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Thursday, 20 December, 2001, 17:07 GMT
Romania's gays celebrate end of ban
Heaven gay club in Bucharest
Gay gatherings are no longer a criminal offence
By Shirin Wheeler in Bucharest

Human rights campaigners in Romania are celebrating the scrapping from the statute books of a law which effectively criminalised the practice of homosexuality.

I feel good - it is super

Romanian gay

The notorious Article 200 of the Penal Code, conceived during the Communist regime of Nicolae Ceausescu, was used to harass and imprison thousands of gay and lesbian people.

But the law has been repealed only 12 years after that regime collapsed - under fierce pressure from the European Union.

We want to join the European Union, not Sodom and Gomorrah

Bishop Vincentiu Ploisteanu

Heaven is Bucharest's newest nightclub and the place to be seen for Romania's increasingly confident gay community.

With the anti-homosexual article now gone, the club opened last month without fear of prosecution.

This is an important step forward. You could say that finally the state is out of your bed

Adrian Coman

Gay gatherings are no longer a criminal offence, and the clientele here are delighted.

"I am really happy we have got a club where we can meet, have fun and feel free," said one customer.

"Everyone has a right to their freedom and that includes their sexuality," said another.

"I feel good - it is super."


Romania's gay rights group ACCEPT led the campaign against a law which criminalised homosexual relationships and organisations, with maximum sentences of five years in prison.

Gay Romanians now have the freedom others take for granted

Its director, Adrian Coman, says the law was only scrapped because the European Union made it a precondition for Romania's eventual membership of the EU.

"The fact that law was repealed does not necessarily show that people in this country became more tolerant towards gays and lesbians in Romania.

"Whatever the reason, this is an important step forward. You could say that finally the state is out of your bed."

Cool public reaction

Last year a public opinion poll found that 86% of Romanians would not want a gay or lesbian person as their neighbour.

On the streets of the capital Bucharest the changes to the statute books and the repealing of the Article 200 clearly have not met with universal approval .

"It is not good they repealed that law, it would destroy the family," said one passer-by, while another referred to homosexuals as "scum."

"I think it is a good thing for society but morally it is not good because we are Christians," said a third.

Church opposition

The Orthodox Church still exerts huge influence in Romania.

Bishop Vincentiu Ploisteanu
Romanian Church believes punishments still needed

When politicians debated Article 200, the voice of the church was equally loud. It warned of the dangers to Romania and to the family.

The Holy Synod insists it does not favour prison sentences for gays - just re-education programmes funded by the state.

But its senior priests say laws and punishment are still necessary to stop what they call gay propaganda.

"We need healthy young people in mind and body, like any civilised country and we must try to protect them from contamination by such serious sinners," says a spokesman for the Holy Synod bishop Vincentiu Ploisteanu.

He believes pressure from the European Union to change Romania's law on homosexuality is completely misguided.

"We want to join the European Union, not Sodom and Gomorrah."

The church may not approve of clubs like Heaven nor of the changes this club represents.

But the tide is turning in favour of those who want to see Romania adopt the freedoms others take for granted.

See also:

22 Dec 99 | Europe
Romania's bloody revolution
28 Nov 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Romania
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