Today we join Just Fair and Social Rights Alliance and many others to mark Zero Discrimination Day, highlighting the fundamental principle of non-discrimination.
We know that individuals, or specific groups of individuals, face structural and systemic discrimination. Today, we reflect on the UK’s legal commitments to ensure all people enjoy their rights without discrimination.
Below is a blog by our policy and campaigns worker Mihai Bica, and statements in support of Zero Discrimination Day from our CEO Sylvia Ingmire and campaign partners Just Fair and Social Rights Alliance.
Mihai Bica: “A lifetime of discrimination - what is it like?”
For most people it is hard to conceive something like that is possible. I am glad and happy for all those who don’t have to experience discrimination in their lives. And I hope that this will be the case for more and more of us in the future. But for some, it is not the case yet. Too many of us experience discrimination from birth throughout their whole life. And I am not talking about decades ago. I am talking about now, about 2021, in societies of the present day. A lifetime of discrimination? Read more and I’ll let you draw the conclusions.
The genocide of Roma people during the Second World War, known as the Forgotten Holocaust, aimed for the eradication of Roma people. At least 200,000 died by Nazi hands purely on ethnic grounds. But the process of “controlling” the numbers of Roma has continued long after that.
Forced sterilisation of Roma women was a practice in various European countries that continued well after the Second World War. Sweden is believed to have sterilised about 60,000 Roma women between 1935 and 1976. But in some places, the practice continued until very recently. The last known and documented case comes from the Czech Republic in 2007. Even before Roma children are born, they experience discrimination.
When giving birth, in most East European countries Roma women often receive poor quality support.
Then, when a Roma child is growing up, they are faced with many challenges. Worrying numbers of Roma children are experiencing school segregation, with as many as 45% of schools segregated in some countries, with Roma receiving an inferior form of education. This results in high rates of illiteracy and low levels of education amongst Roma. According to the Fundamental Rights Agency, in 2014, 20% of Roma self-declared as not being able to read or write while the EU average was 1%.
This has a huge impact on the lives of Roma and their futures, including the likelihood of finding employment in a hugely competitive market. By 2014, in the EU, less than one in three Roma were in paid employment. Not long ago, a Roma lady told me: “I have tried everything to get a job: I went to interviews, and I thought, is it because of my scarf and dress? So I had trousers and left the scarf behind but still I was refused the job. I just want a job like everyone else”.
Life beyond that is not easy. In 2016, one in four Roma said they had been discriminated against in the last year and only 10% reported it to authorities. This experience is the same for the adult Roma population living in the UK. The vast majority do not understand what hate crime is, but they say they have experienced it once the definition is explained to them. This happens to us in all areas of life: education, health, employment, access to services, etc.
At least 200,000 Roma have made the UK their home since the fall of the Communist Bloc. As it does for many, the UK offers better opportunities for Roma as well. While adults can gain jobs better and are able to provide for their families, children have access to quality education.
Our parents still carry the experience of discrimination with them and many of our young adults share similar experiences from their childhood. But the younger generation of Roma children in the UK is the hope for our communities. They need to be encouraged, supported to build confidence, to raise their aspirations and to be proud of their ethnicity. This is how they will become successful Roma adults.
On Zero Discrimination Day we must pledge for no discrimination in UK society for the benefit of us all.
Mihai Bica’s blog is also published on http://justfair.org.uk/home/blog/guest-blog/.
Statement from our CEO on Zero Discrimination Day
“Just because of who they are, Roma have been relentlessly persecuted facing expulsions, slavery, genocide, apartheid and social exclusion.
As the lessons from their history have not been learnt, discrimination against Roma continues today.
We can end it together by saying NO to all forms of prejudice and discrimination while creating a more equal, humane and compassionate society.”
Sylvia Ingmire, CEO, Roma Support Group
“Specific groups of people continue to face socio-economic inequality, often because of entrenched historical and contemporary forms of structural and systemic discrimination.
Non-discrimination and equality are fundamental to the exercise and enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights legally obliges the UK to guarantee that economic, social and cultural rights are exercised without discrimination of any kind as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
Today we urge the UK Government to take concrete, deliberate and targeted measures to comply with this immediate and cross-cutting obligation.”
Misha Nayak-Oliver, Campaigns and Advocacy Lead, Just Fair.
Social Rights Alliance
“We believe in the power of experience and the leadership potential of those who know first-hand the effects of social inequality and discrimination.
The support we provide brings together communities to campaign against burning injustices through a rights-based approach. The Social Rights Alliance is rooted in the idea that we should all be able to exercise our rights – the everyday rights we are entitled to which allow us to live in safety and dignity – equally and without discrimination.”
Susanna Hunter-Darch, Social Rights Alliance England Coordinator