Eight years ago Anastasia Danilova moved from Russia to Moldova to be with her girlfriend. It was a difficult time in her life and she was often anxious. As a lesbian, she didn’t know anything about her rights and therefore she was subjected to discrimination from the authorities.
“I thought everyday with my girlfriend would be the last. I felt defenceless.”
At the Register office, where Anastasia had to register regularly as a foreigner, she was threatened by the officers. One time an officer threw her passport in her face. Another time, a policeman stopped her in the street near her girlfriend’s house and took her passport. He told her to leave the country if she didn’t want to get into trouble. Later, she sued the policeman and after two months he was charged for authority abuse.
Through the only LGBT organisation in Moldova and Civil Rights Defenders longterm partner, GENDERDOC-M, Anastasia and her girlfriend got professional support in a complicated divorce process that Anastasia’s girlfriend was going through with a homophobic, violent man. Anastasia recalls when she first found out about GENDERDOC-M:
“I was scared at that time. The support I got from GENDERDOC-M was amazing. I decided I wanted to be part of this organisation because they had helped me so much. The atmosphere was really good and I got the feeling they truly respect human values.”
After becoming a volunteer for the organisations women’s programme, Anastasia quickly became one of the staff members. Since then, she has seen the LGBT community rapidly develop into a successful movement. Today, as the Executive Director of GENDERDOC-M, Anastasia can see that the situation was worse back then.
“We still have a lot of work to do but at least people speak about these issues today. Compared to a few years ago, LGBT issues are now widely discussed in the media.”
She believes that her experience as a victim of discrimination makes her a better defender of other people’s rights:
“I know how it feels when your rights are being violated.”
After living in fear during the first year in the country, Anastasia is now more comfortable when contacting the authorities. It is not often people in the street threaten her but she admits that she is not always open about her sexual orientation.
“When I make public speeches I do not say that I am a lesbian, I say I am a human rights defender.”
In May 2008, Anastasia and the other pride-participants experienced great fear when the police stood by, doing nothing, as homophobic crowds, including extremist religious groups and members of the neo-fascist movement ‘New Right’, surrounded the participant’s bus on its way to a peaceful demonstration. The hooligans tried to open the door and violently hit the windows while shouting “Let’s get them out and beat them up”.
Later the same day, a dozen people surrounded the office of GENDERDOC-M and threatened the staff and pride-participants hiding in their office. The day before, the Mayor of Chisinau had banned the peaceful demonstration in support of adoption of the anti-discrimination bill.
”We were blocked in the bus without any support from the police. The policemen were near us but they did not react. It was unacceptable, I thought we would die.”
Anastasia feels that the cooperation with the police has improved since then. At this year’s Pride festival, three policemen guarded the events.
“Now, when I know about my rights, I am not afraid of them anymore. When someone sees that you are afraid, they will use your fear against you. “
Anastasia says she is very proud to be part of the team of 13 people that work together at GENDERDOC-M.
“They are brave and strong.”
Her personal experience of being discriminated drives her to continue her work for human rights.
“I think it is my nature. I am ready to stand up for anybody’s rights, even of those who fight us, like religious minorities. I believe in justice, and equality is a prerequisite for justice.”
The situation for LGBT people in Moldova is extremely difficult; very few dare to be open about their sexual orientation and those who dare meet widespread ignorance.
“One of our most important tasks is to inform people about their rights. Before they learn about their rights they cannot protect themselves. We motivate people to protect their rights and increase their dignity.”
Through Internet campaigns GENDERDOC-M reaches out to young people and performs surveys on attitudes against LGBT people. One of their awareness raising campaigns is directed to university students, but it is impossible to reach out to schools.
“We don’t have access to schools because LGBT people are seen as paedophiles by the Moldovan Orthodox Church. The church is very powerful in Moldova and the government uses religion to manipulate the public.”
In may 2012, on the government’s promise of a rapid adoption of a comprehensive anti-discrimination law in Moldova, the Pride organisers cancelled the equality march that was planned in order to avoid public opinion against the law. Instead of a peaceful demonstration, a round table discussion with civil society actors and the Minister of Justice was held. Three days before the round table, the bill was changed and sexual orientation as a ground protected from discrimination was excluded. The new proposal was renamed “Law on equality of chances”.
When hearing the news, Anastasia and her colleagues felt that the government had deceived them. Human rights organisations in Moldova had been fighting for the anti-discrimination law for many years and this was a great disappointment.
“We cannot accept that people who we have helped for all these years will remain without protection. We shall stand up and fight discrimination”, Anastasia said at the Pride festival.
