Romania adopts the first-ever antigypsyism law

This is an opinion article by an external contributor. The views belong to the writer.
Romania adopts the first-ever antigypsyism law

After the historical resolution calling for an EU Romani Equality, Inclusion, Participation and Combating Antigypsyism Law, adopted by the European Parliament on 17th September with 545 “in favour”, as a consequence, another major step in making equality for Romani people more possible was done by the Romanian Parliament.

On 15th December 244 deputies adopted a law that punishes negative attitudes against Romani people with jail. The project includes measures to prevent and combat antigypsyism, including prison sentences for hate speech against Romani people.

According to the project, antigypsyism means both the perception of Romani people expressed as hatred against them, and verbal or physical manifestations motivated by hatred against Romani people, directed against Romani people or their property, against institutions/NGOs, leaders of Romani communities or their places of worship, traditions and the Romani language.

An antigypsyist organization is defined as any group of three or more persons who work temporarily or permanently in order to promote antigypsyist ideas, concepts or doctrines.

According to the normative act, antigypsyist symbols are flags, emblems, badges, uniforms, slogans, greeting formulas, as well as any other such signs that convey ideas, concepts or doctrines that promote antigypsyism.

The normative act calls for prison sentences between 3 months and 3 years for those who promote, in public, ideas, concepts or antigypsyist doctrines, make, sell or spread such symbols and between 1 and 5 years for those who distribute or make available to the public materials of the same category.

Also, the initiation or establishment of an antigypsyist organization, joining or supporting, in any form, such a group is punishable by imprisonment from 3 to 10 years. The law passed the Parliament but still needs the promulgation of the Romanian President to apply.

The EU has more than 6 million Romani people and, unfortunately, this is one of the most discriminated against ethnic minorities. Antigypsyism is the specific form of racism against Romani people and the major cause of their social exclusion. Due to antigypsyism 80% of Romani people are at risk of extreme poverty and their access to equal rights is denied on a daily basis.

Romania and the European Parliament made major steps towards achieving equality for the Romani people and many other Member States can follow the example.

We live difficult times but those cannot be overcome with hatred and intolerance. The key is our solidarity. Mutual help, understanding, and tolerance, regardless of the colour of the skin, religion, sexual orientation or ethnicity will make Europe a great Union for all.

Romani people are European citizens. Enjoying equal rights is our right.

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