Could you introduce yourself please?
Scott L.: My name is Scott Long and I’m
American. I’ve been living in Eastern Europe for 3 years now. For
two years I taught in Hungary and now I teach in Romania at the
University of Cluj (Kluzh). As an additional title I work as a Human
Rights Monitor for the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights
Commission in Romania.
C.M-S.: You visited prisons, too. Why?
Homosexuality, both, male and female, is (1993 !) illegal
in Romania. Article 200 of the penal code punishes homosexual acts
with five years in prison. Art 204 also punishes attempted homosexual
acts – which can also be interpreted as making overture. Romania
is the only European country which penalises lesbian as well as
male homosexual acts. In 1992 representatives of ILGA went to Romania
to investigate the situation. They· met with officials of the Ministry
of Justice, including the Under-Secretary of State, Lucian Stingu,
at the Ministry. The were reassured repeatedly that:
(a) everyone that had been arrested under Article 200 before
1989 had been released
(b) that there had been no further arrest and that the law was
a dead letter. No-one was in prison.
Romania has continued to assert this in international forums. As
late as January 1993 when their application to the Council of Europe
came up, this was again mentioned – and they responded, “It’s a
dead law.” “This is simply not true.” . It is a blatant lie on
the part of the Romanian Government.
In February 1993, together with a journalist Rizvan Ion, I went
to the Ministry of Justice and we spoke with Lucian Stingu who said,
“No-one is in prison.”
We then went two stories down in the Ministry of Justice to the
Under Secretary of State for Penitentiaries and asked how many people
were imprisoned for homosexual acts. He produced the figure of
60. We asked for permission to visit people in prison. There were
many delays in receiving permission, but after several weeks we
got permission to visit two prisons.
We went to Jilava, outside Bucarest, which is an old political
prison and the prison at Galati (Galatz) down in the Danube Delta
region. We talked to nine people imprisoned for homosexuality. After
this we also found out about a case in Timesoara where two young
men had been arrested for private consensual homosexual acts and
we went there to investigate. We have assembled a considerable
amount of documentation which demonstrates that the Romanian Government’s
assertions are simply lies. We have made this material available
to ILGA, the Council of Europe, and Amnesty International.
C.M-S.: What evidence did you find?
Scott L.: I can give you details of some
cases. In Jilava we spoke to a boy, Marian B. He is now 19 years
old. When he was arrested he was 18. His story:
In the Summer of 1992 he was sitting late at night in front of
a gas station with some friends in a working-class district of
Bucarest. He is from a working-class family. Some people from his
school came by and spread the latest gossip – which was that “x”
in their school was gay. Marian spoke very hesitantly about this
in prison. Often it was difficult for him to say things. What he
did say was that he thought he himself was gay before that. Later
that night he went to talk to his school mate who was 14 years old.
He asked him, “Are you homosexual?” and his school mate answered,
“Yes. I am.” and continued that he had had an affair with someone
for several months. The two decided to become lovers.
Like many people in Romania – straight or gay – they had no place
to go, so the started going to a remote corner of a local park in
their district. They met there every night for a week. After a week
someone saw them in the park and reported them to the parents of
the younger boy. The parents locked the boy up forcing him to report
that he had been raped.
C.M-S: What happened next?
Scott L.: Marion was arrested next day,
and taken to the local police station. He was beaten for several
hours on the hands and feet until he signed a confession. He was
convicted of homosexual acts, and of having sex with a minor. It
should be noted that the age of consent for heterosexual sex in
Romania is 14 and therefore the other boy was by heterosexual standards
not a minor – also Marian was virtually a minor himself being only
a18.) He was convicted of repeated sex acts with a minor, and of
rape. As Marian himself said, how could it be rape when it was repeated
over a period of a week. He was sentenced to 5 years with no possibility
of parole. We tried to ask him whether he had been assaulted by
other prisoners since we had been assured by the commandant of the
prison that rape never took place in his prison. Marian didn’t answer
but started to cry. I assume he has been repeatedly raped. I would
like to stress that he was sentenced for his first sexual experience,
and sentenced to five years I prison for it.
Now of the nine people we talked to in prison, 4 said they had
been severely beaten by the police in an attempt to extract confessions.
We also found evidence of the old tactic of using informers to
infiltrate the gay community. Someone named Ienil, who we spoke
to in Galati prison came from a small village outside Galati in
rural Moldavia. When he was 20 he went to another village to attend
a wedding. Sometime after midnight he was on his way back to the
house where he was staying when he was approached by another guest
at the wedding. The other guest was older - about 22 - and had been
in prison under Ceauscecu for homosexuality. He had been released
about 1988. he went up to Ienil and said, “Nice to see you this
evening. etc. ”Let’s go over into the park and have sex.” Ienil
countered that they could go back to the house where he was staying,
but the man said no he wanted to go into the park.
