Romani society and culture

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1552 woodcut of a Romani family

The Romani people are a distinct ethnic and cultural group of peoples living all across the globe, who share a family of languages and sometimes a traditional nomadic mode of life.[1] Though their exact origins are unclear, central India is a notable point of origin.[2] Their language stems from and is similar to modern-day Gujarati and Rajasthani, borrowing loan words from other languages as they migrated from India. In Europe, even though their culture has been victimized by other cultures, they have still found a way to maintain their heritage and society.[3][4]

Origins[edit]

A Romani wagon.

Linguistic and phonological research has traced the Roma people's origin to places in the Indian subcontinent, specifically linking Proto-Romani groups to Central India. Many[quantify] report in extracts from popular literature that Romani emerged from the North-west regions of India, rather than from Central India.[5] Features of phonological developments which emerged during the early transition stage from Old to Middle Indic prove that the history of Romani began in Central India.[6] The Romani language shares many features with the Central Indo-Aryan languages such as Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi and Rajasthani; it also shares connections with Northern Indo-Aryan languages like Kashmiri, and the language itself contains a cluster of Persian and Arabic words. Linguists use these phonological similarities as well as features of phonological developments which emerged during the early transition stage from Old Sanskrit to Middle Indic Prakrit to conclude that the history of Romani began in Central India.[7] Other factors such as DNA and blood groups and unwritten customs also suggest Indian subcontinent origins of the Roma, possibly the main haplogroup of the Romani men (HM82), which is definitely Indian, could be explained. The Roma find issues with documenting their own exact origin due to a lack of finding specific records left by ancestors. Their history however is retold by clan family customs, such as singing and storytelling. Records cannot identify exactly why the Roma migrated from India; there are a number of possible motives, such as famine and military invasions on the part of Alexander the Great (356-323 BCE) and/or Mahmud of Ghazni (971-1030 CE).

There is no 100% single origin theory that is accepted by all different Roma groups. Many legends and theories exist in the different countries where Roma live in. It varies from Dasikane Roma (Christian), and Horahane Roma (Muslim) at the Balkans, as well as by the different Roma subgroups around the World.

Many versions were put up by non-roma, especially the version of the evangelical missionaries, that the Roma were supposedly the descendants of Indian slaves who were once taken by Mahmud Ghaznawi in the years 1000-1026 AD from his India campaign. This claim is fueled by Islamophobia. However, this contradicts the Byzantine written mentions of Roma people who lived in Thrace in Europe already at 800-803 AD.

In Hungary there is a claim that the Roma are descendants of the untouchable, the Dalits, who came to Europe from India between 400 and 500 AD. there is a genetic study which clearly shows that roma are genetically close to indian untouchables or descended from indian dalits[8]

The Sinti in Germany believe that their ancestors once came to Europe as war refugees from Sindh in 711-713 AD through the Umayyads under Muhammad ibn al Qasim, while some said they are the descendants of the Sintians who live once in Sintiki in Europe.

Another legend described the Persian king Bahram V, who took musicians from India to Iran at 420-438 AD, then wandered over the silk road to Europe. Some believe the Roma are their descendants.

Some Roma groups believe they are the descendants of Indians who were brought to Europe by Alexander the Great around the year 326 BC. This legend spread widely among the Christian and Muslim Roma in North Macedonia and Greece.

The majority of the Romanlar in Turkey, on the other hand, believe that they are the descendants of the Indian servants of Cleopatra, the last queen of the Ptolemaic Kingdom, or the descendants of Indian traders who came to Egypt later during the Roman-Indian trade relations between 1st century AD - 2nd century AD, and lived there for several centuries, mixed with the Copts. The Copts called them ⲣⲱⲙⲁ (Roma), which means human being in Bohairic Coptic also named ⲗⲱⲙⲓ (Lomi) in Fayyumic coptic. In fact there are many archaeological artifacts found from South Indian settlers in Egypt on the Red Sea and the Nil River at Koptps (Qift), and the Roma are also mentioned in the early Coptic chronicles. Through the Arab–Byzantine wars 629–1050s AD, they came together with the Arabian warriors as sutlers, from Egypt to Anatolia in the Byzantine Empire, where they were called Athinganos (untouchables), and belonged to the Gnostic sect of the Simonians, who were named after their founder Simon Magus. In 1050 AD Roma were definitely living in Byzantium, at Sulukule the oldest Roma sedentary settlement. The Roma migrated from Byzantium in several waves to different countries in Europe.

