This month, the National Democratic Institute is celebrating Pride! In support of NDI’s commitment to increasing the inclusion of marginalized populations in political processes, we’re highlighting the essential work of partners who are at the forefront fighting for greater levels of equality, shifting norms and perceptions, and reducing barriers to political participation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI+) communities.
NDI interviewed members of GENDERDOC-M, a partner in Moldova working to promote a favorable legislative, legal and social environment within society for LGBTQI+ communities, raising awareness among the public, advocating for LGBTQI+ human rights, and providing key services. GENDERDOC-M told us about adapting its activism and accomplishments during the pandemic and in the face of an environment that can be hostile to LGBTQI+ people.
What are some ways that LGBTQI+ people in your country are participating politically? What challenges or barriers to political participation remain?
GENDERDOC-M: In the Republic of Moldova, the level of homophobia in society does not allow LGBTQI+ people in politics to be open about their sexual orientation or gender identity.
How is your organization working to address these barriers/challenges and to eliminate discrimination against LGBTQI+ people in your country?
GENDERDOC-M: The organization works on reducing the level of homophobia in the country through informational campaigns, trainings and seminars on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and sex characteristics (SOGIESC), and creating conditions to increase the visibility of LGBT+ people. We publish Reports on the rights of LGBT+ people that are compiled every year and then sent to the interested organizations and representatives. Media monitoring is carried out to measure the number of homophobic and/or transphobic materials. We organize Moldova Pride Festival every year, including the Pride March, and our website and Facebook, Instagram, and Telegram channels are regularly updated with various materials on the topic of SOGIESC.
In recent years there have been restrictions on public gatherings and civic space in response to COVID-19. How is your organization reclaiming space this year and how have you adapted to new challenges or opportunities?
GENDERDOC-M: Due to the pandemic, we had to conduct most of the planned events, including the Pride Festival, online. The March was held in the format of an animated video, everyone who wanted to take part sent their photos, which were inserted into the animation video. A total of 144 people took part in the animated March.
This year, the Pride March will be organized offline, in the center of the city.
What does Pride mean to you and/or your organization?
GENDERDOC-M: The Pride March is the organization's most visible and most widely covered media event. It is the best opportunity to bring together the supporters of the organization and the LGBT+ community in Moldova. For the LGBT+ community, it is a unique opportunity to regain self-confidence and dignity, to overcome fears and internalized homo/bi/trans/queerphobia. Secondly, thanks to the dozens of materials in the press, the number of LGBT+ people who find out about the organization's existence and turn to us for support and help is constantly growing. The Pride March in Moldova is an act of courage and response to homophobic aggressors, who try to deprive LGBT+ people of equal rights, year after year. With the help of this March, we are sending them the message that aggressive methods and hatred are not working and that we are citizens with equal rights and we have the strength to take these rights on our own, without the agreement of the majority.
In the past year, can you briefly share a success story from your organization’s contribution to strengthening the LGBTQI+ movement in your country?
GENDERDOC-M: In 2021, for the first time, people started talking in public about homophobia in the army. Marin Pavlescu, an 18-year-old soldier at that time, was subjected to homophobic harassment and bullying, and a telephone conversation with his boyfriend was distributed among the military personnel of the base where he was stationed. The President of the Republic of Moldova, Maia Sandu, stated on the occasion: “We respect all citizens and must not allow abuses, especially in public institutions. I will also talk to the Minister about a future reform plan". The People's Advocate published a special report on the Marin’s Pavlescu case.
The report sets out several recommendations for the Ministry of Defense: The public military authorities must ensure dignified and non-discriminatory treatment, safety, and security of the enlisted persons. Any injury, trauma, or other serious incident caused during the performance of military service in peacetime on grounds of revenge, abuse, violence, or other forms of violence and punishment must be recorded, promptly, and effectively investigated and the perpetrators held accountable.
Due to the fact that this case was widely publicized in Moldova, the Ministry of Defense requested from the GENDERDOC-M Information Centre training for 23 psychologists from the national army.
Another case is linked unfortunately to a tragic event, a transgender teenager took her own life earlier this year. She was systematically bullied, and the numerous calls to school authorities, made by her mother before she contacted our organization, ended up leading to nothing. This outrageous case showed the need for urgent changes in the educational system. After the protest organized by GENDERDOC-M on April 15th, 2022 in front of the Ministry of Education, the Ministry addressed our protest with a proposal to start a collaboration and asked for our recommendations regarding the bullying against LGBT+ youth in schools and colleges. We suggested training a group of 38 trainers from the educational system who will be the multipliers of our training course on sexual orientation and gender identity for teachers in schools and colleges.
After this training course, GENDERDOC-M will continue to support and supervise the follow-up activities, provide tools, give consultation and participate in the future educational activities, if needed. Together with the Ministry of Education, we will design a guideline that will be a base for follow-up trainings held by the trainers.
GENDERDOC-M is funded through NDI’s Equal Rights in Action Fund, which supports local organizations around the world who work to promote and defend the human rights of marginalized groups.
NDI is a non-profit, non-partisan, non-governmental organization that works in partnership around the world to strengthen and safeguard democratic institutions, processes, norms and values to secure a better quality of life for all. NDI envisions a world where democracy and freedom prevail, with dignity for all.