Thousands of Romanians have expressed anger at a decision by the Oslo authorities to take five children away from their Romanian-Norwegian parents over allegations of mistreatment. Over 62,000 people in Romania have signed a petition in recent days asking for a fast and fair solution in a sensitive case involving a Romanian-Norwegian family whose five children were taken into care by the Norwegian authorities because of alleged mistreatment.
The petition, initiated by two well-known Romanian journalists, accuses the Norwegian authorities of “breaching human rights”.
The case, which involve Romanian IT engineer Marius Bodnariu, his Norwegian wife Ruth Johanne Bodnariu and their children, has sparked a protests in Romania.
Thousands of people took to the streets over the weekend in Romania’s major cities, as well as in other European and American cities, in support of the Bodnariu family.
The Romanian government has said that the country’s ambassador in Norway will meet the Norwegian Minister of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion on Wednesday to discuss the situation.
“We want to get a clearer picture of the case… Of course, we understand that Norway has strict laws in regard to child protection, and its institutions are working independently, but we also have the obligation to protect the interests of Romanian citizens,” government spokesperson Dan Suciu said on Tuesday.
“The Romanian government hopes for a rapid solution in this case, which will only take into consideration the children’s best interests,” Suciu added.
In November, the Norwegian child protection service, Barnevernet, took the Bodnariu family’s five children into care after receiving a complaint from the principal of the school that the elder children attended.
Barnevernet has given no information about the reasons for its decision, but media reports said the parents allegedly abused their elder daughters and were also suspected of religious indoctrination.
The only official reaction came from Norwegian embassy in Bucharest.
“A care order is issued only when the child is subject to serious neglect, maltreatment or abuse. Additionally the care order must be necessary and in the best interest of the child… Placing a child outside the home without the parents’ consent is always a measure of last resort,” said a press statement frm the embassy.
The Bodnariu family – who are Baptists – have said that the Norwegian child protection institution overreacted to the “children’s religious upbringing” or to “the way they are disciplined at home”.
They denied beating the children, but admitted they smacked them on occasions.
They added that Barnevement considers them to be fundamentalist Christians, “which is not the case”.
The children – aged between four months and ten years – are being cared for by three foster families while the Norwegian authorities open an international adoption procedure for them, according to media reports.
In Romania, many have accused the Norwegian authorities of cultural insensitivity at best and child abduction at worst.
“I can’t believe that the Bodnariu parents are able to physically abuse their children. Of course, they should slap them or apply minor corrective discipline, but only as a way to educate them. What is wrong with this?” asked 31-year-old Daniel Balanescu.
Official data confirms that domestic violence against children remains a problem in Romania.
Around 63 per cent of Romanian families use physical correction, such as slapping or pulling hair, as a way of educating their children, according to data from the international organisation Save the Children.
More than half of the domestic violence cases against children are registered in rural areas.
Experts say this reflects the endurance of traditional values.
“The problem in Romania is not that we don’t have laws on the subject, but the way they are enforced,” said Diana Stanculescu, an expert on child abuse.
“While Norway has no tolerance for any form of abuse, in Romania the norms are different,” she added.