An old German theory said, the Roma are the descendants of the Chingari tribe (Tschingaren), a Hindu folk, that belonged to the Chandala (Tschandala), once lived in north-west India, and moved to Europe through Egypt, and from there to Europe over Asia Minor. The Chandala are mentioned in the post-Vedic Manusmriti text, as untouchables, originated from the union of low cast Shudra men and high cast Brahmin women.

Some Indian scholars have put forward the theory that the ancestors of the Roma left India due to the 12 year famine in the 7th century AD, due to lack of rain from Thanjavur district, mentioned in Hindu literature Periya Puranam.

Then there are some Roma groups who claim they are descendants of Ancient Egyptians (Balkan-Egyptians, descendants of the pharaohs, or egyptian slaves who left egypt with moses), or Sassanid Persians (Ashkali) who came to the Balkans. Several Roma groups claim that the Roma are the descendants of the lost ten tribes of the Israelites, or Cainites. Other groups refer to ancient Sigynnae tribe, or see themselves as descendants of Atlantis, or the sunken city Dwaraka in Gujarat-India.

However genetic and linguistic studies have shown clearly the Indian subcontinent to be the country of origin. In particular the main Y-DNA haplogroup H1, as well as the main mt-DNA M5, are proof of a South Asian origin. All other haplogroups among the Roma people are also found by non-Roma, as a result for intermarriages.

Names[edit]

The Romani people are today found across the world. Typically, Roma adopt given names that are common in the country of their residence. Seldom do modern Roma use the traditional name from their own language, such as Čingaren. Romanes is the only Indo-Aryan language that has been spoken exclusively around Europe since the Middle Ages. Speakers use many terms for their language. They generally refer to their language as Čingari čhib or řomani čhib translated as ‘the Romani language’, or romanes, ‘in a Rom way’. The English term, Romani, has been used by scholars since the 19th Century, where previously they had used the term 'Gypsy Language'.

Family and life stages[edit]

Traditionally, Roma place a high value on the extended family.[9]

Marriage and controversies[edit]

Marriages with relatives are strictly prohibited. Marriage in Romani society underscores the importance of family and demonstrates ties between different groups, often transnationally. Traditionally an arranged marriage is highly desirable.[10] Parents of the potential bridal couple help identify an ideal partner for their child. Parents rarely force a particular spouse on their child, although it is an established norm to be married by your mid-twenties.[10] School, church, weddings, and other events are also popular environments for finding a prospective spouse. Potential couples are expected to be supervised or chaperoned by an adult. With the emergence of both social media such as Facebook and mobile phones, and the advancing education of women, many traditional mores and conservative views have become less rigid. In some Romani groups, for example the Finnish Roma, the idea of a legally registered marriage is ignored altogether.[11]

Marriages outside their own groups are extremely rare and often not welcomed. Christian and Muslim Roma generally do not get married. There are marriages with non-roma Gadjo, especially roma woman and gadjo men. Balkan and Turkish Muslim roma men who came to Germany as guest workers have sometimes married German women. Traditionally, the Romani community is highly patriarchal, such that issues like virginity is considered essential in unmarried women. This practice provides a visible representation of a young women's preserved purity and thereby the maintained honour of her family. As a result, men and women often marry very young. The Romani practice of child marriage has generated substantial controversy across the world. In 2003, one of the many self-styled Romani "kings", Ilie Tortică, prohibited marriage before the parties were of legal age in their country of residence. A Romani patriarch, Florin Cioabă, ran afoul of Romanian authorities in late 2003 when he married off his youngest daughter, Ana-Maria, at the age of twelve, well below the legal marriageable age.[12]

