Anger at jobs ban for gays

23rd January 2004 at 00:00
Sexuality and nervous tics are grounds for teachers' dismissal under new restrictions in Romania

Teachers with nervous tics, speech impediments or who are homosexual face losing their jobs in Romania after education and health ministry officials placed new restrictions on the profession.

A list of "diseases incompatible with the teaching profession", drawn up by the two ministries as part of a new national staff teaching code, has outraged teachers and health experts. It could also damage Romania's bid to join the European Union.

Included in the guidelines are a number of physical and psychological disorders that the education and health ministries feel may harm students, or stop a teacher from doing his or her job properly.

However, medical experts say the list contains the names of some diseases that they have apparently never heard of before as well as harmless afflictions such as stuttering or facial tics.

And the inclusion of "abnormal sexual preferences", including homosexuality, has angered Romanian gay rights associations.

Psychiatrist Dan Ghenea, a member of the Romanian League for Mental Health, said the list was absurd.

He said: "A person's sexual orientation or a personal phobia does not stop them from doing their job. The guidelines need to be changed quickly, otherwise the ministries could find themselves with cases of human rights abuse on their hands."

And history teacher Elena Dumbrava, from Cluj in western Romania, said:

"It's ridiculous that I have to fear for my job because I have a fear of rats. I may turn hysterical when I see one, but how often do rats feature in the history classroom."

Education minister Alexandru Athanasiu admitted the list had been drawn up in haste and could do with some revision. He said: "Some of the entries on the list need looking at more closely and a better explanation for their presence given. We realise that some mistakes may have been made."

Teachers were dismayed by the limp initial reaction of their own trades unions. President of the union for high-school teachers, Gheorghe Isvoreanu, said: "There's often not a lot we can do once the government has made up its mind about something, and we accepted the conditions of the new teachers' code.

"But following the subsequent outcry from teachers and experts, we have asked the ministries to review the list."

But education ministry doctor Daniela Ioan said she supported the list.

"Trained medical doctors will decide if a teacher is unfit to do his or her job.

"If they feel a person's condition, whether it be a blood disease or a stutter, hinders their ability to carry out their job properly, then they will be expelled from the profession."

However, Florin Tudose, head of the psychiatric centre at Bucharest's largest hospital, accused the list's authors of failing to consult specialists.

"It's obvious that they have no idea about the subject. Phobias or verbal tics do not impede a person's ability to teach, unless perhaps they are suffering from a particularly severe form or Tourette's syndrome."

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