London, 21 May 2012
The Equal Rights Trust (ERT) has urged the government of the Republic of Moldova to call a halt to the process of adopting a draft Law on Equal Opportunities (the Draft Law). In a letter to Moldovan Prime Minister, Vlad Filat, of 17 May, ERT recommended critical amendments to the Draft Law in order to ensure that it is consistent with Moldova’s obligations under international law.
In particular, ERT’s letter expressed grave concerns over three changes made to the Draft Law since publication of the previous version, entitled the Law on Preventing and Combating Discrimination in October 2011. ERT’s concerns relate to:
- The removal of four protected characteristics – sexual orientation, health status, wealth and social origin – from Article 1(1) of the Draft Law, thereby excluding from the list of grounds on which discrimination is prohibited under Article 2. ERT’s letter states that, while none of these characteristics, except social origin, enjoys explicit mention under international instruments, each is a protected ground through authoritative interpretation and merits the same protection as other grounds in the Draft Law. Relying on the consistent practice of the UN Human Rights Committee, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the European Court of Human Rights, the letter states that sexual orientation and health status are protected under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights.
- The inclusion, in Article 1(2), of language stating that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. ERT argues that this provision is discriminatory on grounds of sexual orientation, in that it clearly disbars gay men, lesbians and bi-sexuals from concluding same-sex marriages. ERT notes that while there is no obligation on states to legislate to provide for same-sex marriage, Moldova is obligated to refrain from discriminating in law and action on grounds including sexual orientation.
- The inclusion, in Article 1(2), of a number of exceptions to the right to non-discrimination in respect of family life, adoption, and the activities of religious bodies and institutions. ERT argues that these exceptions are too broad to be consistent with the Declaration of Principles on Equality, which states that the right to equality, and therefore the right to non-discrimination which is subsumed within the right to equality, “applies in all areas of activity regulated by law”. The letter also notes that these exceptions are likely to be inconsistent with the interpretations of UN Treaty Bodies such as the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women which has explicitly criticised laws which exclude areas of personal laws such as marriage and adoption from the prohibition on discrimination.
Based on these concerns, ERT’s letter recommends that the government reverse these changes or withdraw the Draft Law completely, reverting instead to the previous draft. However, the letter also recommends that, should the government decide to revert to the previous draft, certain amendments based on ERT’s recommendations on earlier drafts of the law be retained: the inclusion of a provision on reasonable accommodation, the inclusion of a provision on compensation for material and moral damage and the extension of standing in discrimination cases to associations, trade unions and non-governmental organisations. The letter also urges the government to consider further amendments based on previous ERT recommendations, in order that the final law reflects current international law and best practice on equality.
To read ERT’s letter to Vlad Filat, Prime Minister of Moldova, click here.