Bride kidnapping is believed to be a traditional part of Romani practice. Girls as young as twelve years old may be kidnapped for marriage to teenage boys. This practice has been reported in Ireland, England, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Bulgaria and Slovakia.[13][14][15] Bride kidnapping is thought to be a way to avoid a bride price or a means for a girl to marry a boy she wants but that her parents do not want.[15] The tradition's normalisation of kidnapping puts young women at higher risk of becoming victims of human trafficking.[13][14]

The practices of bride kidnapping and child marriage are not universally accepted throughout Romani culture. Some Romani women and men seek to eliminate such customs.[16]

Romani mothers breastfeed their children for optimal health and increased immunity. They also view this as a gift from God, and a help to building healthy relationships between mothers and children.[17]

Purity and death[edit]

Christian Roma rite, Parts of the human body are considered impure: the genital organs, because they produce impure emissions, and the lower body.

Clothes for the lower body, as well as the clothes of menstruating women, are washed separately. Items used for eating are washed in a different place.

Childbirth is considered "impure" and must occur outside the dwelling place; the mother is considered "impure" for 40 days.

Death is seen as "impure" and affects the whole family of the dead, who may remain "impure" for a period after the death; usually private items of the dead are considered to be impure and are to be buried in his/her grave or given to non-Romani poor people. "Impure" is not literal but rather linked to cleanliness.[citation needed]

This practice of burial (rather than cremation) is also found amongst the nomadic people of Western India to this day. Notable deviations from this practice exist among German Roma and British Romanichal, the latter holding a tradition of cremation similar to that of some Hindu cultures. Up until the mid-20th century they invariably burned the deceased person and all their earthly belongings, including the dwelling place, all which was considered spiritually impure. During the latter half of the 20th century British Romanichal began adopting the burial customs of their Continental cousins. It is believed the soul of the deceased does not officially enter Heaven until after the burial.

Child upbringing[edit]

Romani people incorporate their values into how they raise their children. There is an element of impurity placed upon both the mother and father after the mother gives birth. This impurity is lessened if the child is a male and the family is considered “lucky”. Traditionally, the couple will live with the father of the groom until their first child is born. Romani people place high value on extended family so godparents, along with this other family, are active in the child's life to ensure its well-being. The child's parents often do not have an input in what their child eats throughout the day, so the child relies on eating whatever happens to come their way.[18]

Moral values[edit]

The culture and tradition of Dasikane (Christian) Roma and Horahane (Muslim) Roma is very different. There is no single roma culture or tradition, it differs from country, subgroups and religion.

Romanipen[edit]

Romanipen (also romanypen, romanipe, romanype, romanimos, romaimos, romaniya) is a complicated concept of Romani philosophy encompassing totality of the Romani spirit, culture, law, being a Rom, a set of Romani strains.

An ethnic Rom is considered to be a Gadjikane Roma in Romani society if the person has no Romanipen. Sometimes a Gadjo, usually an adopted child, may be considered to be a Rom if the person has Romanipen. As a concept, Romanipen has been the subject of interest to numerous academic observers. It has been hypothesized that it owes more to a framework of culture than simply an adherence to historically received rules.[19]

Significant changes in Romani culture following the Second World War have been attributed to the suspension of these social norms, as strict rules relating to food and contact with certain classes of people broke down. This period also coincided with a perceived loss of authority invested in traditional leaders, the primary maintainers of Romanipen.[20] Furthermore, the Roma who found themselves under Soviet control during the war, while deported to the east of the Urals and often persecuted, were generally left alone to follow their orthodox practices and thus preserved strict interpretations of Romanipen. However, the Roma who lived in other countries of eastern Europe, in the face of widespread discrimination and society's attempts at forced assimilation, often had to compromise their strict interpretation of the customs to survive. As a result, the whole concept of Romanipen became interpreted differently among various Roma groups.

Being a part of Romani society[edit]

A considerable punishment for a Rom is banishment from Romani society.[21] An expelled person is considered to be "contaminated" and is shunned by other Romanis.

Travelling Roma left symbols or signposts for their traveling fellows, known as patrins (an old word for leaf).

Romani Code[edit]

Romani Code, or Romano Zakono, is the most important part of Romanipen. It is a set of rules for Romani life.

