Last Wednesday, on April 2nd, the Romanian Palace of Parliament hosted the international conference “Human Trafficking: a Threat to Family Values”. The event was organized at the initiative of the Group for Combating Human Trafficking and the Ecumenical Prayer Group of the Romanian Parliament.
In the opening of the conference, Georgeta Gavrila, at that moment prefect of Bucharest, Romania’s Capital city, insightfully reviewed both the status of the Romanian family and the forms of human trafficking.
It as a rare and bold stance on human dignity and an alarm signal on the Romanian society’s lethargy when it needs to protect its very own existence. The speech is coherent with her other activities in combating human trafficking and supporting family – for example, she participated in Romania’s March for Life 2014 – “Adoption, The Noble Choice”.
Shortly after having finished her speech, the government announced replacing her as a prefect. Georgeta Gavrila, a 54-year-old engineer who is also a Doctor in military sciences, was a Secretary of State in the Ministry of Defense between 2005 and 2012. She is neither politically affiliated, nor with the workers’ unions. As a prefect, she benefitted from the support of the National Liberal Party and her removal from the function of prefect was motivated by the fact that the respective party withdrew from government. Georgeta Gavrila has been immediately afterwards appointed to work at the Energy Department.
Please find below the moving speech on the status of the Romanian family, the last held in her capacity as a prefect, last Wednesday.
Speech by Georgeta Gavrila at the international conference “Human Trafficking: a Threat to Family Values”
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Please receive my warmest and personal greetings. First of all, I wish to address my heart-felt thanks to the Group for Combating Human Trafficking from Romania’s Parliament, to the European Christian political movement and to the Federation of Catholic Family Associations in Europe, who invited me to take part and deliver a speech in this conference on family values and the trafficking of persons, which is also named “human trafficking”.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is already known that the institutions of family and marriage are going through a crisis. That we are witnessing the decline of marriage and the disintegration of family. It is a global phenomenon, and our country is not more privileged than the others. On the contrary, I’d say: Romania has just entered its 25th year of population decline with no perspective whatsoever of stopping this decline and reverse the plunging trend. A heavy silence shroud envelops this reality, a state of general passivity and social numbness. Now and then, a few singular voices dare to approach this sensitive issue.
We’ve had a somber quarter of a century in terms of fertility. In Romania, between 1990 and 2014, the total fertility rate averaged 1.3. This means 1.3 children born alive by a fertile woman. This is much lower than the critical rate of 2.1 children per family, which ensures the simple replacement of generations.
On this well-established trend, the year 2050, which many of us present here will live to see, will find Romania with a total population of less than 14 million people – even 13.3 million, according to a pessimistic estimate made by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) –, while the population will be mostly aging, due to life expectancy growth.
Please allow me a short digression. A quarter of a century passed since pregnancy termination was liberalized through Law no 1 of December 26th, 1989. In this period, Romania has registered, according to different official sources, between 7.5 and 8 million pregnancy terminations – which represents the population of a country like Austria or Switzerland.
It is depressing to see a plane crash into the mountains or into the ocean, killing one or more persons. Mass-media emotionally debates the subject for weeks on end. It does not do the same in the case of millions and millions of children killed through abortion – for this is the word: “killed”. Curettage, saline solution, chemical procedures, hysterotomy and many other similar methods have become today veritable weapons of mass destruction. And I assure you I have the propriety of my terms. I hereby close my sad digression.
Among European states, only Ukraine, Lithuania and Bosnia and Herzegovina have lower total fertility rates. This doesn’t mean the situation is any brighter in other European states. All of them – with no exceptions – are below the critical rate of 2.1. Only in France, with an estimated rate of 2.08, we may be able to speak of a real generation replacement.
The Western developed countries balance their workforce deficits through immigration, which has become the main reserve for filling the gap made by the negative population replacement rate. Romania does not have a culture of immigration, nor a long-term strategy and policies related to it. Moreover, around two million Romanians are emigrants themselves: 10% of the total population.
We remain with the obsessive question: What to do? What should be done so as Romania, which His Beatitude, Pope John Paul II, named “the Garden of the Mother of God”, not to look in a few decades as the buffer zone around Chernobyl: deserted and forgotten by time?
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The main focus of today’s conference is family values. I won’t approach them in my speech. I’ll continue instead to describe you the Evil. The scourges of our age which undermine and erode like seepage, mold and rust, the pillars of modern society – family and marriage –, adversities whom I name, without claiming copyright, “anti-family values”, or sins, in religious understanding. These anti-values tend to make our civilization collapse and crumble like many others in the past – some very sophisticated, indeed.
