n January 17 (1996) I went to Focsani Penitentiary, accompanied by
Bogdan U and Yves M, to speak to Cosmin G., serving a sentence of
one year and two months under Article 200, paragraph 1 of the Romanian
What we found was a case of five people arrested and convicted for
completely private consensual sexual acts. These arrest, which took
place in 1992, are indicative of the degree to which Article 200 §
1, gives Romanian police and prosecutors eventually unlimited power
to invade private life. They demonstrate that, as long as the law
remains on the books, such intrusions can continued unchecked.
Moreover such prosecutions could still be justified under the Romanian
Government's proposed revision of Article 200 § 1 to publish
homosexual acts 'which cause public scandal". ... The fact that
the acts - while 'private' in that they took place at home and under
concealment - somehow became known and were reported to the police
could be taken to give them a public character. As one of the prison
authorities told us, "such things (as homosexuality) are scandalous
Focsani is a factory-dominated town in southern Moldavia. Our reception
by the prison authorities was cold in more ways than one: we were
made to wait in the street outside the penitentiary for some forty
minutes, and when we entered the commandant refused to see us. Instead
we spoke to various deputies. We asked to see the prisoners penitentiary
Ale. However, the question of whether we would be allowed to see
it was left hanging until the last moment, when our interview with
the prisoner himself was almost at an end. At this point the file
was produced, but we could not examine it in detail until the interview
was over, hence we did not have the chance to ask the prisoner about
certain minor discrepancies between the file and his account. However,
the main points of what Mr. G. said were not contradicted by the
Rle, and presented a disturbing picture of someone sentenced to
over a year in prison for a single private and consensual act. G.,
who seemed articulate and eager to talk, was born on 21. May 1972
in Focsani. His father holds the rank of major at a Ministry of
Defence installation, and his mother is a housewife. His home address
(known to the editorial committee.) is his parents flat.
On an evening in 1991 - Mr. G. doesn't remember the date - he was
invited to watch videos at the house of an acquaintance, not a particularly
close friend, name Mihai U.. U., was a goods importer who did business
with Turkey, and as G. pointed out the video cassette player is
a rare and interesting commodity in Focsani. There were several
other people in the home, watching rented movies. At some point
U. called G. into another room, where the rest couldn't hear and
asked G. if he (U.] could give him a blowjob. G. agreed this was
the first and only sexual contact between the men.
Months later, in July 1992, U. was in the company of some other
friends of G's. He made the same offer to them, to give them a blowjob.
They too accepted. G. was not present. He only heard of this later
through police interrogations. However, it was this occasion which
gave rise to the criminal case. U. lived with a woman who found
out about the incident and reported it to the police. The police
promptly arrested U., the two men concerned, C. and L.. According
to G. the police initially intended to accuse C. and L. of using
force. However, both C. and L. had earlier been told by G. of his
own experience with U., and cited that old incident to the police
as evidence that U. did these things for pleasure and not because
When we asked G. (two prison guards were sitting in the room),
he told me that the police had not mistreated him. But he did say
they mocked him constantly as a homosexual. He said he was confused
and extremely frightened during the interrogation; he had not even
known that homosexual acts were illegal in Romania and had certainly
not expected to be brought in by the police for one months before.
G. was released. But in September he received a court summons in
which, despite police assurances, he was listed as one of the accused,
facing five years in prison. G. said that there were between two
and four co-summons and that he did not answer them, because he
was extremely scared.
Finally in January 1993 he left for Germany. The trial took place,
and he was tried in absentia. In a phone conversation with his mother
while he was in Germany she told him of the relatively light sentence
the other defendants had received. He returned to Romania on June
14 1993. G.'s file indicated that he had been "expelled"
from Germany, but we found out this only after the interview and
could not question him. On 28 July 1993 the police came to arrest
him. He found out that had been sentenced to one year and 1 month
in prison for a completely private consensual sexual act.
The Council of Europe had demand that the Romanian Government abolish
Article 200 § 1. On 3. 2. 1994 the Romanian Parliament passed
the 'new" version, which in its existing form contains imprisonment
as punishment for homosexual acts, and bans on meetings for homosexuals.
Tupilak, the Nordic lesbian and gay cultural organisation and the
International Lesbian and Gay Cultural Network are proposing to
organise a cultural event in Bukharest this summer.