On the 26th of July, Alexandra Măceșanu, aged 15, was declared missing. The teenage girl had been kidnapped 3 days prior from nearby the city of Caracal, in the south of Romania, held against her will and raped by 65-year-old Gheorghe Dincă. Dincă confessed not only to her murder, but also to that of Luiza Melencu, who had been declared missing in April. The shock caused in society by these events continued in the days that followed, when we learnt that Alexandra had struggled and managed to call the police three times during the days of her abduction, before being murdered. Police agents did not just fail to respond promptly enough, but answered the girl with sarcasm and arrogance. These events have highlighted the atrocious sexism of the Romanian police force, the carelessness of authorities regarding abuse suffered by women and a media culture that makes a spectacle out of suffering.
The disappearance of Alexandra Măceșanu and what followed – indifference on the part of authorities, complicity of law enforcement, manipulation by various government institutions and sensationalism in the media – all are manifestations of a patriarchal culture that normalizes violence caused by men, feeds the distrust of girls and women, and silences the voices of women and all victims of assault.
On the 28th of July we marched in the streets, angry, but organized!
In solidarity with Alexandra Măceșanu and against the ignorance and complicity of authorities and law enforcement we chanted “Police Kills!” and “One Falls, We all Fall!”.
The Police Kills!
We are a collective of feminist groups: Front Feminist, Dysnomia, E-Romnja, CUTRA, Vagenta, Filia, MozaiQ, and Girl Up Romania. Through the movement One Falls, We All Fall!, on the 28th of July in front of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, we displayed both our solidarity with Alexandra, as well as our anger at the complicity of the police in violence against women! We wrote “The Police kills!” on the wall at the entrance of the Ministry – representing our position on a system of control and punishment that contributes to women’s humiliation and the destruction of our lives.
Beyond pointing fingers towards sexist and misogynistic attitudes and gestures, we revolt against the patriarchal order that dominates society. The functioning of this order is assured by power, resources, and material benefits owned and traded predominantly between men. Here we also find the state infrastructure of discipline and control: the police, the military police and all other formations that are part of the repressive state apparatus. In the case of the abduction and abuse of Alexandra Măceşanu, we consider that the delay and condescension of the local police intervention is a form of complicity!
As it often happens, violence against women is either ignored or instrumentalized to serve a different purpose. Likewise, Alexandra Măceșanu’s tragedy has been reduced in public discourse to topics such as criticism of the ruling party, corruption, institutional chaos or the so-called “backwardness” of Romania. According to this approach, it may seem that the tragedy was caused by some Romanian pathology, possibly a local, “Balkan” mentality. All of these are not just fabrications, but effective tools serving to mask real problems, such as the power apparatus being a patriarchal structure serving the interests of a male elite that has been careful to completely abandon rural communities. These have nothing to do with any specific Romanian trait, but rather with a structural violence encountered in most of the peripheries and semi-peripheries of the world.
Gender-based violence is normalized
To consider Romania a “special case” with regard to violence against women does not help, nor does it help to portray Gheorghe Dincă as an amoral monster. Looking at him as an exception, as an abject deviation, masks the fact that gender-based violence is normalized and often starts at home. Statistics for Romania show that 1 in 4 murders take place within families, around half of citizens believe that rape can be justified in certain circumstances, and that 81% of the cases of violence occur at home – both in the countryside (53% of cases), as well as in urban areas (47%); in 81% of the cases women are victims of violence and in 92% of the cases men are the abusers. 1 in 4 Romanian women have been physically or sexually assaulted by a partner, and yet only 4% of these acts of violence reach court. In addition, Romania is one of the main countries of origin of victims of human trafficking in Europe, with one third of these victims being minors.
The System Kills!
Violence against women is tacitly or explicitly accepted at both the societal and institutional levels. We are missing an adequate framework of protection for victims of physical and sexual assault. The attitude of authorities favors aggressors. The police insult, blame, harass and mock women who file complaints or advise them to keep these issues “within the family.” Police officers often refuse to record complaints from Roma women and/or poor women on the grounds that they “make things up” and that no intervention is needed. Prosecutors reject complaints and requests for restraining orders, judges criticize and ridicule victims of violence and side with the aggressors, or hide the complicity of authorities in cases of human trafficking. These problems continue also in education. The Ministry of Education does not comply with the legal obligations in the field of prevention and combating violence, failing to teach students about women’s rights, gender inequality and violence against women.
Patriarchy in complicity with capitalism and racism kill!
