The Romanian Parliament adopted on June the 30th, with majority of votes, the bill that increase punishments for sexual crimes against minors, initiated by the independent MP Oana Bîzgan. According to the bill, the lower threshold for sexual crimes will be increased, so the offenders will not benefit from suspended sentences anymore.
`Through this bill I want to send a very clear message – any person who treats a child in inappropriate ways has to be hold responsible for his acts and has to receive a punishment that is proportional with the trauma the victim suffered. We keep talking for years about justice and we have public reactions when we hear about cases of abuse, but we fail to protect our children. We cannot continue to allow situations when 10-years-old victims are accused of consent, and their offender, 4 or 5 times older than them are treated with indulgence and don’t spend a minute in prison`, said Oana Bîzgan, the MP who proposed the legislative change.
The bill brings changes to the Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code, towards increasing the lower thresholds for some crimes like rape, statutory rape, trafficking in persons, pimping, child pornography etc. Specific, in rape cases – the convicted person could get sentences between 5 and 10 years (3 to 10 now), between 7 and 12 years if the victim is a minor (5 to 12 now), between 7 and 15 years if the crime was committed in aggravating circumstances and from 9 to 18 years (7 to 18 now) if the rape led to the death of the victim. For statutory rape, the punishments are increased, so the perpetrators could not receive suspended sentences, especially when the offender is an adult or if the act of aggression was committed in aggravating circumstances.
More than that, to cover as many situations as possible and to ensure that the facts are judged in accordance with their severity, the bill includes the widening of the aggravating situations. In this way, if the victim lives together with the offender the crimes are classified as having aggravating circumstances. In the current form of the law, the offender had to be a family member of the victim for considering aggravating circumstances. Moreover, if the victim’s life was endangered by the offender in any way – not just through physical evidence – the offender will serve a more severe punishment.
`The extension of aggravating circumstances came as a natural step that added to our efforts. Imagine this situation: a little girl is abused by her mother´s boyfriend. They live together, but, legally, the offender is not a family member of the little girl, so he gets a suspended sentence. He comes back to his victim. These situations are often happening in the real life and we had to address them`, added Oana Bîzgan.
Furthermore, the bill voted today contains some provisions included in the Directive 2011/93/EU of the European Parliament on combating the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography, previsions that respond to a warning addressed by the European Committee to Romania, through an infringement procedure.
Other important changes included in the bill refer to trafficking in persons – the punishments are increased to prison from 5 to 10 years, compared to 3 to 10 years as it is now, and prison from 7 to 12 years for trafficking in persons with aggravating circumstances, compared to 5 to 12 years, in present. `Romania is, for the second year in a row, on Tier 2 Watchlist when it comes to trafficking in persons, as it is shown in the US Department of State Report, released recently. That means that we do not manage to have minimum standards to fight trafficking and, moreover, the number of victims is increasing. Romania and Ireland are the only EU countries placed at this level. The changes we made today represent a step forward to fight this phenomenon`, said Oana Bîzgan.
Last, but not least, the changes brought to the Criminal Procedure Code make possible to place into custody perpetrators for crimes such as statutory rape and solicitation of children for sexual purposes.
Currently, in Romania, sexual crimes are treated with indulgence. In 2017, out of the total number of statutory rape cases, only 42,17% had mandatory sentences, according to the Ministry of Justice. Out of these, 50% were suspended sentences and only 25,77% of the cases were ended with prison sentences. Out of the prison sentences, 78% had less than 5 years in detention. Moreover, another data series from the Ministry of Justice shows that starting 2014, over 4500 sexual offenders were condemned to community service, most often in schools, educational centers or other places where they could make new victims. Such cases were shown on https://oanabizgan.com/.
The adoption of this bill means more security for the children and for the vulnerable categories but also a recognition of the gravity that sexual violence have on the victims. All the changes are available here: https://oanabizgan.com/modificarea-codului-penal-pedepse-mai-dure-pentru-agresorii-sexuali/.
After the vote given today, the bill will go to the President to be enacted.