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The dispute of the day: Should Moldova ratify the Istanbul Convention? The answer of the Moldovan NGOs

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The Convention on preventing and combating violence against women, also known as the Istanbul Convention was adopted by the Council of Europe in 2011, entered into force in 2014 and was signed by the EU in June 2017.  It urges the member states that have signed the Convention to also ratify it,  in order to be able to properly implement and enforce its stipulations by allocating adequate funding and human resources to the right services, as a press release of the European Parliament stated.

The Istanbul Convention was signed by Moldova on February 6th, 2017 but until now its ratification has been delayed, even though the representatives of the Government and the Parliament have repeatedly assumed a public commitment in this regard. The subject regarding the approval of the bill on the ratification of the Convention was included on the agenda of the Government meeting of December 11th, 2019, but was excluded just before the meeting.

Therefore, a part of the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from Moldova, platforms and activists that aim to ensure respect for human rights, gender equality and women’s rights organised a protest in front of the Government building today, calling for the ratification of the Convention.

“We assume that this decision [excluding the subject from the Government’s agenda] results from the pressure exercised by religious groups from Moldova who demonise the Convention. An appeal was initiated regarding the non-admission of ratification which contains erroneous and manipulative information and is widely distributed in churches for collecting signatures. We tend to believe that its purpose is to artificially politicise this subject, rather than to propose solutions for fighting violence against women,” claimed the protest organisers.

On the other hand, a group of Christian NGOs from Moldova consider that the Istanbul convention can’t solve the problem of violence against women. Representatives of the NGOs declared in a press conference that the document suggests a new and controversial definition of gender in international law and as a result, the religious freedom and the parents’ right to educate their children in accordance with their own religious and moral beliefs are infringed.

“As we can see, this Convention was astutely designed by jurists of the Council of Europe to infringe the traditions and values of the Christian countries. Hiding behind noble goals, they actually aim to promote non-values, to destroy the Christian and traditional values of our Christian family. There are laws designed to protect the women in our country and this can be confirmed by the Ministry of the Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Justice…” stated a representative of a Christian NGO from Moldova.

The representatives of the Christian organisations claimed that 5,000 signatures against the ratification of the Istanbul Convention have been collected all over the country during only two days, the call being signed by about 40 NGOs.

According to the European Parliament statement, MEPs condemn the attacks and campaigns against the Convention in some countries, which are based on deliberately misinterpreting and falsely presenting its contents to the public.

MEPs request that the Commission adds combating gender-based violence as a priority in the next European Gender Strategy, submits a legal act tackling all forms of gender-based violence – including online harassment and cyber violence – and pleads for violence against women to be included in the catalogue of EU-recognised crimes.

The Istanbul Convention has been ratified by 34 Council of Europe member states so far. Another 46 states in the European Union have signed the Istanbul Convention.

The statistical data from the Republic of Moldova show that 60% of women from Moldova reported at least one form of psychological violence, while physical violence was disclosed by about 40% of women. About 19% of women said they suffered sexual violence at least once in their life. In Moldova, 13 women were killed by one family member, and another 22 women lost their lives as a result of traumas caused by their partners since 2018.

More on the subject of violence against women in Moldova can be found here.

Photo: moldova.europalibera.org

Society

What’s next? Optimistic vs pessimistic projections for the pandemic evolution in Moldova

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By the end of May, around 31 000 thousand new cases of infection with COVID-19 could be registered in the Republic of Moldova, according to a pessimistic scenario developed by the National Agency for Public Health (NAPH).

The average incubation period (the period between infection and the moment symptoms may appear) recorded in the case of patients from Moldova was 5.8 days, while the R0 (basic reproduction number) was established as being 2.6 persons, meaning that each newly-infected person spreads the disease to about 2.6 other people on average. If the same trend is maintained, the number of patients infected with COVID-19 will reach 31 000 cases by the end of May.

The director of the NAPH, Nicolae Furtuna, specified that the pessimistic scenario could become reality if the population does not follow to the instructions given by the authorities. “Picnics, public gatherings, meetings attended by 6-8 people on any occasion are not desirable. They are even contraindicated. Let’s be patient. If we stay at home, we will follow the optimistic scenario, otherwise the medical system and the economy will flounder, ” mentioned the official.

However, if the citizens demonstrate responsibility and comply with the measures of isolation, the R0 of COVID-19 could decrease to 1.5 persons. In this case, the positive scenario would manifest where morbidity could decrease 10 times.