Though Romani ethnic groups have different sets of rules, Oral Romani cultures are most likely to adhere to the Romani code, these communities are geographically spread.[22] There are proverbs about the Romani Code and customs, such as:

  • There exist as many customs as there are Romani groups. (Kitsyk Roma, dakitsyk obychaye in Ruska Roma's dialect)
  • There are many Romani groups, but with different Law. (Romen isy but, a Zakono yekh in Ruska Roma's and Kaldarash dialects)

Rules of Romani Code describe relationships inside the Romani community and set limits for customs, behavior and other aspects of life.

The Romani Code is not written; Romani people keep it alive in oral tradition.

The kris is a traditional institution for upholding and enforcing the Romani Code.

The code can be summarised in pillars; the main pillar representing the polar ideas of baxt (pronounced "baht") meaning honour and ladž (pronounced "Ladge") meaning shame.[22]

It is honourable, in some Romani cultures, to celebrate baxt by being generous and displaying your success to the public. The focus on generosity means sharing food is of great importance to some groups of Roma. Making lavish meals to share with other Romani visitors is commonplace and in some cases not having food to share is considered shameful.[22]

Faith and religion[edit]

The cult of Saint Sara in the shrine of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, Southern France is a devotion associated with Catholic Romanies.

Hinduism[edit]

While in India, the Ancestor of the Romani people followed the Hindu religion. This theory is supported by the Romani word for "cross", trushul, which is the word which describes Shiva's trident (Trishul). A Hindu foundation means that the concept of kuntari, a universal balance, is central to the people's spirituality. Kuntari means that all things belong in the universe according to their natural place. The Ancestor of the Roma belonged to the Chandala[23]

Dasikane Roma[edit]

Many branches of Christianity, like Eastern Orthodox Church and Catholic Church, Protestantism and in modern time several evangelical groups have been adopted by Roma. In Romani language a Christian Roma is named Dasikane, the meaning is sometimes given as a slave or servant, yet some suggest it comes from Desi[24]


Deities and saints[edit]

Blessed Ceferino Giménez Malla is considered a patron saint of the Romani people in Roman Catholicism.[25] Saint Sarah, or Kali Sara, has been revered as a patron saint in the same manner as the Blessed Ceferino Giménez Malla, but a transition occurred in the 21st century, whereby Kali Sara is understood as an Indian deity brought by the refugee ancestors of the Romani people, thereby removing any Christian association. Saint Sarah is progressively being considered as "a Romani goddess, the Protectress of the Roma" and an "indisputable link with Mother India".[26]

The holy Aunt Bibi (Romani cult), by orthodox Christian Roma at the Balkans, many saints and deities are like: Baba Fingo and Bababilyos two male deities, and E Gugli Sagiya a female guardian angel, Devleski Day a mother goddess, also the Ursitory.

Christian Roma Ceremonies and practices[edit]

Roma often adopt the dominant religion of their host country if a ceremony associated with a formal religious institution is necessary, such as a baptism or funeral (their particular belief systems and indigenous religion and worship remain preserved regardless of such adoption processes). Some Roma continue to practice "Shaktism", a practice with origins in India, whereby a female consort is required for the worship of a god. Adherence to this practice means that for the Romani who worship a Christian God, prayer is conducted through the Virgin Mary, or her mother, Saint Anne. Shaktism continues over 1,000 years after the people's separation from India.[23]

Romani elders serve as spiritual leaders; there are no specific christian Roma priests, churches, or christian Roma scriptures, the exception being the Pentecostal Roma, most in Western society.[23]

Burial of the foreskin[edit]

It is a custom among Muslim Roma in the Balkans and Turkey that the foreskin after Khitan (circumcision), (Sunet Bijav), must be buried at the local cemetery. They believe the foreskin will come back to men in Paradise/Jannah.