More than a behavioral product of society, sexism goes hand in hand with capitalism. Profit-based accumulation requires not only cheap and plentiful work, but also free labor, such as domestic work – which is, in an overwhelming proportion, done by women. The precariousness and impoverishment of the population is largely accommodated by women – and not by any women but especially by those of the working class and from Roma communities. Racism goes hand in hand with the patriarchal order when Roma girls and women are silenced, marginalized, humiliated and pushed further into precariousness. In capitalism, the patriarchal order also works to pre-empt solidarity between diverse groups of women: depending on their socio-economic class and ethnicity, women are pushed into not showing solidarity with each other and into reproducing dehumanizing, racist and classist hierarchies.
Our fight against gender-based violence also concerns other violence intersecting with it. That’s why we say: One Falls, We all Fall! We call for anti-racist and anti-classist feminist solidarity!
We believe in solidarity and prevention!
We believe in solidarity and prevention. We believe that a better world is not built by increasing the control and surveillance of the population! However, tactically, we demand punishments that correspond strictly to the seriousness of the violence committed against women, Roma women and other vulnerable groups. Even if increased penalties may be effective in keeping certain individuals far from their targets, as long as the court system continues to be sexist, racist and homophobic and dedicated to serving the interests of profit, nothing guarantees that trials will be fair and people protected. We are aware that increased penalties do not eliminate the problem: as long as we do not educate boys not to aggress, we will always have abusers, harassers and rapists!
We do not want a world with more prisons and more men who are victims of capitalism and racism. From there, they only return more angered and traumatized – prison is not some sort of school that teaches you to be better to the people around you, but precisely the opposite. We do not want to encourage and reproduce a culture of strict hierarchy and restrictive definitions of what it means to be a “woman” or “man.” But at the same time, we powerlessly witness the lack of protection for women and girls, the lack of services and shelters, the fact that too many men who have committed acts of violence against women are free to continue to perpetuate that violence.
We, the signatories, among us precarious workers, Roma and people of non-heterosexual sexual orientations, know all too well that the most vulnerable always end up in prisons. We do not want a world with more prisons and with women and men falling victim to the oppressive capitalist and racist system. We want a pedagogy that condemns patriarchal violence and is based on respecting the dignity of women! We want protection and safety for girls and women first and foremost!
The #OneFallsWeAllFall movement is against institutionalized patriarchy. Against the systemic violence born and maintained by the patriarchal culture that ignores the suffering of women and minimizes the power, autonomy and capabilities of women. The organizers of this movement declare their solidarity with the broader intersectional feminist movement Ni una menos, and with the other similar initiatives in Europe, Latin America, the US and beyond, who are fighting for women’s rights regardless of color, ethnicity, nationality or sexual orientation.
1. Official numbers on how many abusers are among the police. We ask for concrete data for all levels of the institution, accompanied by a description of the measures taken regarding police officers that have been reported for both domestic and on-duty gender-based violence!
2. Simplification of the procedure by which people abused or ignored by police officers can file complaints against them. This procedure must be accessible and popularized, and protect the applicant from any possible retaliation by the accused.
3. De-bureaucratization of the process of free issuance of the forensic certificate for cases of rape, domestic violence and other forms of violence.
4. Simplification of institutional procedures for reporting rape and sexual assault. Repeating the story during the investigation (starting with trusted people, continuing with the specialists – doctor, social worker, police, prosecutor, and finally the judge) is equivalent to reliving the event and, automatically, emphasizing the humiliation to which the victims were subjected.
5. More shelters for people facing domestic and sexual violence, in accordance with the recommendations of the Working Group on Combating Violence against Women of the Council of Europe.
6. Reinforcement and subsidization of public transport and housing services at the national level. We want to be able to travel safely, whether we live in a city, town or village! We want to be able to leave abusive relationships without fear that we will end up in the streets because we cannot pay a rent of hundreds of euros per month!
7. Introduction of accessible programs dedicated to education for reproductive health and gender equality in schools. The program would be put together through public consultation of feminist antiracist organizations and networks, with representation for the LGBT community, and of academics with proven expertise in the field and experience of mobilization.
8. Compulsory training of police officers, legal and medical personnel in the field of gender-based violence. Police officers, judges and prosecutors must learn to act in such a way that they no longer minimize the severity of allegations of abuse, harassment, violence, and rape, and in such a way as to treat the abused person with respect and avoid deepening the trauma.
“Together we survive! Not one less!”,
“Stop violence against women”,
Cade Una Cădem Toate, România