Ienil refused and finally went to the house alone. The next morning
he was wakened at 6 am., by the police who arrested him on the complaint
of the other man that Ienil had raped him. They claimed to have
testimony from a witness. They asserted that Ienil had physically
forced the other man to have sex. Ienil was sentenced to three years
prison. He claims he was beaten by the police until almost eight
at night. Ienil is extremely short-sighted. When I saw him in prison
he was wearing very thick glasses. It was obvious that he could
barely see at all. He is physically extremely scrawny and a passive
person – nervous and afraid. It was very difficult to imagine that
he could possibly force anyone to have sex with him – particularly
when you could basically disable him by taking – or knocking off
– his glasses.
It seemed more likely to us that the other person who had been
in prison until 1988, had been released on condition he turned informer.
When Ienil refused he simply transferred the placed of the alleged
assault back to where Ienil was staying and produced the same witness
who ”produced” a concocted account of the “crime”. Ienil is in
prison for 6 years – awaiting parole after 3 years. He is eligible
Conditions in Romanian prisons
Conditions in Romanian prisons are by and large terrible. They’re
extremely overcrowded. The prison system has beds for 30,000 and
there are 45,000 prisoners. In some prisons prisoners sleep two
in a bed – and yet some of the commandants keep on insisting that
there is no rape taking place in their prison. …. They keep reservoir
basins in each cell and there may be as many as 40 to 50 prisoners
in a cell. … We saw a cell hardly more than four by five meters
– that had over 40 prisoners in it. Some of them 2 to a bed. The
commandant told us that if a passive homosexual takes the drinking
cup and tries to dip it in the water to take a drink, the other
prisoners will beat him up for polluting the water.
The other case I would like to talk about is a case which happened
in Timesaora. In November 1992 a young boy of 17 named Cipron C.,
who comes from a small working class town outside Timesaora placed
an advert in a newspaper. The advert was answered by a man called
Marian L., who is 22. The two met and both by their accounts, fell
in love and moved in together. First they lived in with Marian’s
mother and then they moved to a hostel in the younger boy’s home
town. About two months later – in January someone reported them
to the police. They were held in preventive detention for nearly
two months before finally being charged with having homosexual sex.
The older boy is also charged with statutory rape, and having sex
with a minor – although it was the younger boy who initiated the
relationship by placing the advert in the newspaper. The minor is
charged with homosexual sex and they are facing a trial in May (1993).
We were simply appalled by what we found in Timesaora which has
the reputation for being one of the most liberal cities in Romania.
… But the police and prosecution are among the worst in Romania.
We were told this by the members of the press there, too. … We sat
for 6 hours in the prosecutors office trying to get permission to
talk to the two boys. We tried to find out why they were being held
in preventive detention.
The prosecutor told us, “We have reason to believe that the older
of the two has AIDS”. We asked if he was receiving medical attention.
The reply was no. We asked if the boy had seen a doctor. He said
no. We asked if he had been given an HIV test. He said “No. We don’t
have such facilities.” We protested, - “How can you possibly justify
saying to anyone, ‘We suspect him of having AIDS’, if he hasn’t
been given an HIV test?” The prosecutor replied that “the police
are qualified to make such judgements and we (the prosecutor) accept
The police journal in Timesaora about a month after the two were
arrested, published an article which included their names, their
addresses, a full lurid, account of the case, and even included
a photograph. This was before they had even been charged ! This
information was picked up by one of the national daily papers who
“broadcast” their names across the entire country – which is how
we first heard of the case. It is obvious that the police by spreading
these contemptible AIDS rumours, and by sensationalising the case
were trying pre-emptively to destroy the reputation of the two.
The new gay group in Romania, Group 200, (now deceased, C.M-S 2000)
which is committed to repeal of the law against homosexuality, has
persuaded the Helsinki Committee – probably the most respected internal
human rights agency in Romania – to hire private lawyers for the
two. The younger one has since been released from preventive detention,
but when I left Romania the older one was still under police arrest.
They have been formally charged, but when the case is brought to
trial the private lawyers will try to argue against the constitutionality
of the law against homosexuality. This is almost certainly the first
time that the legal rights of gays and lesbians have been defended
by anybody in a Romanian court. That at least is a step in the right
The government of Romania is very sensitive to international pressure
right now, and I think, would like to see the law repealed. However,
the government is dependent on the votes of right-wing parties in
Parliament. Every time they float a balloon over this issue, it
is shot down by the right-wingers. Two months ago a Romanian Senator
began raving that the law wasn’t strict enough, and that male homosexuals
should be put in women’s prisons and lesbians in men’s prisons so
that they could learn the joys of the opposite sex by force if necessary.
That’s the situation we are up against. On the other hand there
are some parliamentarians in the Committee on Minorities who are
interested in repealing the law. In particular there are two from
the Hungarian Party – the UDMR – who we have met several times.
They are very enthusiastic, very supportive, and it is good to have
them on our side. …I told them that if I had some information on
the comparative legal standards in Europe that I’d be happy to send
it to them as soon as I had it translated into Romanian. I went
back to Cluj, and in my flat gave this information to a Romanian
friend who is a student.
