December 14, Geneva, United Nations. Equality and Human Rights Action Centre (ACTEDO) presented its report for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on the evolution of human rights in Romania in the past 5 years. ACTEDO addressed the issue of the access to justice of vulnerable groups, as well as sexual and reproductive health and rights, and made 7 specific recommendations to the Romanian state, including to regulate and encourage pro bono lawering, to create integrated services for survivors of sexual violence (which would include medical and forensic assistance, psychological and legal counseling), and to introduce mandatory sexuality education in schools.
To this day Romania has not implemented the recommendations issued by other UN member states in 2013, at the previous UPR session, regarding the improvement of the access to justice of vulnerable groups, the creation of a national strategy on sexual and reproductive health and rights, and the introduction of sexuality education in schools. ACTEDO underlined that this is a cause for concern given the structural obstacles in the Romanian justice system faced by vulnerable groups, particularly Roma, women victims of violence and people with disabilities: among others, lack of financial means (in 2014, almost 40% of the Romanian population was at risk of poverty and social exclusion), discrimination and secondary victimisation which results from the interaction with state institutions. In addition, despite the fact that Romania has the highest percentage of teenage mothers in the EU (in 2015, 12.3% of first births were to girls aged 10 to 19) and that 55% of Romanians consider that rape is justified in certain circumstances, the overwhelming majority of young people do not have access to sexuality education.
"UPR offers UN Member States and nongovernmental institutions the opportunity to critically evaluate the progresses or regresses made by states in protecting and enforcing the fundamental rights of all citizens, in accordance with international obligations. We are convinced that the recommendations made by ACTEDO to Romania are meant to positively impact the lives of vulnerable individuals, but this cannot turn into reality unless human rights become a priority for the Romanian state", declared Alexandra Columban, Associate Member of ACTEDO.
UPR is a mechanism of the UN Human Rights Council, whose purpose is to monitor human rights in all UN member states, once every 5 years. Romania will be evaluated in January 2018. The UPR Pre-session took place in Geneva, between the 12th and the 14th of December, and was dedicated to nongovernmental organisations from the states which will be under review at the beginning of next year.
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