International Romani Day 2021

Gypsies somehow always captured my fancy maybe from the gypsy dances we learnt at school, with bright colourful skirts and scarves. Not to mention the reference to gypsies by English storytellers like Enid Blyton and Agatha Christie.  

Then one day I came across this day dedicated to the gypsies, The world Gypsy day. I wrote something about them then. On how the world leaders looked at reacted to the Romani People, this was in 2017. Then in 2019 Sushma Swaraj proposed to include them into the Indian Diaspora. But then I realized it was time for to rethink and revisit the Romani people free of the imagery created by branding and literature. I was reading Yaron Matras book on the story of the Romani Gypsies.

Some of it was rather sad, like how Romani slaves were in demand because they were skilled craftsmen and they were of importance to the economic market. Gradually the landowners, monasteries and even the crown developed a dependency on the Romani slaves. Tigan was the Romani term that became synonymous with slave and it still has a derogatory connotation in Romanian language.

The Nazi’s stripped the Romani off their citizenship rights just like the Germans, but their claims for compensation for physical damage through sterilization and psychological damage through incarceration were not recognized. Claims for lost possessions were rejected because of belief that gypsies did not own possessions. Claims for compensation for lost income on basis of a reduction of earning capacity was also rejected on the grounds that gypsies would not have sought employment even under more favourable circumstances.

About 10 -12millions of Romani’s in Europe still suffer from poverty and exclusion. There is widespread anti gypsies. With the outbreak of COVID-19 and everyday life transforming in unbelievable ways life has got tougher for the Romani, with the anti-romani and anti-traveller prejudice. Marija Pejcinovic Buric the European commissioner for equality says she is concerned, about the compromised human rights of Roma, as the stringent meansures are hampering their access to provisions of basic public services particularly healthcare, sanitation and sometimes even fresh water.

Helena Dali the European commissioner for equality says, “Online hate speech and fake stories against Roma people are again on the rise.  There is tremendous anti-gypsies discrimination and socio-economic exclusion despite of EU and national rules against discrimination.” She talked of need to be more inclusive. She was talking of the EU member, the European convention on Human rights and the European social charter to step up their support, particularly since Romani faced the additional disadvantage of discrimination, hate speech and crime. Both Marja.. And Helena Dali in their combined message urged the governments to ensure that the Romani’s got equal access to provisions of public service that included provision of food, clean water, and basic means of hygiene and health protection.

The new council of Europe strategic action plan for Roma and Traveller inclusion (2020-2025) and EU’s forthcoming post 2020 Roma strategy aims to promote and protect human rights of Roma and Travellers in Europe, to combat anti-Gypsies and discrimination and to foster their social inclusion. The council strives to provide a conceptual framework for safeguarding democracy through equality social cohesion in diverse European societies.

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