The Republic of Moldova, located north east of Romania, is a small, impoverished nation hoping to join the European Union (EU). On November 29, the country overturned an anti-gay propaganda bill similar to Russia’s law, in order to come one step closer to becoming an EU member.
Despite recent reforms made by Moldova, they do not yet fit the criteria required to become a member of the EU. The “Copenhagen criteria” requires a country to have “achieved stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities, the existence of a functioning market economy as well as the capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union.”
Currently Moldova is one of the poorest nations in Europe and so their current economy does not prove eligible for EU status. On top of that, the nation’s human rights and protection of minorities has proven limited. Therefore, with the removal of the anti-gay propaganda laws, Moldova’s can remove another hurdle standing in the way.
For two decades, Moldova has struggled to identify itself as something other than a post-Soviet nation, so becoming a member of the EU will give them a chance to become a part of Europe in more than just name. They are the only country that reverted back to a Communist government between 2001 and 2009 but now the whole country is united in pursuing EU membership.
Unfortunately, Moldova’s dedication to reform has sparked threats from Russia to cut off their access to Russian gas and to ban Moldovan wine from Russia (one of the country’s most important exports). Russia has huge economic influence over Moldova, making their attempt to remove themselves from Russian pressure extremely difficult.
Not only that, but the removal of the anti-gay propaganda law has sparked controversy from the Moldovan Orthodox Church, which attempted to prevent government officials entering the parliamentary building.
The anti-gay propaganda bill, originally passed in June and pushed into action by the Orthodox Church, prohibited “propaganda,” which included but was presumably not limited to “homosexual, lesbian, transsexual, bisexual, pedophilic, zoophilic, incestuous, and perverse behavior.”
Priest Ghenadie Valuta told the AFP, “Today they are allowing this propaganda and tomorrow they will allow gay marriages.”
Moldova’s LGBT community has few to no civil rights, leaving them exposed to violence and verbal hatred both socially and politically on a regular basis.
At the end of September this year, a middle-aged Moldovan gay man was brutally attacked by two men who arranged a meeting with him through a gay dating website. The called him a faggot, stole his wallet and beat him. Minn Post reported that when the victim spoke with the police, he told them, “They started asking me all these degrading questions.”
Minn Post also reported that Igor Stoica, a program coordinator at Amnesty International Moldova said, “People in Moldova struggle to find work if they are openly gay, and they are afraid to go to the police if they are attacked because of the reaction they will get.”
There is also currently no recognition of same-sex unions—neither marriage nor civil partnerships.
If the police continue to show negligence for helping the LGBT community when they are physically and psychologically abused, it could be a long and slippery slope in the right direction.
However, with the removal of the anti-gay propaganda law, even if only to gain a place in the EU, hopefully this can be a forward step for Moldova’s social progression as well as a step backward for Russia’s influence over the country.