Thousands marched in the Romanian capital Saturday to demand equal rights for gender and sexual minorities as fears rise over a draft law to ban discussing homosexuality and gender transition in schools.
Among the crowd, 37-year-old Catalin Enescu had come with his wife and two young daughters, both dressed in rainbow-coloured dresses.
“It’s my first time taking part in a march like this, but it’s important to be here because the rights of LGBTQ people are no longer respected,” he said.
Romania decriminalised homosexuality in 2001, but same-sex couples are not allowed to marry or enter into civil partnerships.
Activists are worried about a draft law, put forward by lawmakers from Romania’s Hungarian minority, to prohibit educational material that discusses homosexuality and gender transition in schools.
The senate earlier this year passed the bill, though it still has to be put to a vote in the lower house.
The proposal is similar to legislation that came into force last year in neighbouring Hungary.
Organisers said 15,000 people came out to demand equality at the Bucharest Pride, under the heavy supervision of police.
It came after around 200 people, several brandishing Orthodox Christian icons earlier in the day responded to a call by far-right party Noua Dreapta for a counter-protest.
“The fact that pride celebrations are bigger and bigger while right-wing groups are smaller and smaller is a positive sign,” said Tor-Hugne Olsen, of the International Planned Parenthood Federation.
“But it’s challenging that we see many proposals in parliament that are reducing the rights of the LGBT and other sexual health issues.”
Oana Baluta, another protester and a professor at the University of Bucharest, said she feared what would happen if the bill were passed into law in the EU country.
“If it is adopted, this draft law — which is contrary to European Union norms — would deal a grave blow to the freedom of expression and rights of LGBTQ people,” she said.
“It would set a dangerous precedent, because we would then risk also being banned from the right to discuss abortion and sexual education,” she said.
Romania has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancies in Europe. Abortions are legal, but access to them has become increasingly difficult.