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ERRC: Discrimination Against Romani Women in Spain
23 jul 2004
Today, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women ("CEDAW"), the review body responsible for the monitoring of states' compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, reviews Spain's compliance with the Convention. The review provides the opportunity to highlight in particular discrimination and other human rights violations against Romani women in Spain.

An ERRC submission presented to the Committee in advance of today's review indicates that Romani women in Spain have been subjected to intersectional discrimination on the basis of gender and ethnicity. Romani women in Spain face denial of fundamental human rights in a number of areas as a result of the compounding effects of racial and gender discrimination.

The report submitted by the ERRC highlights a number of concerns relating to the situation of Romani women in Spain, including the following: * Romani women face discrimination in the criminal justice system. One consequence is a very disproportionate overrepresentation of Romani women in Spanish prisons; *

Policies to combat domestic violence and other gender violence have not yet had significant impact among Spanish Romani communities; when Romani women are subjected to domestic violence, they are often reluctant to use mainstream mechanisms for combating gender violence due in part to lack of support for such actions, as well as a range of other reasons not yet addressed by adequate policy measures; * Romani women are not adequately represented in Spanish public life; * Romani children are subjected to discrimination in the Spanish educational system. Racial segregation of Romani children in schools has been reported and incidents of vehement opposition to the admission of Romani children in schools by non-Romani parents have been reported in Spain.

A disproportionate number of Romani girls drop out of school after elementary school; * Roma in Spain tend to be employed in the informal economy as street-vendors, garbage collectors, domestic workers and similar.

Research suggests that Romani women tend to suffer higher rates of unemployment than Romani men. Romani women also tend to be concentrated in lower paid jobs than men.

Significantly, research also shows a great deal of prejudice on the part of employers and co-workers towards employing Romani women, so much so that some of them claim to be non-Roma from Latin American countries.

Spain's Report to the CEDAW and other government documents focus on training for women, ignoring the role of discrimination in employment; * Romani women tend to face more health problems than women belonging to the general population, and women's life expectancy is lower in Romani communities than in society as a whole.

Moreover, Romani child mortality rates are reportedly higher among girls than among boys. Romani women have been treated with hostility by medical professionals, and they have been racially segregated in some health care facilities; *

Traditional Romani marriages are not recognised in Spain, with implications for the ability of individuals to benefit from certain social services on an equal footing with non-Roma; * Spanish governmental policies on Roma downplay gender concerns. Similarly, the governmental plan on gender equality does not emphasise any concerns specific to Romani women; * The Spanish anti-discrimination body, as a subsidiary body to a government Ministry, appears to fall short of international standards in terms of its independence.

In its submission to CEDAW, the ERRC recommends a number of measures to the Government of Spain, including the following:

* Require that gender concerns are mainstreamed and greater participation of Romani men and women is ensured in the design, implementation and monitoring of projects under the Spanish government's Roma Development Plan.
* Undertake urgent measures to remedy the under-representation of Romani women in public institutions.
* Address on a priority basis the disproportionately high rates of school abandonment among Romani girls.
* Provide comprehensive measures to ensure that all Romani children in Spain enjoy full and unimpeded access to mainstream education.
* Develop and implement effective programmes aimed specifically at improving the access of Romani women and girls to healthcare.
* With a view to ensuring that Romani women and girls do not suffer discriminatory treatment in accessing healthcare, provide information to medical personnel on minorities in Spain, particularly as regards the Romani minority, and training on the legal obligation not to discriminate.
* At the highest levels, speak out against the problem of anti-Romani sentiment, which particularly affects the capacity of Romani women to fully enjoy all their rights. Address the problem of widespread racism, and gender stereotyping by developing resource materials and conducting comprehensive training for national and local administration, educational institutions, law-enforcement authorities, the judiciary, health-care providers, media, and other key institutions.
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