Several thousand LGBT+ people and their allies proudly marched for Bucharest Pride on Saturday (14 August), the first since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
An estimated 8,000 people walked the streets of the Romanian capital waving colourful flags, blowing whistles and attempting to resume the spirit of Pride after last year’s event was cancelled.
Teodora Ion-Rotary, executive director of LGBT+ rights group ACCEPT Association, told the Associated Press that Bucharest Pride “remains a protest that asks for the very basics”.
She said: “The march asked for protection from violence, protection from discrimination, protection from being fired for your sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Although Romania joined the European Union in 2007 and is subject to the EU’s laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, state protections often don’t stretch far enough.
Additionally, anti-LGBT+ sentiment is rife in Romania, evidenced by approximately 100 far-right opponents holding a counter protest in Bucharest just hours before the Pride parade began.
A number of LGBT+ people and their families spoke on stage at the Pride event on Saturday to discuss their experiences and their journeys towards acceptance.
Speaking to Reuters, Daria, 16, said: “We have a long way to go as a country until we come to accept everyone.”
Luca Istodor, whose parents spoke about the difficulties LGBT+ people face in Romania, told the Associated Press: “I’m hoping that my parents’ speech on stage will be heard by other parents. It’s about loving your children for who they are.”
Bucharest Pride comes ahead of planned legislation to ban “gay propaganda” in schools being reintroduced when parliament reconvenes in September.
The legislation is being pushed through by lawmakers from two different parties – the junior ruling coalition ethnic Hungarian party (UDMR) and the nationalist Alliance for Uniting Romanians (AUR), both of whom argue for “traditional family values”.
Riot police fined the organisers of Bucharest Pride for exceeding the number of participants allowed at protests. Organisers are challenging the fine.
A 2019 poll by Eurobarometer found that only 38% of Romanians agree that gay, lesbian, and bisexual people deserve the same rights as straight people whereas 54% of Romanians disagreed, and 8% of Romanians were unsure.
In addition to this being the first Pride since 2019, the 2021 event also marked 20 years since Romania decriminalised homosexuality. However, the country still bans marriage and civil partnerships for same-sex couples.