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News 05 Feb 18

Protest Against AIDS Movie Sparks Fears in Romania

Protesters interrupted a screening of a French AIDS drama in Bucharest, claiming it violates traditional Romanian values, causing concerns about further intimidation among the country’s LGBT community.

Ana Maria Luca
Romanian LGBT protest in Bucharest. Photo:George Calin/Inquam Photos.

Members of the Romanian LGBT community expressed renewed concerns over increasing harassment and intimidation after a group of Romanian right-wing activists interrupted the screening of a French AIDS activism film on Sunday evening.  

A group of people carrying Orthodox icons and chanting anti-LGBT slogans entered the Bucharest Romanian Peasant Museum cinema where 2017 Cannes prize-winning drama ‘BPM (Beats per Minute)’ was being screened.

The protesters sang Romania’s national anthem and went onto the stage carrying banners with slogans such as “Romania is not Sodom and Gomorrah”.

They said that it was “inadmissible” that a movie about homosexuality to be screened. The film tells the story of activists who campaigned for access to AIDS treatment in France in the 1990s.

Award-winning Romanian director Tudor Giurgiu, who was in the audience, posted a video of the right-wingers’ incursion on Facebook.

“I never thought this would happen to me… We listened to religious songs and I still feel it is surreal that this can happen today in Romania,” he wrote.

“I suggest that from now on, cinemas screening ‘gay movies’ have protective suits, helmets, shields and so on,” he added.

According to LGBT rights organisations, Sunday’s protest is far from being an isolated incident, but part of a wider trend over the past two years.

They said it started when the church backed the Coalition for the Family NGO collective’s campaign to change Romania’s constitution so that it would include the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman. If adopted, the move would ban same-sex marriage.

The Coalition for the Family managed in 2015 to raise the three million signatures necessary to submit a bill to change the constitution to the Romanian parliament.

The bill has passed the Senate and is now waiting to be debated by the lower chamber. If it passes, Romania will have to organise a plebiscite within 30 days.

“The number of people calling us and asking for help after being assaulted on the street has increased. There is an increase in physical violence against LGBTQ people, we also have a colleague who was threatened with death in 2017,” Vlad Viski, executive director of Romanian LGBT rights group Mosaiq, told BIRN.

“In general, there is a lot of hate speech against LGBTQ people in the public sphere,” Viski added.

Members of the LGBT community told BIRN that incidents like Sunday’s protest are intimidating because the authorities take no action afterwards, effectively encouraging others.

There was a similar incident at the same museum in 2013 at a screening of ‘The Kids are Alright’, one of the first mainstream movies to show a married lesbian and bisexual couple raising two teenagers.

“This is not just about a couple of movies, you know. I am practically afraid to walk on the street in Bucharest,” Claudiu, 25, told BIRN, asking for his name to be changed for safety reasons. 

“I am going to leave this country in a few months. I want to have a normal life, I want to feel free,” he added.

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