Balkan Roma Muslims[edit]

For the Muslim Romani communities that have resided in the Balkans for centuries, often referred to as Horahane Roma or "Turkish Gypsies", all Muslim Roma got a Religious male circumcision, the following histories apply for religious beliefs:

  • Bulgaria: In northwestern Bulgaria and Sofia and Kyustendil, Islam has been the dominant religion. In southwestern Bulgaria (Pirin Macedonia), Islam is the dominant religion, with a smaller section of the population, declaring themselves as "Turks", continuing to mix ethnicity with Islam.[27]
  • Romania: Muslim Roma Minority at the Dobruja.[28]
  • Greece: The descendants of groups, such as Sepečides with Islamic beliefs held by a minority of the population. Following the Peace Treaty of Lausanne of 1923, many Muslims Roma resettled Turkey, in the consequent population exchange between Turkey and Greece.[27]
  • Albania: Albania's Romani people are all Muslims.[27]
  • Macedonia: The majority of Romani people believe in Islam.[27]
  • Serbia: in the disputed territory of Kosovo the vast majority of the Romani population is Muslim.[27]
  • Bosnia, Montenegro and Herzegovina: Islam is the dominant religion.[27]
  • Croatia: Following World War II, a large number of Muslim Roma relocated to Croatia (the majority moved from Kosovo).[27]

In the Balkans, the Roma of North Macedonia and southern Serbia, including the disputed territory of Kosovo, have been particularly active in Islamic mystical brotherhoods (Sufism)—Muslim Roma immigrants to Western Europe and America have brought these traditions with them.[29]

Other regions[edit]

Ukraine and Russia contain Romani Muslim populations, as the families of Balkan migrants continue to live there. The descendants' ancestors settled on the Crimean peninsula during the 17th and 18th centuries, but most descendants migrated to Ukraine, southern Russia and the Povolzhie (along the Volga River). Formally, Islam is the religion that these communities align themselves with, and the people are recognized for their staunch preservation of the Romani language and identity.[27]

Most Eastern European Roma are Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or Muslim.[30] Those in Western Europe and the United States are mostly Roman Catholic or Protestant. In southern Spain, many Roma are Pentecostal, but this is a small minority that has emerged in contemporary times.[23] In Egypt, the Roma are split into Christian and Muslim populations.[31] For countless years, dance has been considered a religious procedure for the Egyptian Roma.[32] In Turkey, the Romani people are Muslim and the males are circumcised, while the majority of Roma in Latin America have maintained their European religions, with most following Eastern Orthodox Christianity.[33]

Evangelicalism[edit]

Since World War II, a growing number of Roma have embraced Evangelical movements. For the first time, Roma became ministers and created their own, autonomous churches and missionary organizations. In some countries, the majority of Roma belong to Romani churches. This unexpected change has greatly contributed to a better image of Roma in society. The work they perform is seen as more legitimate, and they have begun to obtain legal permits for commercial activities.[33]

Evangelical Romani churches exist in every country where Roma are settled. The movement is particularly strong in France and Spain; there are more than 1,000 Romani churches (known as "Filadelfia" or simply el culto) in Spain, with almost 100 in Madrid alone. In Germany, the most numerous group is that of Polish Roma, with their main church in Mannheim. Other important and numerous Romani assemblies are in Los Angeles, Houston, Buenos Aires, and Mexico.

Buddhism[edit]

Theravada Buddhism linked to the Dalit Buddhist movement of B.R. Ambedkar increasingly spread among European Roma, particularly in Hungary, although still a minority.[34][35]

Devlaism[edit]

Own Roma religion, based on Romani mythology, founded after the Yugoslavia war by Dasikane (Christian) Roma and Horahane (Muslim) Roma, named after Devla, the word for God in Romani language.

Dance[edit]

In Spain, Romani people are flamenco dancers.

Romani people influenced flamenco with their dances from their homeland India and used the flamenco dance to then forget about their persecutions in Spain.[36] Romani people also influenced Mexican dances in Mexico.[37] In Spain, there are Romani flamenco concerts and shows.

Music[edit]

Romani musicians entertaining

The lăutari who perform at traditional Romanian weddings are virtually all Roma, although their music draws from a vast variety of ethnic traditions—for example Romanian, Turkish, Jewish, and Slavic—as well as Romani traditions.[38] Probably the most internationally prominent contemporary performer in the lăutari tradition is Taraful Haiducilor. Zdob şi Zdub, one of the most prominent rock bands in Moldova, although not Roma themselves, draw heavily on Romani music, as do Spitalul de Urgenţă in Romania.

