Our domestic advocacy work will be focused on developing integration policies for Romani communities that take the needs of LGBTQ+ people of Romani origin into account. The national coordinators – the three partner organizations from the Czech Republic (ARA ART), Slovakia (QUO VADIS) and Hungary (Diverse Youth Network) – will be holding two roundtables in each of those countries in 2021 attended by representatives of academia, civil society and crucial authorities with the aim of increasing visibility for the issue of multiple discrimination against LGBTQ+ people of Romani origin, thereby destigmatizing this subject and galvanizing the introduction of measures and policies targeting this community.
In order to protect the rights and interests of the Roma queer community and to identify the issues that diminish their quality of life and deepen social inequalities to which the community has long been exposed to, targeted activities - analytical work, recommendations and campaign - have taken place through selected tools of citizen advocacy.
The activities were based on an analytical report on the situation of the Roma LGBTQ+ community in selected EU countries (Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia) in the context of multiple discrimination against this minority. The outcome, in the form of conclusions, provides a set of recommendations as a starting point and as a call for an expert discussion to define specific proposals reflecting the problems of Roma LGBTQ+ people.
For this purpose, national roundtables were organised, to which a wide spectrum of experts were invited including representatives of relevant central state authorities, local governments, scientists, academia, Roma and non-Roma non-governmental organisations, human rights institutions, etc. The series of the first national roundtables held in each of the countries included a plan to process an analytical report, methodology and key findings which led to the following conclusions:
- There is persistent marginalisation of LGBTQ+ Roma due to them being a minority within a minority,
- There is a low level of awareness of the specific situation of the Roma queer community and their needs (lack of data),
- There is no institutional support reflecting the specific needs of Roma LGBTQ+ people,
- There is a lack of systematic and targeted support for the non-governmental non-profit sector to undertake activities in the field of combating prejudice, stereotypes, anti-Roma behaviour and hatred,
- Institutional queerphobia is also reflected at the level of subsidies, grant allocation, including the setting of calls for proposals - funding is provided for either “Roma” (state/EU) or LGBTQ+ (donors),
- The annual funding of the few non-governmental non-profit organisations working for the Roma LGBTQ+ community is limited to the point that they merely survive and provide basic services: they lack core funding or funds covering more than one year (this badly impacts their systematic and long-term operations),
- National legislation does not contain any provisions on multiple discrimination,
- Multiple discrimination is not explicitly prohibited by law and there is no case law on multiple discrimination,
- Human rights instruments and institutions (CZ, SK, HU) are getting weaker,
- The monitoring mechanism is insufficient.
It is necessary to add an intersectional approach to social policies and law and to place intersectionality at the heart of national and supranational “hard” EU law, for example through a horizontal directive not yet adopted.
The moderated discussion and evaluation questionnaires of the participants provided suggestions framed in areas that require an increased level of intervention to achieve a better quality of life for the Roma queer community.
Education and awareness-raising were identified as the highest priority area in each roundtable held in all three countries, followed by change in legislation, specifically in criminal law and in anti-discrimination law, to ensure it explicitly defines multiple discrimination.
Implementing a mechanism for targeted financial support for non-governmental organisations working with the Roma LGBTQ+ community and adopting specific measures is the third priority area.
The first national roundtables have also shown that in order to achieve systemic change it is necessary to:
- Conduct regular analytical and research activities to accurately map the needs and problems of the Roma LGBTQ+ community for more targeted policy setting,
- Extend and fund services and support for LGBTQ+ Roma and their relatives to ensure the availability of appropriate forms of assistance that are in line with their needs while also reflecting and applying a culturally sensitive approach,
- Implement measures aimed at combating anti-Roma racism, queerphobia, transphobia, starting with primary prevention (educational, informational and awareness-raising materials), activities aimed at raising awareness of queer Roma in the area of protection against discrimination, hate speech, queerhobia and transphobia, and changes that will strengthen protection against hate speech in the online environment,
- Promote the provision of legal advice and free legal representation in court proceedings involving multiple discrimination (gender, ethnicity, social status, orientation) as a necessary step to create conditions for affordable services and to increase the likelihood of discrimination being reported,
- Establish state-funded centres for primary and secondary support to the LGBTQ+ community,
- Monitor judicial practice in proceedings involving multiple discrimination (ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity).
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the second part of the national roundtables took place primarily online or in hybrid form. Through the application of a participatory approach, the framework of the above proposals was extended to include more measures and activities to be incorporated into public policies in the national context. These include:
1. Embedding and ensuring systematic education of state and local government personnel - teachers and non-pedagogical employees of schools and educational facilities, social services workers, field workers, community and low-threshold centres, institutional and health care, municipal and state police.
Providing such education will, in particular, improve the way the above personnel treat this vulnerable group or their relatives, as well as effectively help to eliminate stereotyping, stigmatisation or prejudicial behaviour. Through education and methodological support, the personnel will gain experience enabling them to apply practices or implement activities that raise the level of knowledge and awareness among the wider public.
2. Sharing information to raise awareness of the situation of the Roma LGBTQ+ community to help strengthen the right for self-determination and mitigate the risk of pressure or exclusion – excommunication from the core or wider family and community. Ensuring funds for proven forms such as peer programmes, self-help groups, support clubs, etc. Particular attention in this area needs to be paid to sensitisation through the media.
3. Putting a cross-sectional approach in place by creating a network of services provided by supporting professions, prevention specialists and non-governmental organisations working with the LGBTQ+ community. Initiating cooperation with registered churches and religious organisations.
In addition to these intersectional measures, the following suggestions were specified at the level of the national roundtables:
4. Creating methodological guidelines how to proceed in the event of multiple discrimination (SK).
5. Creating litigation tools (litigation practice) in the area of gender equality and specifically in the area of queer for judicial practice (SK).
6. Starting discussion about the collection of data on people living in marginalised Roma communities - data collection methodology (SK).
7. Changing the competences of the Slovak National Centre for Human Rights (SK).
8. Recognising same-sex unions (SK, HU).
9. Changing laws - marriage, abolishing sterilisation of trans people, measures for non-binary people (CR).
Of these three countries, the Czech Republic is currently the only one to have a draft government strategy for equality and the removal of barriers to a dignified life of LGBTQ+ people for the 2021 - 2026 period, which contains measures identical to the recommendations of the national roundtables.