The adoption of a comprehensive law against discrimination is, according to Anastasia, the most important objective for the LGBT movement in Moldova, but no less challenging is its implementation.
Despite all the obstacles in the fight for human rights in Moldova, Anastasia sees a positive future:
“My sexual orientation is no more or less important part of my personality than any other. I wish to live in a world where people are different. Diversity and equality are the most important things.”
The GENDERDOC-M Information Centre is the only non-governmental organisation that actively advocates for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Moldova. Through our cooperation with GENDERDOC-M we combat discrimination and change discriminatory practices. Over the years we have together increased awareness and access to information on LGBT issues, both to the community and wider. A crucial tool in raising the visibility of the LGBT-community and their rights in Moldova is the arranging of the Rainbow over the Dniester’ Pride Festival, which GENDERDOC-M has organized for 11 years and which Civil Rights Defenders always takes part in.
On May 25, 2012, the Moldovan parliament adopted a Law on Ensuring Equality, in which sexual orientation is only explicitly mentioned as a ground for discrimination in the workplace.
Bio: Anastasia Danilova
Born 9 April 1983 in Novocheboksarsk, Chuvashia republic, Russian Federation.
Anastasia is the Executive director of GENDERDOC-M Since 2010.
She has previously worked as a coordinator of the Women’s program at GENDERDOC-M.
She is educated in Industrial Electronics (Microelectronics) at Chuvashia I.Ulianov State University.
Graduated from Art School in Novocheboksarsk in 1998.
Anastasia is interested in civil activism and human rights, PC and programming, design,
carving, contemporary literature and photography.
Human rights at risk in Moldova
The human rights problems in Moldova are clearly visible in the considerable amount of cases against Moldova before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg. Until December 31 2011 more than 7.400 applications have been submitted against Moldova. Of these 227 judgements were delivered. Moldova was only found not responsible for violation in one case. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe frequently criticizes Moldova’s delay in executing the judgements issued by ECtHR.
The Moldovan Constitution guarantees freedom of expression and media freedom, but the shortcomings in this field have been many throughout the years. In 2009 a decline in press freedom and democracy was recorded in Moldova, related to what happened in connection to the elections in April. From 2010 the situation has continued to improve and two laws promoting freedom of expression have been adopted (the Law on Freedom of Expression and the Law on the Denationalization of Public Periodical Publications). Civil society was deeply involved in the development of both laws. But despite the progress made, violations against press freedom continue to occur and media continue to be subject of intimidations and threats.
Corruption within the police and judiciary continues to be a problem. Moldova was ranked 89 out of 180 countries surveyed in Transparency International’s 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index and fell to number 105 in 2010.
In Transnistria, a breakaway territory of Moldova, the human rights situation continues to be serious with basic rights of the inhabitants being violated on a daily basis. The civil society is weak and access to information and freedom of expression continue to be limited. Torture, arbitrary arrests and unlawful detentions are regularly reported, and Transnistrian authorities continue to harass independent media and opposition lawmakers.
Every third person in Moldova believes that discrimination has increased the last five years, according to a sociological study made by Soros Foundation Moldova. In May 2011 the UN Committee for Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights concluded that Moldova has systematic problems with discrimination of Roma, sexual minorities, HIV/AIDS patients and people with disabilities.
The Moldovan government adopted an anti-discrimination law in February 2011, but it was later withdrawn from the parliament with the argument that the issue of discrimination is sensitive and that the law needs to be further examined. The public debate preceding the parliamentary process almost exclusively focused on the protection of sexual minorities and not on the fact that the law would ban discrimination on many grounds, thereby guaranteeing equal rights of all Moldovan citizens. Derogatory statements addressed at LGBT-persons were frequently used by public figures. On May 25, 2012, the Moldovan parliament adopted a Law on Ensuring Equality, in which sexual orientation is only explicitly mentioned as a ground for discrimination in the workplace.
Read more in our Country report: Human rights in Moldova
Population: 3.5 million (UN, 2011)
Life expectancy: 66 years (men), 73 years (women)
President: Nicolae Timofti
Other: Following the collapse of the Soviet Union (USSR) in 1991 Moldova became an independent republic. Before 1940 the region called Transnistria was an autonomous area within Ukraine but was incorporated in Moldova during the formation of new Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic. During Transnistria’s fight for independence in the last years before the collapse of the USSR hundreds of people died. Today Transnistria is only recognized by three other countries and exists in a sort of limbo.
Source: BBC News Moldova country profileCategories: Uncategorized.
Tags: Anastasia Danilova, GenderDoc-M, LGBT, Moldova, and Pride.
Campaigns: Human rights defenders in focus.