New National Agency for Equal Opportunities

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Romania’s National Agency for Equal Opportunities for Women and Men (ANES), established on 1 January 2005, commenced operations on 1 March. The new 2004 Equal Opportunities Law, whose regulations give employer and trade union organisations the necessary capabilities to promote a gender policy and to resolve cases of discrimination, provided for the setting up of this ground-breaking institution.

Provisions of the new law

On 19 August 2004, the government of Romania passed Ordinance no. 84, which modifies the 2002 law on equal opportunities for women and men (Equal Opportunities Law) RO0312102F. In February 2005, a revised version of the Equal Opportunities Law was published, including all amendments and additions.

The newly created legal framework transposes EU Directive no. 76/207/EEC of 9 February 1976, with the amendments and additions brought about by European Parliament and EU Directive 2002/73/CE of 23 September 2002 on implementing the principle of equal treatment for women and men in the field of employment, professional training and working conditions.

The law defines the terms of direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and sexual harassment. It promotes and regulates the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment between women and men in three broad areas:

  • in the workplace;
  • in access to education, healthcare, culture and information;
  • in terms of participation in decision-making.

The innovative quality of the law is reflected predominantly in its emphasis on employment, as it stipulates additional responsibilities on the part of employers:

  • company rules and regulations must include disciplinary sanctions for employees who violate the dignity of other employees;
  • all employees must be informed that harassment and sexual harassment are prohibited in the workplace;
  • public authorities must be notified immediately of any claim that the regulations have been infringed.

According to the Equal Opportunities Law, an employer may not dismiss an employee, nor unilaterally change working conditions or the employment relationship, if the employee takes a legal action for infringement of his/her right to equal opportunities for women and men. The law offers protection not just to the employee lodging the complaint but also to trade union members and employee representatives who provide support in resolving the situation at the workplace. The above restrictions imposed on the employer remain valid even after the court has issued a final ruling.

Procedure in discrimination cases

In cases of workplace discrimination, employees have the right to file complaints with or against their employer and to request the support of the trade union and employee representatives respectively. It is mandatory for the opinion of the person designated by the trade union and the employee representatives to be included in the investigative report on observance of the Equal Opportunities Law.

If the case is not resolved by mediation at employer level, then employees who consider themselves victims of gender discrimination may lodge a complaint with ANES and, at the same time, file a lawsuit. The defendant is responsible for providing proof of non-discrimination. Within 10 days from the date of receiving the complaint, the president of ANES issues an assessment report on the advisability of sanctioning the instance of discrimination brought to its attention.

Cases of discrimination, harassment and sexual harassment are considered breaches of the law for which fines run as high as ROL 15-150 million (EUR 415-4,150).

Objectives and tasks of the National Agency for Equal Opportunities

It is at the institutional level, however, that major changes in legislation have made themselves felt, notably through the setting up of the National Agency for Equal Opportunities for Women and Men (Agenţia Naţionala pentru Egalitatea de Şanse între Femei şi Bărbaţi, ANES). The agency was created as a public institution of national interest which promotes the principle of equal opportunities and ensures an active integration of the gender dimension in all national policies and programmes.

ANES was established in the wake of the revised Equal Opportunities Law and commenced operations on 1 March 2005.

The establishment of ANES was one of the objectives included in the priority legislative programme for Romania’s integration to the European Union. To this end, Romania received EU support in the form of a PHARE project on Romania-Spain institutional twinning.

The two primary objectives of ANES are:

  • to develop government strategy and policy in the field;
  • to bring the national legal framework into line with EU regulations.

The responsibilities of ANES include:

  • initiating reports, studies, analyses and strategies on implementing the gender equality principle;
  • establishing and developing relationships with similar bodies in other countries;
  • receiving claims and complaints concerning infringements of the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women - complaints may be lodged by natural persons, legal entities, public and private institutions, etc.

At central level, ANES employs 30 civil servants and contract-based staff positions, and locally, one post in each Labour, Social Solidarity and Family Directorate (Direcţie pentru Muncă, Solidaritate Socială şi Familie, DMSSF) of the 41 counties in the country.

Other institutions which promote gender equality

The responsibilities of the former inter-ministerial Consultative Commission for Equal Opportunities for Women and Men (Comisie consultativa interministeriala în domeniul egalităţii de şanse între femei şi bărbaţi, CODES), RO0312102F now dissolved, have been taken over by the National Commission for Equal Opportunities for Women and Men (Comisia Naţională în domeniul Egalităţii de Şanse între Femei şi Bărbaţi, CONES), whose activity is coordinated by the president of ANES.

CONES is made up of representatives of ministries, other central administrative bodies and, unlike the former CODES, also of nationally representative trade union and employer organisations and of non-governmental organisations that play an active role in promoting gender equality.

County Commissions for equal opportunities for men and women (Comisie judeţeană în domeniul egalităţii de şanse între femei şi bărbaţi, COJES) have been set up locally.

In the exercise of its responsibilities - supervising and controlling the observance of the national legislation, of international conventions that Romania is party to, as well as EU regulations on equal opportunities and treatment for women and men - ANES cooperates with other institutions with complementary competencies, such as:

  • the National Employment Agency (Agenţia Naţională pentru Ocuparea Forţei de Muncă, ANOFM);
  • the National Institute for Pensions and Other Social Insurance Rights (Casa Naţională de Pensii şi alte Drepturi de Asigurări Sociale, CNPAS);
  • the Labour Inspection (Inspecţia Muncii, IM);
  • the National Adult Training Board (Consiliul Naţional pentru Formarea Profesională a Adulţilor, CNFPA);
  • the Economic and Social Council (Consiliul Economic şi Social, CES);
  • ministries, research institutes, and other public authorities.

Commentary

In a press conference held on 15 June 2005, the Commission for Equal Opportunities for Women and Men in the Chamber of Deputies (Camera Deputaţilor) - one of the two chambers of the Romanian Parliament - together with the United Nations Population Fund, (UNFPA), presented a report showing that, while progress has been made over the past few years in promoting women’s rights, there are still major steps to be taken, particularly in the area of women’s access to management positions. The report highlights, for example, that there are only three female ministers in the current government of Romania, and just 13.3% of the secretaries and deputy secretaries of state are women.

Other studies have revealed that an extremely low percentage of women subjected to sexual harassment at the workplace ever lodge a complaint RO0501103F. Throughout 2004, only 80 complaints were received by the former institution monitoring gender policy in Romania, CODES. In the light of this situation and in order to fully promote equal opportunities and equal treatment for women and men, ANES will have to play a more proactive role, not only in resolving cases of discrimination brought to its attention, but also in identifying the best promotional methods and practices in the field. Furthermore, employer and trade union organisations which have been granted increased powers by the new legislation will also have to become much more involved. (Diana Preda, Institute of National Economy, Romanian Academy)

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