Gay groups around the world have joined forces to launch a boycott of Romanian wine in protest at the country’s antigay laws. The boycott has been called by OutRage! and the International Lesbian and Gay Association.
The boycott has been called in response to the Romanian government’s decision to break its promise, given to the Council of Europe in 1993, to decriminalise homosexuality. The proposed new criminal code threatens to maintain prison sentences of between one and five years for private consensual homosexual acts. The new code could also ban gay bars, clubs, help lines, organisations, support services, and media, with prison sentences of up to five years for those who break the law.
The new law defines lesbian and gay sex as illegal if it causes “a public scandal”. Human rights groups in Romania have been told that any homosexual relationship that two or more people find offensive will be considered to have caused “a public scandal”. This means that any lesbian or gay relationship would be a criminal offence if two or more people were offended by it: thereby giving homophobes a free hand to render any and all homosexual relationships illegal.
Romanian wine is the country’s most visible consumer export, with total annual sales of 25 million litres. One company, Vinexport, accounts for 80% of all exports. ILGA plans to focus the campaignin the main export markets of Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, Japan, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Canada, Holland, Israel, Australia, Switzerland, and Poland.
Twenty gay activists from OutRage! and the Lesbian Avengers were violently ejected by security staff this evening after storming the stage of the Royal Albert Hall and halting the performance of “Aida” being staged by the Romanian National Opera with sponsorship from Romania’s Ministry of Culture and the nation’s London embassy.
The protesters sounded foghorns, shouted slogans and unfurled a 15 foot banner: “Romania! Stop Jailing Queers!”. Simultaneously, 1000 leaflets were hurled from the top balconies by fellow activists. Written in English and Romanian, the leaflets condemned Romania’s parliament for its “hatred, intolerance and disregard for human rights”.
The protest was against legislation currently before the Romanian parliament that threatens to maintain prison sentences of between one and five years for private, consensual homosexual acts. The proposed new law contravenes assurances given by Romania on its entry to the Council of Europe in 1993 that it would decriminalise homosexuality.
The proposed amendment to the Romanian penal code also includes a provision which criminalises homosexual “propaganda, association or other acts of proselytising”, banning homosexual organisations, support services, social services, and publications, and threatening organisers with up to five years in jail. Even the mere advocacy of homosexual human rights could be a criminal offence under these new laws.
This protest received worldwide media coverage, including in Romania. More than any previous action, it drew international attention to Romania’s abuse of lesbian and gay human rights and won OutRage! messages of thanks from homosexual rights groups in Romania.