C Explanatory memorandum by Mr Kalmár,
rapporteur for opinion
1 General comments
1. I wish to congratulate Ms Groth
on her excellent report, which dismantles the widespread stereotypes and
misconceptions on Roma migrants in Europe, while giving factual
evidence on their actual situation.
2. The report is in line with the principles consistently promoted
by the Parliamentary Assembly and enshrined in its texts. The Committee
on Equality and Non-Discrimination can only support the efforts
to identify discriminatory policies affecting migrants or any other
group and ask the Council of Europe member States to redress them.
3. The measures indicated in the draft recommendation are all
the more needed and timely, as in the current situation of economic
crisis and financial emergency, the rights of minorities and disadvantaged
groups are going down the list of priorities in the political agenda
of Council of Europe member States. In addition, Roma people and
migrants are very often scapegoats in the current difficult situation.
4. The report is very comprehensive and I can subscribe to it
entirely. In the present opinion I will limit myself to underlining
some aspects of particular interest for the Committee on Equality
2 The situation
of Roma women and girls
In Resolution 1740 (2010)
on the situation of Roma in Europe and relevant activities
of the Council of Europe, the Assembly noted that the Roma were
victims of outrages reflecting an increasing trend towards anti-Gypsyism
of the worst kind. Therefore, it urged member States to protect
Roma from discrimination including, where not in place already,
the adoption, implementation and regular monitoring of comprehensive
anti-discrimination legislation as well as measures to increase
awareness among Roma of such legislation and their access to legal
remedies when their rights have been violated;
6. The relevant opinion of the Committee on Equal Opportunities
for Women and Men underlined that Roma women and girls faced triple
discrimination: as Roma by the wider community, and as women and
girls by both the wider and their own community. This applies also
to migrant Roma women, for whom their migrant origin represents
an additional ground for discrimination.
7. Violations of the rights of Roma women and girls include widespread
gender-based violence, both within and outside their community.
Within the community, this is often represented by domestic violence,
taking the form of early and forced marriages, rape and marital
rape, physical, economic and verbal abuse. Women victims of domestic
violence find it hard to report it and seek protection because of
fear of stigmatisation, economic dependency and lack of other places
to go. Difficult access to justice also has a role in this, as in many
8. Roma girls face barriers in accessing education, such as high
rates of poverty, the burden of household and care tasks from a
very early age, as well as early marriages. Higher illiteracy rates
among Roma women compared to Roma men and to non-Roma people are
a sign and a consequence of this.
9. Roma women and girls have limited opportunities to health
care. Exclusion from the health care system has a disproportionate
impact on Roma women’s health, in particular in the areas of reproductive
and maternal health, as well as emergency care. Patriarchal education
results in a particular reluctance to see the gynaecologist.
10. Coercive sterilisations are a severe form of violence that
Roma women have suffered in a number of Council of Europe member
States. Cases of sterilisation without prior full and informed consent
have been reported as recently as 2007 and 2008. Under-reporting
has probably been endemic, because many women found out too late
that they had been sterilised, or felt ashamed. Only recently have
national authorities, in some cases, admitted to their responsibilities
and accepted to compensate the victims of the damages suffered.
11. Resolution 1740
recommended specific measures related to Roma women
and girls, including:
a positive image of diversity and addressing stereotypes, including
those linked to gender, both within and outside the Roma communities;
- ensuring that Roma girls are given equal opportunities
in education, in particular secondary education, which too many
Roma girls are obliged to drop out of because of parental and/or
community pressure linked to early marriage, teenage pregnancies,
and household and family responsibilities;
- undertaking, in conjunction with civil society organisations,
gender-sensitive studies on the situation of children from minority
groups in the school system.
3 Trafficking in
Large numbers of Roma women
are victims of trafficking, which constitutes both a serious crime
and a violation of human rights. The European Roma Rights Centre
(ERRC), a non-governmental organisation enjoying consultative status
with the Council of Europe, described the incidence of trafficking
of Roma women in the Czech Republic in a shadow report to the United
Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.Note
13. This report highlighted that trafficking for sexual and labour
exploitation occurred internally and externally, especially near
the German border. Roma from the Slovak Republic, Romania and Bulgaria
were trafficked for sexual and labour exploitation into the Czech
Republic, as a target or as a transit country. Roma women from settlements
in the eastern part of the Slovak Republic were trafficked further
to other western European countries, such as Germany and Switzerland.
14. The same report provided an explanation of the reasons for
this plague: “Social exclusion is a key factor contributing to the
increased vulnerability of Romani women and girls to trafficking
in human beings. In 2006, a minimum of 60 000 Roma were estimated
to be socially excluded, likely a result of the discrimination Roma face
in every aspect of life, most notably in education”.
The 2011 ERRC report Breaking the silence: trafficking in
indicated that Roma women and children
were particularly vulnerable to trafficking. While women are often
trafficked for purposes of sexual exploitation, a significant number
of children are victims of trafficking for various purposes including labour
exploitation, domestic servitude, organ trafficking, illegal adoption
and forced begging.
4 Access to justice
16. The term “access to justice”
in a legal sense refers to the right to bring a case before a court.
However, true access to justice depends on a number of elements,
including access to a lawyer and the ability to cover the relevant
cost, or having it paid by the State if necessary. Access to justice
also means that laws are available and easy to understand, that
they provide clear standards and guidelines and redress for every wrong.
Finally, it requires a well-administered judicial system that processes
and resolves all complaints.
For Roma people, access to justice is difficult due to several
- high rates
of illiteracy, widespread in the Roma communities and particularly
among women, leading to insufficient awareness of one’s rights;
- the lack of basic documents, such as birth certificates,
personal identity documents, as well as documents related to health
insurance and social welfare, also represents a serious obstacle
to the exercise of basic rights;Note
- law-enforcement officials being reluctant or biased in
dealing with cases brought by Roma people.Note
5 Explanation of
5.1 Amendment A
Protocol No. 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights
(ETS No. 177, ETS No. 5) expands the principle of non-discrimination
by applying it to the exercise of any legal right and to the actions
of public authorities. This should guarantee that even the fields
of activities of the public authorities which are relevant to migration
(for instance the issuing of visas) are subjected to this principle.
5.2 Amendment B
Policing is crucial for ensuring safety and stability for
all segments of societies. Like any other activity of the public
authority, it should be impartial and non-discriminatory. This should
apply to activities related to migration and is particularly relevant
to Roma migrants, which very often suffer from discriminatory practices.
5.3 Amendment C
We all know the major problems of the Roma society: lack of
education, inadequate lodging, unemployment and criminality. Lack
of education is the largest obstacle in having access to employment.
Lodging and employment are very urgent problems to be solved. Without
work and without any legal income, many Roma families live on family
benefits from the government. Some even have to resort to criminal
activities to try to make a living.
The current economic crisis is aggravating the situation.
This is one of the main reasons for migration. This is true not
only for the Roma population but also for other ethnic groups. This
problem could be managed by creating jobs in the affected countries.
This means investments and a regulation that supports investments
in the countries of origin. As a result, the number of migrants
could be significantly reduced.