Flamenco music and dance came from the Roma in Spain;[39] the distinctive sound of Romani music has also strongly influenced bolero, jazz, and Cante Jondo in Europe. European-style Gypsy jazz is still widely practised among the original creators (the Romani People); one who acknowledged this artistic debt was Django Reinhardt.

Classical music[edit]

Romani music is very important in Eastern European cultures such as Hungary, Russia, and Romania.[40] Performance practices by Romani musicians have influenced European classical composers such as Franz Liszt and Johannes Brahms.

Cuisine[edit]

Romani cuisine is similar to Hungarian cuisine.

In Slovenia's second-largest city, Maribor, there is a restaurant called Romani Kafenava, specializing in the food of, and run by, Roma.

It borrows elements from throughout the Balkans, with a strong Turkish influence. The inviting menu includes goulash, both meat and potato-based, savory pies filled with cheese or meat (which recall burek), stuffed peppers roasted in a clay pot, lamb roasted pod peko in a closed clay vessel (like Moroccan tagine, but a tradition found in Croatia and Serbia), stuffed cabbage leaves (popular throughout the Balkans, called sarma), a minced meat rolls (that recall cevapcici) and baklava for dessert. Preste, which translates as pretzels, are savory breadsticks with a yogurt dipping sauce, offered for breakfast.

Roma dishes[edit]

Hedgehog is a Romani delicacy.

While the ancient origins of the Roma people hail from India, none of the traditional Roma food go back that far, as they have lived in Europe for more than five-hundred years. They are, rather, a collective of gathered techniques and ingredients from throughout the Balkans, the territory of the nomadic peoples for many centuries past. Their food is also, often of necessity, inexpensive to prepare and uses portable ingredients. Thus, beef and pork are rare inclusions, while chicken and lamb and goat or wild birds and game are the preferred proteins. Potato and peppers, cabbage and rice are often the building blocks around which dishes are made. The favored spices are paprika and garlic. And it makes sense for people of a nomadic tradition that means that traditional Roma dishes were favored to be cooked over embers or an open fire, like stews and soups prepared slowly in an iron cauldron.

Cabbage Rolls | Baklava Rabbit stew is a favorite, which fleshes out the rabbit meat with innards and bacon and onions, to make the dish stretch farther to feed more folk. The fancier version of this stew is served in a pastry crust, though the traditional version is just eaten with a spoon. A meal built around rabbit meat is called xaimoko. Perhaps the most striking specialty associated with gypsy cuisine is hedgehog, wrapped in clay and baked in a fire. This technique was a popular and portable way to cook meat, and wrapping a chicken in clay, and baking it covered in embers, was likewise traditional in Roma cuisine.

Depending on where people settled, there are a variety of fried bread dishes, including xaritsa (fried cornbread), pufe (fried wheat bread) and bogacha (baked bread). The best-known dessert is pirogo, a sort of sweet noodle casserole like Jewish kugel, packed with raisins, cream cheese, and butter.

Traditional Roma food differs depending on where the people settled in Europe. While they were primarily nomadic from the 14th century until the 18th, from that point on they tended to lay down roots, and so adapted and absorbed local ingredients, traditions and eating habits from their localities, integrating them with their own practices. Thus a Roma restaurant in Slovenia will have a different menu from one in Budapest, though there will be overlap, and the emphasis on foods that can be trapped or foraged, as opposed to pastured livestock and cultivated agriculture, remains, as Roma have rarely been stationary farmers with tracts of land.

Language[edit]

The Romani language is spoken by millions of Romani people throughout the world.[41] It is of the Indo-Aryan branch. Many Romani people can speak two or more languages.

Observances[edit]

Each June, Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month is celebrated in London.[42] International Romani Day is a holiday celebrated in Europe especially in Budapest, Bulgaria, Romania and Eastern Europe on April 8.[43]

Theatre, circus and cinema[edit]

There exist four well-known Romani theatres in the world, Romen Theatre, Romance Theatre, Romanothan and Phralipe, and also many small theatres.

