Today on our blog, we introduce a new series called, Punk Out Europa. Focusing on LGBT+ issues in European countries and breakaway states, Punk Out Europa will cover topics ranging from pride parades to marriage equality and LGBT+ political issues in Europe. Check out Punk Out team member, and Belfast native, Stephen Donnan's first piece on Transnistria below.
I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you’re reading this and wondering just where the hell Transnistria is, or indeed, what it is. Not many people are aware of the existence of this European North Korea, a largely unrecognized Stalinist-style breakaway state located on a sliver of land east of Moldova. Transnistria is one of the few "frozen conflict" zones that emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. After declaring independence from Moldova, Transnistria (backed by Russia) fought a brief but devastating war in 1992 before a cease fire was signed and has held to this day. The small statelet is the only nation in Europe that still retains the Soviet hammer & sickle on its national flag, and the only country in the world where the KGB still exist.
I included this little wannabe-country as the first in our Punk Out Europa series, as I have always been intrigued by the human rights situation there, specifically that of the LGBTQ+ community. Having looked into it for a while, I could find no official listings of any human rights organizations or LGBTQ+ support groups that operate within the tiny province. In fact, according to a US Governmental report in 2009, Transnistrian authorities frequently deny human rights groups such as Amnesty entry into the state, and follow this up with restrictions and harassment. Same sex relations are de facto legal since 2002 after the Criminal Code of Transnistria came into effect and stated that, “committing sodomy, lesbianism and sexual intercourse with a person under the age of sixteen is illegal,” however, there is no mention of such acts with anyone older than sixteen. The legal status of LGBTQ+ people is disputed, however, as public officials have often condemned "homosexual conduct," and despite the Criminal Code being in effect, it is widely reported that LGBTQ+ individuals are harassed and arrested by state authorities.
There is absolutely no recognition of same-sex relationships in Transnistria and no record of any Pride parades, either planned or cancelled in the "capital" of Tiraspol. I wouldn’t be surprised if many LGBTQ+ people made the trip to Moldova or Romania to live openly and freely without intimidation or harassment. There are also no laws concerning violence against women, and educational facilities there usually disregard the needs of disabled children, never mind those who are LGBTQ+. In short Transnistria is probably one of the worst places in Europe, if not the worst, to be openly LGBTQ+. Its record of human rights abuses and its arbitrary imprisonment of minorities and political activists makes it a very dangerous place indeed.
Travel to the tiny nation is difficult and requires a special visa from Moldovan authorities who make it as hard as they can to enter as Transnistria. It is purported to be a haven for human trafficking, black marketing, and weapons smuggling into the European Union. I would advise against all travel to this "European North Korea" if you are openly LGBTQ+, because not even Russian authorities (who have a military base there) can help you if you are arrested. No recognized nation has an embassy there, the only "countries" that have a diplomatic presence there are three other unrecognized territories of Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh. If you get into trouble, you’re completely on your own.
Editor's Note: The views and opinions expressed on our Artist Corner and Blog are exclusively of the author and do not reflect the views and opinions of Punk Out as an organization.