MINELRES: NGOs Report on Serbias Compliance with Womens Rights

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Fri Mar 23 15:26:49 2007

Original sender: European Roma Rights Centre <errc@errc.org>

Human Rights Problems Facing Romani Women in Serbia Brought to the
Attention of the UN Women’s Rights Committee  

Budapest, Belgrade, March 22, 2007: The European Roma Rights Centre
(ERRC), acting in partnership with Bibija, Eureka and Women’s Space,
non-governmental organisations based in Serbia, submitted a parallel
report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of
Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).  The organisations highlighted
issues of concern with respect to Romani women in Serbia in advance of
the Committee’s review of Serbia’s compliance with the International
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against
Women to take place in May 2007. 

The report is based on research undertaken by the partners in 2006 and
2007, involving six Romani women researchers who documented human rights
issues facing Romani women in Serbia. Deprivation of rights, especially
in such areas as education, health care, and employment, incidence of
domestic violence as well as racially-motivated abuse of Romani women,
are amongst the main problems experienced by Romani women in Serbia.
Romani women currently living in Serbia as internally displaced persons
(IDPs) from Kosovo or recently returned to Serbia from Western European
countries, Germany in particular, are exposed to particularly precarious

The major issues highlighted in the report include: 
Violence against women: Domestic violence was reported by the majority
of Romani women who agreed to answer questions concerning this issue.
Half of the Romani women interviewed declined to talk about domestic
violence; of the remaining 81 women, 63 reported instances of physical
and verbal abuse by family members. While the problem of domestic
violence also affects women from the majority community, Romani women
are especially vulnerable due to widespread prejudice and neglect by law
enforcement officers as well as by institutions providing support to
victims of domestic violence. Romani women testified that police are
often reluctant to act to protect them; in some instances, police
officers themselves subjected victims to abuse or they acted
inadequately to prevent further abuse. Admission criteria in some state
funded safe houses effectively exclude of Romani women from accessing
the services provided therein.

Romani women and children are also subjected to physical and verbal
racist attacks by neo-Nazi groups.

Education: Romani women face serious barriers in accessing education as
reflected in higher illiteracy rates among Romani women compared to
Romani men and significantly higher rates compared to non-Romani men and
women. Barriers arise from high levels of poverty as well as patriarchal
traditions in some communities, which result in lower expectations for
Romani girls to complete education. Inequalities in access to education
are exacerbated by discriminatory practices against Romani children in
education such as erroneous placement in special schools for mentally
disadvantaged children; segregation in Roma-only classes; and
humiliating treatment by teachers and classmates. Lack of personal
identity and house registration documents needed in order to enrol in
school also impede access to education.

Employment: Many Romani women do not have access to formal employment as
a result of low educational attainment levels as well as direct and
indirect discrimination on the part of employers. Women working in the
grey economy are excluded from social benefits and face insecurity. A
number of instances of discrimination against Romani women in
recruitment were reported. 

Health: Romani women’s health situation is significantly worse than that
of the general population as a result of inadequate living conditions –
such as substandard housing, extreme poverty and the disadvantaged
position of some Romani women within their domestic setting. Lack of
identity documents, health insurance or health cards prevent many Romani
women from accessing health care services. Structural problems in access
to health services are compounded by widespread discriminatory practices
by medical practitioners with respect to Romani women. Discrimination
against Romani women is particularly evident in the areas of
reproductive and maternal health and emergency care due to these being
the most commonly used health care services.

The research towards the report was carried out with the support of the
Open Society Institute Public Health Program. 

For additional information, please contact:

Ostalinda Maya Ovalle (ERRC): ostalinda.maya@errc.org
Ilona Kovacs, Piroska Kovacs (Eureka): ilonasu2000@yahoo.com
Svetlana Ilic (Bibija): bibija@eunet.yu
Vera Kurtic (Women's Space): catz@bankerinter.net

The full report is available in English at the website of the European
Roma Rights Centre: http://www.errc.org/db/02/1A/m0000021A.zip.


The European Roma Rights Centre is an international public interest law
organisation which monitors the rights of Roma and provides legal
defence in cases of human rights abuse. For more information about the
European Roma Rights Centre, visit the ERRC on the web at

European Roma Rights Centre
1386 Budapest 62
P.O. Box 906/93
Tel: +36.1.413.2200

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