Another year has passed and the Fundación Secretariado Gitano (FSG), presents its XIII Report on Discrimination and the Roma Community. For 13 years running we have published this report whose main objective is still to raise awareness about and denounce discrimination which unfortunately continues to plague the Roma community. The report describes 202 cases of discrimination and assistance provided to 334 people. It also zooms in on an overarching theme, i.e. the need for a Comprehensive Equal Treatment and Non-discrimination Law and includes progress made and best practices in this connection.
We must bear in mind that the current context of the anti-discrimination movement in Spain is characterised by diverse manifestations of racism giving rise to discrimination, hate crimes and hate speech. These racist acts take place in a variety of contexts, some particularly harmful such as social networks and the Internet in general. Here hate speech targeting Roma and other groups runs rampant due to its anonymity and the fact that servers are often located in other countries. The European Commission and the major IT companies (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft) are aware of these difficulties and have signed a European-wide agreement to combat unlawful incitement to hatred through the Internet. Furthermore, discrimination and hate crimes affect the exercise of basic rights that are absolutely necessary in order to live a dignified life as has been documented in the cases described.
We must also keep our sights fixed on the situation in Europe and the rest of the world where violence and rejection go hand-in-hand in the form of threats and brutal aggression against Roma camps in France, Bulgaria and Ukraine and segregated schools in Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic. We also observe how the discourse of certain political leaders undermines the fundamental rights of many groups. This is particularly disturbing when one considers that these are political leaders voted into office by the citizens. We need to ask ourselves in what direction social construction is headed and on what type of values we want to build our society.
In this context, we need to pay particular attention to the perspective of the victims of discrimination. In the case of Roma, we need to work side-by-side with them and empower them especially considering the high degree of under-reporting which is the result of assimilating rejection, lack of information, fear of reprisals and the deep-down belief that no one will stand up for them when their rights have been violated. The Foundation is determined to turn this situation around and to that end we are implementing our new operational programme called ‘Calí’ which focuses on the equality of Roma women. We have hired 28 equality field workers and are working together with 7 organisations to provide assistance services to victims of racial or ethnic discrimination.
This year the report addresses a central theme: the Comprehensive Equal Treatment and Non-discrimination Law which we believe is vital if we expect to move forward in defending the right to equality of all groups in Spain. This legislation must provide guarantees. In other words, we need more than a legal proclamation, we need a law which promotes true equality. We believe that it is time to re-think and update the draft version of the comprehensive law on equality done in 2011 and work as experts who are fully aware of the reality of today’s society. As this law addresses the defence of a fundamental right, it should be approved with the consensus of all political parties insofar as the protection of human rights unites us all.
Along with this, we will once again look at everyday discrimination through the cases collected while also focusing on some anti-Roma hate crimes affecting the lives of this minority group. This sample of cases serves as a social barometer when it comes to equal treatment of the Roma community. It is truly sad to see the same hateful discourse year after year: “the best Gypsy is a dead one; for each good Gypsy there are at least 20 bad ones; boss’s orders-I can’t serve Gypsies; all you Gypsies are the same; since when do Gypsies know anything about cleaning; I don’t want to work with Gypsies because if they don’t deceive you at the beginning, they will in the end”. It is vital to raise our society’s awareness of the injustice of this prolonged and generalised historic rejection of this minority.
As in past years, we analyse progress and highlight best practices in this area that can serve as a benchmark for different stakeholders (public, private and social organisations). We also draw attention the latest case law regarding discrimination and hate crimes including an analysis of different rulings handed down by the European Court of Human Rights.
We believe that now is the time to encourage coordination among key players, to take a decisive step forward in implementing legal advances in criminal law, to apply police protocols, to encourage activity on the part of the specialised prosecutors, to get bar associations to create specific teams of court-appointed lawyers to deal with discrimination and hate crimes, to continue to coordinate efforts with victim assistance groups, etc. In short, we need to take a practical step forward and to do that political will is both vital and necessary in order to have the elements, tools and resources needed to strengthen one of the most important values of rule of law, equality.
Once again, we would like to express our gratitude to all of the individuals and institutions who have collaborated in compiling this Report. First to the workers of the FSG who, through their different work centres, were involved in the collection of and follow-up on the different cases and provided support to the victims of discrimination.
Second, to the Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality which once again has provided the FSG with economic support for the actions we carry out in the promotion of equal treatment of the Roma community.
Lastly, we would like to acknowledge the collaboration offered by Adela Cortina, María del Carmen Dueñas, Sofía Fernández, Miguel A. Fernández, Ricardo Pérez, Cristina de la Serna, Jesús Generelo, Esteban Ibarra, Inés de Araoz and Moha Gerehou, politicians and professionals who contribute to defending equality in their daily work. Also, a special thanks to all the victims of ethnic discrimination who have put their trust in our Foundation for 13 years now and have come to us for help in defending their rights. For all of these reasons, the FSG will continue to work forcefully to defend the right to equality and combat anti-Gypsyism.
Sara Giménez Giménez
Attorney at Law Director of the Department of Equality and Anti-Discrimination. FSG