On Tuesday, June 16, 2020, the Romanian upper chamber, the Senate, adopted Law no. 87/2020, which modifies and completes the National Education Law (NEL) / 2011. Given that NEL is an organic law, the Senate is the decision-making chamber, in this case. Consequently, the current Art. no. 7 from NEL/2011 would have the following content:
“Art. no. 7 – (1) In the educational units and institutions and in all spaces meant for education and professional training, including units offering extracurricular education, [the following] are forbidden:
- Activities breaching norms of morality;
- Activities that might endanger the health and physical or mental integrity of children and youth, as well as teaching, auxiliary, and non-teaching staff;
- Activities of a political nature;
- Religious proselytism;
- Activities aimed at spreading the gender identity theory or opinion, understood as the theory or opinion that gender is a different concept from that of biological sex and that the two are not always identical;
- Activities that infringe upon the principles specified in Art. No. 3.”
The legislative proposal was recorded on November 11, 2019 to the Chamber of Deputies.
It received the following clean bills: Opinion from the Legislative Council (November 20, 2019); Opinion from the Economic and Social Council (December 3, 2019); Opinion from the Committee on the Judiciary, Discipline, and Immunities (December 17, 2019).
It received rejection reports from the Committee on Human Rights, Cults, and National Minority Issues (December 3, 2019); from the Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men (December 10, 2019); from the Committee on Education, Science, Youth, and Sports (advisory status).
On February 11, 2020, it was tacitly adopted by the Chamber of Deputies because of exceeding the 45-days time limit for registering it for debate (according to the Constitution, Art. no. 75, Para. (2), 3rd sentence).
On February 12, 2020, it was registered to the Senate for debate.
It received a clean bill from the Committee on Human Rights, Cults, and National Minority Issues; and a negative report from the Committee on Education, Science, Youth, and Sports.
On May 19, 2020, the Senate sent the bill back to the Committee on Education, Science, Youth, and Sports, asking for an additional report.
While its first report was negative, the Committee on Education, Science, Youth, and Sports elaborated on June 10, 2020 a positive report with four amendments.
On June 16, 2020, it is recorded on the legislative agenda and put to the vote on the same day (no. of votes: YES = 81; NO = 22; abstentions = 27).
As such, the law is thereby adopted by the Romanian Parliament, and it is due to be sent to the President in order to be enacted.
The President has the right under the Constitution to turn the bill back to the Parliament once, with comments for reviewing. The version that will be voted in the Parliament and sent back to the President can no longer be returned, but will automatically be enacted.
The law can be challenged at the Constitutional Court.
According to the Romanian Constitution:
Art. no. 146. 1). The Constitutional Court has the following prerogatives : a) it shall decide upon the constitutionality of laws, before enacting them, following the referral by either the President of Romania, one of the presidents of the two Chambers, the Government, the High Court of Cassation and Justice, the Romanian Ombudsman, from a number of at least 50 Deputies or at least 25 Senators, as well as ex officio, upon initiatives to review the Constitution ; b) it shall decide upon the constitutionality of treaties or other international agreements, following the referral by either one of the presidents of the two Chambers, of a number of at least 50 Deputies or at least 25 Senators ;
2). In cases of unconstitutionality with regards to the law, before enacting them, the Parliament is required to reexamine those provisions in order to adjust them to the decision of the Constitutional Court.
Starting with June 16, there were numerous reactions both on social media and in legacy media, nationally as well as internationally. At the national level, five universities have issued public statements against adopting this law : Babes-Bolyai University (Cluj-Napoca), the University of Bucharest (Bucharest), the National University of Political Studies and Public Administration (Bucharest), Lucian Blaga University (Sibiu), West University (Timisoara) (the motives are quite diverse, some universities only talk about defending the freedom of expression/ thought/ academic freedom and university autonomy, while others explicitly stand for gender studies).
The National Alliance of Student Organizations in Romania (ANOSR) and the Students’ National Council (CNE) have strongly condemned the adoption of this bill.
This notwithstanding, several academic issued statements in defense of the law, considering that gender studies are mere intellectual imposture, or accusing those who teach in these programmes of activism, ideologisation, lack of scientific support or knowledge, and so on.
Unfortunately, this event has not occurred in isolation. Several recent situations in Romania may be classified as anti-gender (Kuhar and Paternotte 2017), and they echo similar developments across the region in which gender studies and academic freedom have come under attack. Consequently, we deem the unfolding situation in Romania extremely troubling, which demands immediate action.
With this in mind, we want to urge the international academic community to take a stand and support:
- Efforts to dismiss the Law no. 87/2020.
- The need to organize debates within universities to prevent forms of bullying and symbolic violence that professors, researchers, graduate students, and undergraduate students who work on subjects related to gender studies are subjected to.
- The consolidation of the academic status of gender studies, which are listed in the curricula of the most important international universities and benefit, at the European level, of special lines of funding in calls for research proposals.
Ionela Băluță, University of Bucharest