At the moment, there are 965 confirmed cases in the Republic of Moldova, out of which 80 patients are serious or critical. There are 37 cases of recovered persons and 19 deaths. Most of cases are recorded in the capital city of the country – 316 cases, according to the data provided by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Protection.

The categories of patients who are at higher risk for severe illness are those aged between 50 and 59 years – 232 persons, and patients aged over 60 – 215 persons, as well as the medical personnel who takes care of COVID-19 patients.

Source: virusncov.com

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Quarantined in a Moldovan village – the paradox of measures imposed by authorities

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The Republic of Moldova registered, according to the most updated information from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Protection, 591 confirmed cases, 190 suspected cases and 9 deaths because of COVID-19. The cases are spread all over the country, but most of cases are concentrated in 3 risk areas – Chisinau, which includes 39% of the cases of infection, Stefan Voda – 14% of cases and Soroca – 12% of all cases.

As Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) reported, 18 971 persons are isolated at home and 5 632 persons were verified regarding the way they are isolated.

At the same time, there are several cities and villages in Moldova where the local authorities have imposed partial or full lockdown due to the registered deaths related to coronavirus outbreaks. While the Government never clearly reported on what happens in such localities, some local authority representatives and residents started to talk about the quarantine situation.

They say that police patrol cars were placed at the entrance and exit of localities and no one can leave or enter the village or city, without a good reason. The public transportation and all public and private entities, except medical offices, post offices and groceries stores, stopped their activity.

The paradox of Balceana

People of Balceana village, Hancesti district, one of the first villages from Moldova where the lockdown was installed, told ZdG that things have changed a lot since the first day of lockdown. At the moment, all their activities are forbidden: they can no longer receive medicine packages from their relatives and they cannot perform their farming activities related to cultivating crops – one of their main source of obtaining food throughout the year.

Moreover, in order to be able to leave or enter the village, to move or pick up packages from the improvised station when entering the village, people must hold and present to the police officers a permit issued by the City Hall. However, the mayor of the village said that he received the prohibition to issue such permits for local people from the MIA officials.

“I have the indication that no permit is issued to any person, because we are quarantined. Only sick people leave the village with an ambulance and only those who are recovered and healthy, holding a medical certificate from a doctor, can enter the village.”

The mayor of Balceana village said that the situation in which people got in is a “terrible one” and that he hardly manages to cope with the complaints coming from villagers. Some villagers must pay back their bank loans. For that they would need to continue to work their lands, which they are not allowed to do due to not holding permits issued by mayor. The mayor is not allowed by authorities to issue such permits.

The paradox exists while the quarantine instructions allow short trips for acquiring food, medicines, for obtaining medical assistance, going to the funeral of relatives or farming activities. The situation got so confusing, that the officers do not allow people to perform even officially permitted activities without the authorisation that is impossible to be obtained.

The MIA response

The officials of the MIA claimed that an internal service investigation was initiated after the declarations were published by ZdG. Secretary of State of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Mariana Grama, denied that the situation is so serious, stating that people do have access to medicines and food, while restrictions are imposed because people do not follow precautionary measures.

“The permit is required for those who have to work lands. The lands are on the hills, outside the locality. […] The mayor has to confirm that a person owns a land parcel outside the territory of Balceana village and that he allows him to perform agricultural activities,” mentioned Grama.

The permits, according to the official, are not issued for persons that want to go to the doctor, as they declare one thing and go somewhere else, that being proved by the police monitoring system in several cases, reported Mariana Grama for ZdG. “People from the village want to go to other localities to buy products, they want to go to the district market, to the bank, to the capital city and I told the mayor that nobody has the right to leave the village, this is what quarantine regime means,” she added.

“I understand, human rights and fundamental freedoms are restricted during state of emergency, but this is to ensure the security of other citizens as well, who are outside the quarantine zone.”

Blocked roads in Cocieri and Corjova

Beside the fact police patrol cars were placed at the entrance of every quarantined village, in Cocieri and Corjova – two villages located in Transnistria – a part of the roads connecting them with other regions were blocked, noted the Promo-LEX association in a press release.

Source: Promo-LEX association

The association mentioned that, on the main roads, the customs officers blocked the access, while on the adjacent roads, concrete blocks  or other artificially created impediments to prevent circulation were created. “Because of access prohibition, several categories of people who imperatively need to circulate are affected: doctors and pharmacists, farmers, but also people who work in state institutions. In addition, the consequences of blocking the roads are also affecting the inhabitants of the nearby villages,” is mentioned in the press release.

