(Nov. 23, 2012) On May 25, 2012, the Parliament of Moldova passed the Law on Enforcement of Equality. The Law was promulgated by the President on May 28, 2012 (Moldovan Parliament Adopted Law on Protection of Gays’ Rights with Scandal [in Russian], ROSBALT.RU (May 25, 2012).) The Law will become effective on January 1, 2013. (Law No. 121, MONITORUL OFICIAL [official gazette, in Moldovan] 2012, Nr. 103, Item 355, Ministry of Justice website (last visited Nov. 13, 2012).) The implementation of the Law remains a subject of discussions among <?Moldova's lawyers, politicians, and the public, as certain aspects of it have created controversy. (New Scandal Threatens Stability and Harmony in Alliance for European Integration [in Russian], TRIBUNA.MD (Oct. 1, 2012).)
This comprehensive non-discrimination law states that its purpose is to prevent and fight against discrimination and ensure equal rights in political, economic, social, cultural, and other aspects of life for persons residing in Moldova, regardless of their race, skin color, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, sex, age, limited abilities, political views, or any other factors (Law No. 121). The Law specifically targets discrimination committed by public authorities, the support of discrimination through mass media, the posting of discriminatory messages and symbols in public places, discrimination conducted by two or more persons, and racial segregation (id.).
Arbitration of conflicts resulting from discriminatory actions, punishment for discriminatory activity, and compensation for damages caused by discriminatory actions are among the methods of fighting discrimination set forth in the Law. Chapter 2 contains provisions that address discrimination in particular spheres of life, such as employment, trade in goods and services that are publicly accessible, and education (id.).
A special government agency for countering discrimination, the Council on Prevention of and Fighting Against Discrimination and Ensuring Equality, comprising five members appointed by the Parliament for five-year terms, was created under the Law. The Council will be entrusted with the right to review current legislation to determine if it meets anti-discrimination standards. It will also have the power to propose amendments to anti-discrimination legislation, issue expert conclusions on relevant bills under Parliament’s consideration, monitor implementation of the legislation, and hear appeals. Disciplinary, administrative, civil, and criminal measures are foreseen for violating anti-discrimination legislation (id.).
Factors Influencing Adoption of the Law
Before the adoption of the Law, a survey published in 2011 demonstrated that Moldovans considered discrimination to be one of the major problems facing the country, along with high unemployment, price increases, an underdeveloped economy, and low retirement benefits (SOROS FOUNDATION OF MOLDOVA, PERCEPTIONS OF THE POPULATION OF THE REPUBLIC OF MOLDOVA ON DISCRIMINATION: SOCIOLOGICAL STUDY 12 (last visited Nov. 13, 2012)). It appears that among the groups affected most by discrimination in Moldova are people with mental and physical disabilities (68% and 66% of respondents respectively), the poor (59%), HIV-positive individuals (56%), the elderly (50%), representatives of the gay and lesbian community (49%), the Roma people (48%), and women (32%) (id. at 5).
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has continuously urged the adoption of the anti-discrimination legislation (Moldova Urged by UN Human Rights Office to Adopt Anti-Discrimination Law, UN NEWS CENTRE (May 11, 2012)), and its adoption was required under the EU-Moldova action plan on visa liberalization (EU-Republic of Moldova Visa Dialogue: Action Plan on Visa Liberalization, EU Action Plans website (Dec. 16, 2010) [click on the link for the English or the Romanian version]). As some observers reported, the EU requirement had a major impact on the adoption of the Law, as without EU pressure and the promise of reward, the Moldovan lawmakers would, it is argued, never have adopted it (Viorel Ursu, How the European Union Persuaded Moldova to Fight Discrimination, EASTBOOK.EU (July 30, 2012)).
Reactions to the New Law
The most contentious provision in the Law appears to be the one that outlaws discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (Moldova Urged by UN Human Rights Office to Adopt Anti-Discrimination Law, supra). The Moldovan Orthodox Church condemned the Law, declaring that it “legalizes harlotry through enabling gay parades and propaganda of the gay life style” (Moldovan Parliament Adopted Law on Protection of Gays’ Rights with Scandal, supra).
The Russian Orthodox Church also expressed its dissatisfaction with the Law. As mentioned in a statement of the Sacred Sinod (the highest authority) of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Church “protests against the legalization of evil and the declaration of sinful behavior as ordinary activity.” It calls on Moldovan authorities to resist “attempts of propaganda of sexual perversion” and to take steps to amend the law in order to comply with the will of the majority of Moldovan citizens (Declaration of the Sacred Sinod with Regard to Adoption of the Law on Ensuring Equality in the Republic of Moldova [in Russian], Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church website (June 7, 2012)).
In addition, a Moldovan Communist Party leader told the media of his intention to set up a popular referendum to strike down the Law (Moldovan Communists Intend to Strike Down the Law on Equality [in Russian], DNIESTR: NEWS AND COMMENTS (May 29, 2012)).
Prepared by Virab Khachatryan, Law Library contract Foreign Law Specialist, under the supervision of Peter Roudik, Director of Legal Research.