Roma people, an ethnic minority group in Europe, suffer from widespread violence, poverty and widespread discrimination in employment, education and housing. Compared to other groups in Europe, Roma people have poorer health, lower life expectancy, less education, lower income and live in worse housing. Roma women are subject to forced sterilization. Although there are no longer anti-Roma laws on the statutes in Europe, the mountain of reports from the Commissioner for Human Rights and the European Commission Against Racism And Intolerance (ECRI), show that virulent anti-Gypsyism not only survives but is growing in many countries.
For decades, the Council of Europe (COE) in particular has worked to fight anti-Gypsyism, through its Dosta! (Enough) Campaign. Increasingly, scholars and activists in Europe are turning to media to help combat this form of racism. This video (28:25) produced by the COE, features a panel of experts, including a number of sociologists, explores the problem and efforts to address it:
This pervasive discrimination have led some to make the case that the Roma people share much with African Americans in the U.S. Among those who draw this parallel is Robert Rustem, from the European Roma and Travellers Forum. He writes:
Rather than recognise the plight of Roma as an urgent social and political issue, too many European governments ignore the application of their own laws, see Roma as primarily the concern of local councillors or the criminal justice system or simply do nothing at all. A similar intransigence served as a call to action for the African-American leadership in the 1950’s. It responded by mobilising support among black and white people and set out to pour shame on America’s political elite. Bus boycotts, sit-ins, marches, demonstrations and the emergence of more militant political forces such as Malcolm X, focussed the international spotlight on the injustice of Jim Crow apartheid and created the political pressure needed for lasting change. There are those in the Roma community who believe that similar non-violent tactics may now be needed in Europe to end the cycle of good intentions, warm words and neglect that has marked the post-war discussion of the ‘Roma Question.’
Rustem concedes that the Roma issue remains “on the fringes of political activism” in Europe. Still, Rustem and others in Europe who are committed to equality for Roma people say they will be looking to the anniversary of Dr. King’s March on Washington August 28th for inspiration.