafficking and high rates of domestic violence.

The webcast of the review is available here: part 1 and part 2

"The public Prosecutor of Romania is deeply concerned about abuse by police and other authorities of the State, especially to Roma communities. "

- Romanian delegation

Roma discrimination

Discrimination of Roma people is still a prevalent problem in Romania. Committee members were concerned about forced evictions, hate speech and hate crimes. Other issues were school segregation, birth registration and police brutality (see below). Regarding evictions, Roma were being forcefully removed to areas without suitable alternative accommodation being provided for them. Concerning birth registration, the Committee asked what steps were taken to provide Roma children with the necessary identity documents.

The delegation referred to several measures taken: its strategy for the inclusion of Romanian citizens belonging to Roma minority 2015-2020 focused on education, employment, health and housing, social services and infrastructure, culture and combating discrimination. Segregation in schools is prohibited by two orders of the Ministry of Education. Registration of Roma newborns is facilitated through amendments of the law.

The Roma population has a lower life expectancy than others, which is why the government had established a Roma health community system and Roma health mediators. An action plan was adopted to combat segregation in schools, to train teachers in identifying segregation and to collect relevant data. 

Use of force and ill-treatment, including against Roma people

The European Court of Human Rights has heard many cases of mistreatment of Roma individuals by Romanian police. It found that national justice systems failed to deliver fair outcomes to these cases. There are currently no convictions of hate crimes at the national level, and racism was never investigated as a motive. Disaggregated data on discrimination cases were not collected.

The delegation said to be deeply concerned about abuse by police to Roma communities and pays special attention to their complaints. Hate crime is not an explicit crime in the proper sense, but racism can qualify as an aggravated circumstance.

Romania recently amended its legislation on the use of firearms to include the international standards, and wishes to improve the gathering of intelligence before operations in order to be able to use the right methods. Law enforcement officials study several themes related to human rights, for example the most important UN documents, including the ICCPR, preventing and combating discrimination, torture, and others. Trainings are organised to improve the level of awareness of discrimination of Roma and other minorities among law enforcement officials. The recruitment policy is focused on minorities. 

Gender equality

The Committee was concerned about several issues regarding gender equality and non-discrimination.

Maternal mortality and teenage pregnancy rates are high in the State party. The Committee asked what measures were taken to integrate reproductive health education into the mandatory school curriculum and whether the State provided free contraceptives. The government was looking into increasing the access to contraceptives, but it kept reproductive health education optional because of the backlash of parents’ associations and the religious sector.

The delegation referred to the ‘HeforShe’ campaign that was promoted in the country in 2015. Several activities were organised, such as trainings to become gender equality experts and programmes to engage girls and boys in political, social and economic life. The National Agency for Equal Opportunities also implemented various programmes to enhance gender equality, like Equal Pay Day. Romania noted that it has the lowest rate of gender pay gap in the European Union, which is still at nine per cent.

Furthermore, women in Romania still resort to illegal, unsafe abortions, despite the fact that abortion is legal during the first trimester. The Committee did not understand why and asked what measures were taken to ensure access to legal abortion. The delegation replied that there are cases where doctors refuse to perform abortion, but hospitals are obliged to refer the patent to another doctor. 

Linguistic rights of other minorities

Bilingualism in education in the Northern part of the country, where Hungarians constitute the majority, seems not to work. The Committee asked information on safeguards of other minorities, such as Ukranians, Turks and Tatars.

The delegation replied that the Hungarian community has access to education on all levels and no complaints were received regarding this issue. Also the German, Ukranian and Turkish minorities have the right to education in their mother tongue. The State admitted that it was a challenge to implement linguistic rights in local public administration and that data collection on this point should be improved. 

Recommendations of the Committee

Within two years, the State party should provide information on the following recommendations from the Committee’s Concluding Observations:

Equality and non-discrimination of Roma

  • Intensify its efforts and take measures to address systemic discrimination against the Roma population, including ensuring that the local authorities are accountable for actions taken contrary to anti-discrimination legislation.
  • Ensure that the law provides adequate safeguards against forced evictions.
  • Reinforce its efforts to implement measures to promote inclusion of Roma children in mainstream schooling, including enrolment of Roma children in pre- schools.
  • Implement measures promoting equal access of Roma to health services.
  • Ensure the effective implementation of the Strategy for Inclusion of Roma, including allocating sufficient funding, effective coordination and accountability of local authorities.
  • Establish a comprehensive data collection system to assess the scale of discrimination towards Roma and other minorities.

Ill-treatment in public care facilities

  • As a matter of urgency bring treatment of persons with mental, intellectual and psychological disabilities into conformity with the Covenant by (a) improving living conditions and treatment in public care facilities, both for persons with disabilities and in psychiatric institutions; (b) taking appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities are not discriminated against in the enjoyment of their rights; (c) taking all measures necessary to implement a policy of deinstitutionalization of persons with disabilities accompanied by appropriate community-based support; (d) ensuring that any restrictions are legal, necessary and proportionate to the individual circumstances and include guarantees of an effective remedy; and (e) pursue legal amendments in order to eliminate full deprivation of legal capacity and strengthen efforts to restore the legal capacity of persons with disabilities.
  • Strengthen independent monitoring and complaints mechanisms, thoroughly investigate and prosecute allegations of abuse and ensure independent representation of persons with disabilities in any proceedings to safeguard their rights.

Protection of minors and rights of the child

  • Intensify its efforts to encourage the placement of children in alternative family-based settings and take measures to avoid that children of single parents are institutionalized in the first place.
  • Ensure adequate living conditions and health care in all children’s institutions and regularly monitor the conditions and the treatment in these institutions to protect children from all forms of exploitation. Ensure that in accordance with its law no children under the age of three are institutionalized in child-care facilities, including children with disabilities.
  • Strengthen measures aiming at eliminating the economic exploitation of children, such as for child labour and begging, and sexual exploitation, and sanction those responsible for such exploitation. 

Romania's next periodic report is due on 6 November 2023. 

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