August 14, 2023

ACTEDO Activity Report 2022

"After two extremely difficult years caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the year 2022 did not allow Romania to thoroughly recover, but, on the contrary, commenced with Russia's war against Ukraine, a war that led to a refugee crisis and an energy crisis both in Romania and across Europe. In order to support people fleeing the war in Ukraine, ACTEDO has expanded its scope and provided pro bono legal assistance to refugees with the help of our collaborating lawyers in the country, members of The Pro Bono Network for Human Rights.

In 2022, the shrinking of civil space and social and political polarisation was more pronounced than ever, with many fundamental rights under stringent attack from conservative and populist factions in society. Particularly targeted by these have been and continue to be actions and policies for gender equality and LGBTI+ protection, attacks brought together under the umbrella of the anti-gender movements. Both ACTEDO and other feminist NGOs have been labelled as promoters of so-called "gender ideology", "gender theories" and "sexo-Marxism" in the past year. Detractors are representatives of fundamentalist and religious groups, as well as reactionary sections in a society, whose agenda includes restricting abortion and reproductive rights, banning sex education, reinforcing traditional, patriarchal gender roles, and increasing the influence of religious and conservative actors in society. Moreover, they have considerable financial resources at their disposal.1 These anti-gender movements are therefore not spontaneous eruptions, geographically and culturally confined in the societies in which they manifest themselves but are well-orchestrated and well-financed strategies that follow an almost identical "recipe" in North and Latin America, Europe, and Russia. They associate themselves with the populism of far-right parties and the discourse of the Catholic, Orthodox Christian, and/or Evangelical Churches and present feminist and LGBTI+ rights activism as a threat to the "normal and natural order of things", to the sexual differentiation of individuals and gender complementarity, to the traditional family model, to public morality and so on. 2

The attacks against ACTEDO came as a result of the projects implemented by our organization in 2022, projects that focused on gender equality and non-discrimination against minorities, including LGBTI+: EGALIS: Gender Equality through Education and Social Change and FEMPOWER: Giving a Voice to Queer Women. For example, the publication in September 2022 by ACTEDO and partner organizations in the Coalition for Gender Equality of a handbook for middle and high school teachers on gender mainstreaming and teaching gender equality in the classroom sparked controversy at a national level. The handbook, its authors, and the organizations they represent have been the target of hatred and a smear campaign: public events organized by us have been boycotted or vehemently criticized by representatives of the Parents' Alliance, teacher of religion, priests and pastors, AUR deputies (a far-right party in Romania); hate articles have been published on ultra-conservative and fake news websites; petitions have been filed with school inspectorates and the Ministry of Education against the handbook, despite its non-compulsory character, etc. What the publication is criticized for - in different terms, of course - is that it seeks to shape an inclusive society in which girls, women, LGBTI+ people, and other minorities are not discriminated against and that it deconstructs patriarchal and unequal family models.

These virulent attacks come at a time when LGBTI+ people continue to be the targets of discrimination, hate speech, and hate crimes and are insufficiently protected by law: according to ILGA Europe, in 2022, Romania had a legal protection score of 18% for this minority (where 100% means full protection).3 An annual report4 by the same organization indicates that 2022 was the most violent year for LGBTI+ people in the last decade. Opposition to gender equality policies and the protection of sexual minorities was also visible at the legislative level in Romania in 2022 as in previous years,5 when the political party UDMR submitted a draft amendment to Law 272/2004 on child protection to define a child's identity as being formed by sex, a proposal that introduces the right to sex and opposes "the dissemination by any means of content concerning deviation from the sex established at birth or the popularization of sex change or homosexuality"6.

Despite the hostile context, ACTEDO continued to work for the protection of the fundamental rights of all vulnerable people, successfully implementing five projects in 2022.

Through The Pro Bono Network for Human Rights, with the support of collaborating lawyers across the country, in 2022 we supported 31 people in vulnerable situations to have effective access to justice. The human rights violations that ACTEDO was involved in last year were in areas as diverse as domestic violence, workplace harassment, discrimination, wage rights, disability misclassification, physical assault in public spaces, etc.

In the project INTEGRIS: Integrated Support for Human Rights, with the support of the partner Centre for Legal Resources (CRJ), in 2022 we organized anti-discrimination and equal opportunities training for 90 specialists from all over the country. We also ran an advocacy campaign to improve the access to justice for vulnerable groups in Romania, which included a report on the main barriers in the field and a proposal for a legislative amendment to explicitly regulate and encourage pro bono lawyering.

At the same time, within the project EGALIS: Gender Equality through Social Change and Education, coordinated by the Centre for Partnership for Equality - CPE, ACTEDO contributed to the creation of the above-mentioned handbook for teaching and integrating gender equality in schools. The handbook is aimed at teachers at the secondary and high school level, regardless of the subject taught, and contains both theoretical and legal concepts, as well as suggestions for exercises and worksheets in class. We have organized training sessions for teachers on gender equality, as well as two round tables and other advocacy activities for the integration of gender equality in the curriculum and teaching materials. We have also published a guide for writing complaints to the National Council for Combating Discrimination and filed three such petitions to NCCD on gender-based discrimination. Also in 2022, we organized a WikiGap Hackathon: a Wikipedia editing workshop in Cluj-Napoca, where, under our guidance, students and volunteers created content in Romanian about various female historical figures and feminist topics.

The fourth project implemented last year was FEMPOWER: Giving a Voice to Queer Women, coordinated by PRIDE Romania Association, aimed at contributing to the fight against intersectional discrimination of LBT+ women. Our association's involvement in the project consisted in organizing legal workshops for queer women to help them better know their rights, as well as training sessions for specialists in anti-discrimination and gender equality, and equal opportunities.

Last but not least, ACTEDO was involved in the project CLEAR-Rights: Enhancing Legal Support for Children in Europe, coordinated by Terre des hommes Hungary, where we set up a pro bono legal aid center for children in conflict with the law in Romania.

As in previous years, the main source of revenue for our projects was Active Citizens Fund Romania, a program funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway through EEA Grants 2014-2021. Our team counted a total of 5 employees, with different rules, as well as a number of legal and communication volunteers.

The year 2022 was a difficult one, in which civil society was marked by instability and weakened by virulent and coordinated attacks from conservative and reactionary socio-political factions. In this context, the role of non-governmental organizations as defenders of fundamental rights and solidarity and mobilization from the general public to protect democratic values and institutions are all the more important, since, as Martin Luther King said, "an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere".

                                                                                                                                       Alexandra Columban

                                                                                                                                       Executive Director

                                                                                                                                       May 2023"

Read the full report here.

Website-ul ACTEDO a fost actualizat în cadrul proiectului INTEGRIS: Sprijin integrat pentru drepturile omului, derulat de Centrul de Acțiune pentru Egalitate și Drepturile Omului (ACTEDO), în parteneriat cu Centrul de Resurse Juridice (CRJ), proiect care beneficiază de o finanțare în valoare de 197.716,41 euro prin programul Active Citizens Fund România, finanțat de Islanda, Liechtenstein și Norvegia prin Granturile SEE 2014-2021. Conținutul acestui website nu reprezintă în mod necesar poziția oficială a Granturilor SEE și Norvegiene 2014-2021. Pentru mai multe informații accesați Informații despre Active Citizens Fund România sunt disponibile la

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