Roma VI. – Colors of Roma
On the Roads of the World. Today there are an estimated number of 15-30 million Romani people in the world, from which 10 million live in Europe making up the largest minority of the European Union. Being part of their community means for them being Romani. The rules and customs shaping their lives depend greatly on which subgroup they belong to: whether they are Lovari, Boyash or musician Romani, whether they live in the countryside or the capital, which part of the country they live in, do they have a job or are they out of work, how important it is for them to preserve their traditions.
In modern Europe changing gender roles are closely connected with industrialisation and the customs of having children. In Roma families male and female roles are still very separated. From the cradle to the grave Roma women are obedient to their fathers, brothers, husbands, children and to their parents-in-law. Abandoned wives of incarcerated men, which is often the case in Roma families, are much more exposed to social harassment and persecution. Usually the men are the actual decision makers in the family but as women grow older their role becomes more significant as well. Initially the daughters-in-law count nearly as outsiders in the family-bound but with the time they gain more influence and prestige, eventually many grandmothers end up family leaders. Ancestors aren’t forgotten in the community, present members often speak and are aware of their trades and legacy.
Csatka is one of the most important pilgrimage sites of the Roma in Hungary, besides it has become a gathering place where husbands are sought for young girls. When getting married into the husbands family the Roma girl has to earn the confidence to later become the matriarch and she can do so by delivering a child. The child is the biggest asset not only for the family but also for the whole community. Childbirth is a sign of both spiritual enrichment and growth of the community. Premature marriage and childbirth of the Roma boil down to their cultural features and life style. In their communities only the elderly and married women are obliged and entitled to guard the family’s financial savings, which often used to be invested in jewellery worn by the women on special occasions.
The Roma women in Miskolc are in dire straits, fear brings them together. On the European Roma Rights Centre’s list there are rather well-known issues such as: appalling living conditions, harassment by the authorities, everyday discrimination, total lack of medical attendance. The visits of legal activists or Roma organisations are useless, the Roma communities in the vicinity of the stadium in Diósgyőr are frightened anyway. They are worried about the future when the final dissolution of their settlement will be initiated by the local government and they will be forced to leave. This May the plan for liquidation of the town’s ’disgrace’ was passed. The Roma women are severely underprivileged already during their school days and on the labour market as well since beside their ethnic origin they have to carry some extra burden due to childbirth and other family obligations.
The portrait photographs of Roma women try to show them not only as human beings but also as unique personalities.