I’ve previously spoken to you about the major evil which, in my philosophy, is abortion. On other occasions I also spoke of the proper respect for human dignity necessary when handling human embryos or fetuses. I won’t insist on that here. I’ll continue to enumerate some of these anti-values.
Adultery. In the very first books of the Old Testament, God, through Moses’ voice, orders us: “Though shalt not commit adultery” (Exodus – 20, 14). But how many obey today the Lord’s commandment? We are confronted both with short-term and long-term adultery. Adultery of the husband, adultery of the wife or adultery of both.
Other anti-family values are the spouses’ separation, respectively divorce. Both represent the failure of marriage. Social, economic and financial commitments made by the spouses can hardly be respected anymore. Throughout the country, the divorce rate is rising. This is helped by the new divorcing procedure, “mutually consented” – respectively at the mediator, at the Civil Register or at the notary, compared to the old procedure – let’s call it „classical” – in court.
Mass-media and the Internet play their role very well – a negative one. Hollywood actors Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones’ separation becomes a global, even a galactic event. Similarly, singer Stefan Banica Jr’s divorcing Andreea Marin TV celeb was a national reality-show in Romania. What are we doing? Click on Like.
Concubinage, cohabitation between a man and a woman before getting married has been growing like weeds, everywhere. We also call it “illegitimate” or “unofficial” marriage. Or, recently, “consensual union”. Somehow likely is the domestic partnership, also called “registered partnership”, or “civil union”, a more recent substitute of marriage.
In the draft law for revising the Romanian Constitution, the actual article 48, concerning family, is as following: “Family is based on the mutually consented marriage of a man and a woman“. We owe this Christian upgrade of our fundamental charter of rights to deputies Florica Chereches, Grigore Craciunescu and Mircea Dolha.
I also must remind you of celibacy, an ever widespread phenomenon in many civilized states, including the United States, Germany, Japan and also visible in Romania. This lifestyle is more widespread among men under 40 years of age, but more and more women also chose it. Moreover, the word “bachelorette” has gradually entered our daily language, even if the dictionaries don’t mention it yet along with the recognized masculine term of “bachelor”. Public authorities, but also NGOs and churches should pay more attention to this social category which is growing day by day.
I will also remind you of the drama lived by the children whose parents – one of them or even both – have left to work abroad. There’s over 80,000 of them and the number is on the rise.
A few words now about human trafficking. In my short activity – of only two years – as a prefect of Bucharest Capital city, this horrible phenomenon has been for me a source of concern and a call to action. I substantially supported the prevention and awareness campaigns made by the Bucharest Regional Center for Combating Human Trafficking. I’ve closely worked with the Ministry of Internal Affairs to endow the center with human, material and financial resources. I’ve managed to establish a real partnership between the center and the Romanian Television, in order to broadcast a campaign that explicitly targeted this type of trans-national crime. Romania cannot remain passive when faced with this offense on human dignity which is human trafficking.
I’d like to underline that we should not restrain the notion of trafficking of persons, or human trafficking, only to sexual exploitation. We also need to take into consideration forced labor, slavery and practices similar to it. Servitude and organ harvesting, too. In all these situations, the keyword is exploitation. Not only women and girls are victims of human trafficking. The evil consequences of it affect also men and boys. Victims do not necessarily cross international borders. The human trafficking phenomenon can also take place inside national frontiers, from one region to another.
Globalization favors human trafficking to an alarming rate. The trafficking of persons represents a failure of our society. The human person is considered and treated as a commodity. Victims are dehumanized and traumatized, most of the times their lives being severely and irreversibly affected. They are subjected to physical privations, are denied medical care and most of the times are obliged to make use of illicit substances. But the traffic of persons also represents a failure of our today’s family.
Abuse and family dysfunction, altered relations and decreasing communication between parents and young people make the latter feel like they don’t belong to the family and thus increase their vulnerability.
Poverty, disintegrated families, one or both parents’ leaving to work abroad, social exclusion are factors who contribute to people’s vulnerability with regard to human trafficking.
In the end, I congratulate the organizers for their efforts in making this conference happen. At the end of this day, we’ll be richer if we can find an answer to the big question of this turn of the millennium: What to Do with Today’s Family?