This year, Fundación Secretariado Gitano (FSG) presents its XIV Report on Discrimination and the Roma Community. We have been producing this publication for 14 years, for the main purpose of uncovering and reporting the discrimination that, sadly, the Roma community continues to suffer. The report depicts 232 cases of discrimination in which we have assisted 278 people, includes special analysis of a core issue—intersectional discrimination— with particular attention for the situation of Roma women, and indicates progress and best practice in this area.
We must take into account the current context of the fight against discrimination; everyday discrimination we see year after year in these reports that affects the Roma community. It is a seemingly perpetual rejection and translates into denial of access to employment, housing and goods and services, and anti-Roma discourse in the media and online, etc. As well as being detrimental to human dignity, all that is a barrier to the exercise of other essential human rights in the pursuit of a dignified life. Let’s think of ourselves: what would our lives be like if we went to school at a segregated centre, and when we looked for a job, we could not secure an interview because of our surname? Or when trying to buy or rent a home, we were told it is not available, or at the supermarket we were followed by a security guard? Sadly, for Roma people in our country, such realities are not occasional but everyday.
There is a disconnect in the exercise of the right to equality that no society should tolerate. As well as pioneering in technology, industry, economy etc., our society must pioneer in the guarantee of fundamental rights. To do that, we must raise awareness in society of certain groups in the population that are frequently subject to prejudice and stereotypes. We must know the heterogeneous reality of Roma men and women; school textbooks must include this minority, and legislation must be more compre hensive.
Now is the ideal time to promote the Council for the Eradication of Discrimination for Race or Ethnicity and for our country to follow the recommendations of multiple anti-discrimination bodies, to approve a general anti-discrimination framework, to appropriately transpose European directives and to pass advanced anti-discrimination law, including on anti-Gypsyism and intersectional discrimination. Likewise, victims must be provided with an effective protection system from acts of discrimination that do not constitute a crime, which is why encouraging a Comprehensive Equality Act in Spain is so important, to reach consensus across all political parties. When it comes to fundamental rights, political leanings should not impose conditions. A protection framework should unite everyone. Now is the time to educate our society on tolerance, which means raising awareness of, preventing and sanctioning discriminatory behaviour.
We need to look to Europe, where extreme political ideologies are gaining ground in a number of countries (Italy, France, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Austria, etc.), using political discourse that threatens the human rights of the most disadvantaged in society—populist discourse that society responds to but that leads to a concerning ideological context if we remember that lamentable facts in our past have had dreadful consequences for Roma, immigrants, LGBT people, disabled people, Jewish people, etc. For that reason it is vital that European institutions give a robust response and defend the key values that have built the advanced, cohesive Europe respectful of fundamental rights that we are.
In addition, we must be aware of the situation of victims of discrimination; we have a serious problem of under-reporting nationally and at European level, as shown in the study “Second European Union minorities and discrimination survey” (EU-MIDIS II) by the Agency for Fundamental Rights, which found that 90% of people discriminated against do not report it. Therefore, it is essential to provide information to exercise their rights and accompany them throughout the process, because assimilating discrimination, fear and lack of trust in the system to protect rights have a great bearing on discriminated persons. We have a great challenge before us, where we can look to the support given to victims of inequality and gender violence as an example to follow, and make people trust in the system, inform them, accompany them, defend them and get redress for them. This year we have been pleased to see how, thanks to the accompaniment we offer through our equality officers, we are increasingly empowering Roma people, including to report instances of anti-Roma discrimination before the courts and public prosecutors for hate crime and discrimination.
On the subject of victims, this year we wanted to analyse intersectional discrimination, focusing on the situation of Roma women, since we are born with the condition of being both women and Roma, which places us at a special disadvantage when exercising our right to equality. This is a concept we have to work on; we must know how to identify discrimination and our legislative system must contemplate and know how to respond to it.
As in previous years, we have analysed progress and best practice of note in this area, which offer a good reference guide of the path being taken by various stakeholders (public, private and social organisations). We also highlight recent case law on discrimination and hate crime, in which we analyse various rulings of the European Court of Human Rights.
Once again this year we would like to thank every person and institution that has worked on this Report—first and foremost, the members of staff at FSG who have been involved in collecting and following up on cases and offering support to victims of discrimination.
Secondly, we would like to thank the Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality (now the Ministry of the Presidency, Court Relations and Equality), which once again this year has continued to support and offer economic resources for the FSG’s activities to promote the equal treatment of the Roma community.
Lastly, we would like to thank Soraya Post and Tania Sordo for their insightful articles, and all the other professionals who have worked daily to defend equality. We would also like to give a special mention to all the victims of ethnic discrimination who have trusted our organisation for the last 14 years and who have sought our help to defend their rights. All this is why FSG will continue to work boldly, pushing to defend the right to equality and the fight against anti-Roma sentiment.
Sara Giménez Giménez
Lawyer, and Head of the Department of Equality and Fight Against Discrimination.
Fundación Secretariado Gitano.