The next day he was called in by the Securitaté – or rather the
Department of Counter-Information, the Romanian Information Agency
which is the successor of the Securitaté, They told him he was now
part of a treasonous conspiracy between homosexuals and the Hungarians
to subvert the Romanian state. They threatened to tell his mother
that he was gay. They made threats about his mother’s job. … But
he was called in by the Securitaté a second time – “just a reminder
that we are watching you.” They watch everybody. No minority is
safe. The oppression and harassment of ethnic minorities, Hungarians,
gypsies and the remaining Romanian Jews, gets some coverage in the
world press. Sexual minorities are, however, in the same boat. Hungarians
and homosexuals to the Securitaté are an equal threat, and … in
their paranoid “mind-set” they see Hungarians and homosexuals as
on the same level of potential threat to the Romanian state. The
problems of the homosexual minority in Romania are as severe or
more so, as any other minority problem that the Council of Europe
is looking at.
C.M-S.: What is the general economic situation
Scott L.: The economic situation in Romania
is simply terrible. Ceausescu wrecked the country. Some Romanians
will tell you that nothing has changed since 1989 – that the government
is composed of the same people, that the same system is still in
place. I think that is nonsense. Before there was a monolithic elite
running the country and there was a monolithic system. The system
is not democratic now, by any means, but it’s not monolithic either.
Instead there are a lot of different power groups jockeying for
control and even within the Securitaté and the Army - probably
the most powerful groups – there are dissident factions.
The government is composed of former communists. They try to present
themselves in a moderate light, but in fact they are dependant in
parliament on both the extreme left – the Socialist Workers Party
– and the extreme right – the Party of Greater Romania – (which
is anti-Semitic) and the Party of Romanian National Unity – which
is anti-Hungarian. The PRNU is the political arm of a group called
the Vatero Romanasca (Romanian Cradle) which is basically an ideological
and political successor to the Legionnaires – the fascist movement
of the 1930s. The government oscillates between the extreme left
and the extreme right, and in the midst of the oscillation Securitaté
elements still control a good deal of the power structure of the
country. It’s a desperately poor country. Inflation is officially
150% - 250%, but is probably three times that. The government has
been delaying economic restructuring but the IMF is forcing them
on 1st May (1993) to take the “Yeltsin Solution” and
remove subsidies from everything. When that happens there will be
a good deal of social unrest and nobody knows exactly what will
happen. This is not a good government BUT there are worse governments
which could come into office. I’d prefer to be dealing with this
government on behalf of Romanian gays than with the potential right-wing
The right-wing strength
The real strength of the right-wing lies in the fact that between
1955/60 and the end of 1989 the whole social and economic structure
of the country was changed. It used to be a rural country and Ceausescu
simply imported people en masse from the countryside into the cities.
… They have been cut off from their traditional life-world, and
given nothing to replace it. They are cut off from their roots,
and will clutch at anything which will give them an illusion of
roots – or someone to blamed for their situation. That’s where the
real strength of the right comes from.
In Cluj we have a fanatical nationalist mayor who when he visited
a hospital clinic that does AIDS research, asked if they could develop
a virus that would kill off Hungarians! His support comes from Romanians
brought in from the countryside who are looking for somebody to
blame. So the Hungarians in Transylvania are the scapegoats, in
Moldavia and Wallachia it’s the Jews, and everywhere it is the Gypsies.
There are pogroms against Gypsies almost every week in Romania.
.. No-one speaks up for the Gypsies in Romania. Let me add, I am
far from endorsing the claims of the Hungarian nationalists. Istvan
Zurkei in Hungary is as bad or worse as the Mayor of Cluj. There
is a great deal of historical responsibility that hasn’t been faced
by the Hungarians, in terms of their own rule in Transylvanian history,
in sustaining a really very brutal feudal system longer than almost
anywhere else in Europe.
C.M-S.: So what can we do to help?
Scott L.: Write letters. Two weeks ago
the Romania Minister of Justice have us an interview in which he
said, “The law against homosexuals has not been repealed and this
seems to me entirely normal. If we let homosexuals do as they please,
it would mean entering Europe through the backside. Homosexuals
are our last problem.”
There are between half a million and two million homosexuals in
Romania. Gays and lesbians are one of the largest minorities and
NOT the last problem of the Romanian Government – and the minister
needs to be reminded of that. I would like people to contact their
own foreign ministries, to find out who their representatives are
at the Council of Europe, and try to get the to raise the treatment
of homosexuals in Romania as it applies for admission to the Council
of Europe – and integrates itself with the other European structures.
When we asked the two parliamentarians supporting the repeal of
Article 200 what is the most important thing, both said instantly,
Whenever foreign delegations come to Romania the need to ask about
homosexuals. When Romanian officials go abroad they need to be asked
about the situation of gay and lesbians. When Ilescu goes to France
or Germany somebody needs to be there to say, “What about homosexuals
in Romania?” He was interviewed on the BBC about two years ago in
a phone-in interview. Someone called in and asked about laws against
lesbians and gays in Romania. He replied “we don’t have lesbians
and gays in Romania.”
Who then are the people being prosecuted and imprisoned for homosexual