After the government threatened to investigate parents who took their children to anti-corruption rallies in Bucharest, activists defied them by announcing they will hold new demonstrations with their youngsters.
By Ana Maria Touma
Romanian activists have announced they will take to the streets with their children on Saturday and Sunday in response to government threats to fine them for allegedly putting their youngsters in danger by bringing them to previous demonstrations.
The National Authority for Child Protection announced on Thursday that bit had received 29 complaints against parents who took their children to Bucharest’s Victoria Square to join mass protests against a government plan to relax anti-corruption legislation and decriminalise official misconduct.
Labour Minister Olguta Vasilescu said the parents should be investigated and fined because she argued that it is against the law to bring children to a political demonstration.
Vasilescu said that the law stipulates that in the case of demonstrations intended to “do something to the state authorities”, children cannot attend.
The first children’s march against corruption was held on February 6, but protesters continued to bring their youngsters along to the anti-corruption demonstrations which took place every day, arguing that they were teaching their offspring the principles of citizenship.
Children’s rights NGOs argued that international law allows this, and accused Vasilescu of pressurising the protesters.
It also accused her of using the Child Protection Authority for political purposes, because one of the 29 complaints was against the head of the Save Romania Union party, Nicusor Dan.
“Yes, I took my child to the protest. I did that when it was warm enough to take her, to be sure she was safe. We went by car, she was always in our care,” Dan said in response to the compaint.
“I never intended to get anything out of it. It’s absurd,” he added.
The executive director of the Children’s Rights NGO Federation, Daniela Gheorghe, said that parents taking their children to a peaceful protest should be the Child Protection Authority’s least concern.
“Why don’t we have an investigation into children abused by families, into school dropouts who leave school because they have to walk through snow in the winter to get to school, into children whose parents left the country?” Gheorghe asked.
The sudden focus on children attending the protests is just another way for the government to harass the demonstrators, commentator Malin Bot wrote in the Romania Libera newspaper.
“Many of the parents offered a lesson in civic [values] and civilisation to their children and they have been praised around the world for it,” Bot said.
Civic activist Oana Dobre Dimofte, who took her daughter to the protests, also condemned Vasilescu’s comments.
“[The protests] were not as risky as a visit to Disneyland or Brussels or the Christmas Fair in Berlin these days. We live in an age when millions of parents must decide how scared they are for their children and if they should allow this fear to paralyse their will to have a normal life,” Dimofte wrote on her blog.
Save the Children Romania released a statement meanwhile saying that international conventions allow children to participate in demonstrations or protests as long as the events are peaceful.
The organisers of this weekend’s protests complained that politicians were being allowed to get away with fraud, but demonstrators could be prosecuted for taking their children to an anti-fraud demonstration.
“It’s the children’s right to be beside their parents, to see the problems in society, their parents’ problems, and to participate in a lesson in good citizenship,” the organisers wrote on Facebook.