Fortune-telling[edit]

A stereotype that Romani people have psychic powers (e.g. fortune-teller) is still sometimes present, and some romantics[who?] attribute the invention of the Tarot cards to them.[citation needed]

Relations with other people[edit]

An 1852 Wallachian poster advertising an auction of Romani slaves.

Because of their nomadic lifestyle and differences in language and culture, Roma and their more settled neighbours have held each other in distrust. The popular image of Roma as tramps and thieves unfit for work contributed to their widespread persecution. This belief is often cited as the etymological source of the term gyp, meaning to "cheat", as in "I got gypped by a con man."

There are still tensions between Roma and the majority population around them. Common complaints are that Roma steal and live off social welfare and residents often reject Romani encampments. This has led to Roma being described as "perhaps the most hated minority in Europe."[44] In the UK, travellers (referring to both Irish Travellers and Roma) became a 2005 general election issue, with Michael Howard, the then-leader of the Conservative Party promising to review the Human Rights Act 1998.[45] This law, which absorbs the European Convention on Human Rights into UK primary legislation, is seen by some to permit the granting of retrospective planning permission for Romani communities. Severe population pressures and the paucity of greenfield sites have led to travellers purchasing land and setting up residential settlements almost overnight, thus subverting the planning restrictions imposed on other members of the community. Travellers argued in response that thousands of retrospective planning permissions are granted in Britain in cases involving non-Romani applicants each year and that statistics showed that 90% of planning applications by Roma and travellers were initially refused by local councils, compared with a national average of 20% for other applicants, potentially disproving claims of preferential treatment favouring Roma. They also argued that the root of the problem was that many traditional stopping-places had been barricaded off and that legislation passed by the previous Conservative government had effectively criminalised their communities by removing local authorities' responsibility to provide sites, thus leaving the travellers with no option but to purchase unregistered new sites themselves.[46]

Law enforcement agencies in the United States hold regular conferences on the Roma and similar nomadic groups.[47]

In Denmark, there was much controversy when the city of Helsingør decided to put all Romani students in special classes in its public schools. The classes were later abandoned after it was determined that they were discriminatory and the Romani students were put back in regular classes.[48]

Romani people avoid gadje because non-Romani are believed to be polluting and defile the Romani world.[49]

Roma in Eastern Europe[edit]

Romani boy in bear costume, part of entertainer team for working Christmas crowds. Budapest, Hungary.

In Eastern Europe, Roma often live in depressed squatter communities with very high unemployment, while only some are fully integrated in the society. However, in some cases—notably the Kalderash clan in Romania, who work as traditional coppersmiths—they have prospered. Although some Roma still embrace a nomadic lifestyle, most migration is actually forced, as most communities do not accept Romani settlements. However, each year in May approximately 10,000 to 15,000 Romani people go on a pilgrimage to Les-Saintes-Marie-de-la-Mer in Southern France. Roma arrive in caravans for celebrations, weddings and religious ceremonies.

Many countries that were formerly part of the Eastern bloc and former Yugoslavia have substantial populations of Roma. The level of integration of Roma into society remains limited. In these countries, they usually remain on the margins of society, living in isolated, ghetto-like settlements (see Chánov). Only a small fraction of Romani children graduate from secondary schools, though numerous official efforts have been made, past and present, to compel their attendance. Roma frequently feel rejected by the state and the main population, creating another obstacle to their integration.

In the Czech Republic, 75% of Romani children are educated in schools for people with learning difficulties and 70% are unemployed, compared with a national rate of 9%. In Hungary, 44% of Romani children are in special schools, while 74% of men and 83% of women are unemployed. In Slovakia, Romani children are 28 times more likely to be sent to a special school than non-Roma, whilst Romani unemployment stands at 80%.[50]

In 2004, Lívia Járóka and Viktória Mohácsi of Hungary became the two current Romani Members of the European Parliament. The first Romani MEP was Juan de Dios Ramírez Heredia of Spain.

Seven former Communist Central European and Southeastern European states launched the Decade of Roma Inclusion initiative in 2005 to improve the socioeconomic conditions and status of the Romani minority.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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