Blocked salaries of teachers from Transnistria

There are eight schools with teaching in Romanian in the Transnistrian region, which are directly financed from the public budget of the Republic of Moldova.

One of the serious challenges for the employees of these schools is that there are no ATMs in the region that would allow people to withdraw cash from the bank cards issued by Moldovan banks. These cards are not recognized in Transnistria. Usually, teachers go to the Moldovan side, withdraw cash from the ATMs and then exchange it in Transnistrian rubles.
“We got in touch with the Reintegration Bureau and we hope to be able pass on the right side of the Dniester to withdraw our salaries, otherwise teachers will run out of money,” said Ion Iovcev, the director of one of these schools.

Moreover, lack of money could lead to complete isolation. The director says that if, this month, the teachers are not be able to pay for internet services, they will not be able carry out the process of remote teaching.

Funerals with high risk of contagion

One of the reasons people get infected with COVID-19 and die in Moldova is their hospitalisation in the same section with confirmed or suspected patients. That was the case of a woman from Stefan-Voda district who was sent home in isolation after being hospitalised together with COVID-19 patients. “She died in quarantine at home, but it’s known that she was in contact with COVID-19 patients,” explained the mayor of the village she is from.

The mayor claimed that for seven hours, since the woman had died, no one came to test her for confirmation or rejection of the virus and that the woman was in contact with other 26 persons. The mayor also mentioned that there is no special protective equipment in the locality for persons to be involved in the process of burial of the woman. Therefore, even more people risk to get infected.

Photo: moldova.org

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Commission for Emergency Situations: first pay medical insurance, then enter the country

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Starting April 1, all persons returning from abroad are be obliged to commit to buy medical insurance before taking their first step on the Moldovan land. This decision was taken by the Commission for Emergency Situations of the Republic of Moldova.

On March 31, the official mechanism of bringing home the Moldovan citizens who have been blocked abroad was approved.

According to the provision no. 10 approved by the Commission for Emergency Situations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration is in charge of making the lists of Moldovan citizens who have been blocked abroad, the Civil Aeronautical Authority must coordinate the charter flights organisation, while the airline operators have to verify the insurance status of the persons and admit on board only those who paid the compulsory health insurance fee through the governmental system mpay.gov.md.

Therefore, all persons arriving from abroad are obliged to buy medical insurance, regardless of where they come from and whether they arrive by air or by land. Citizens who intend to cross the state border by air have to pay the compulsory health insurance fee before entering the country, while those who cross the state border by land are obliged to fill in a declaration that the fee will be paid within 72 hours.

The Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS) notified the Court of Appeal regarding the decision of the Commission for Emergency Situations, saying that the decision is unconstitutional and illegal. “There is no such legal provision that allows the authorities to prohibit people from returning to their home. They are citizens of the Republic of Moldova and such pretexts that if you do not have medical insurance you cannot take a plane ticket and you cannot land in Moldova are intolerable,” said Maia Sandu, the PAS leader, for Jurnal TV.

The measure regarding the health insurance fee payment was commented by the political expert Dionis Cenuşă as well. The specialist says that there is a violation of fundamental human rights.

“Restricting Moldovans’ access to the country if they do not pay for healthcare insurance may have serious implications concerning human rights. […] It is true that the authorities can apply restrictions, including on how Moldovan citizens can return to the country. But, at the same time, the law clearly states that restrictions should not be applied according to a series of criteria, including that of social origin. In other words, when the Commission decided to introduce a payment obligation for healthcare, it automatically produces effects on the people who are forced to return to the country, because they are economic migrants. Therefore, the adopted measure has a discriminatory effect on the principle of social origin because Moldovan emigrants are targeted and, at the same time, because they may be lacking financial resources upon returning to the country,” stated the political expert.

On the other hand, Prime Minister Ion Chicu claimed that all citizens of the Republic of Moldova are obliged to pay the health insurance fee and that Moldovans who come back from abroad are not an exception. “This is not a discrimination, it is about law enforcement,” the prime minister declared for TV8.

The restrictive measure is especially important now, when thousands of Moldovan citizens have lost their jobs abroad and their source of income. Instead of finding the optimal solutions to protect these citizens and ensure their possibility to return home safely, the authorities restrict their constitutional right by conditioning the borders crossing.

The health insurance annual payment in Moldova is currently 4 056 lei (about 204 euro).

Photo: moldova.europalibera.org

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