Child rights

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Praxis Participated at the Sitting of the Committee on Human and Minority Rights and Gender Equality "The Right to Choose a Partner and Drawing Attention to Child Marriage in the Roma Population“

The statement taken form the website of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia.

The sitting was co-organized with the Roma Women’s Centre “Bibija” as part of the campaign Month of Roma Women’s Activism.

Opening the sitting, the Chairman of the Committee on Human and Minority Rights and Gender Equality Meho Omerovic said that the Roma population faces a slew of problems some of which are especially difficult because they hit the most vulnerable among the population – children. Early marriages among children are a violation of some of the most basic human rights such as the right to education, protection of reproductive health, selection of partners and above all the right to a childhood, said Omerovic. He stressed that children, especially little girls, who marry early (aged 11, 12 or 13) do not have many chances for a happy, healthy and successful life and neither do their children. This problem should be at the very top of our priorities and the state of Serbia needs to define measures and activities to suppress child marriages, said Omerovic. The Committee Chairman said that the Council of Europe has recognized the country and local self-governments’ efforts to resolve this problem and Nis, Horgosz and Cantavir have been presented as best practice examples of Roma inclusion in the local community.

Assistant Minister of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs Nina Mitic said that early marriages (before the age of 16) are a severe violation of child rights and a criminal offense. She listed the laws that protect child rights and combat child marriages. Mitic also pointed out the role of social work centres, the police and educational institutions in the protection of child rights and preventive action against child marriages.

Dr Nenad Ivanisevic, member of the Coordinating Body monitoring the realization of the Roma Social Inclusion Strategy, said that many nations used to have early pre-arranged marriages but with the rise in educational level of the population these had become unacceptable in most communities, so raising the educational level of the Roma population is vital. He said this was a long process because it means changing the lifestyle of a community.

UNICEF Deputy Representative Severine Leonardi said that 23 girls below the age of 18 get married every minute in the world. In Serbia, this mainly happens in rural and the poorest communities, generally among the Roma population, said Leonardi stressing that over 50% of Roma girls get married before the age of majority. Change can be initiated through cooperation between the Government and NGOs, private sector and the Roma community and it is very important to empower every Roma girl and offer support to every family through the social welfare system, Severine Leonardi concluded.

Representative of CARE International Sarajevo Jadranka Milicevic briefed the attending on the regional project the organization’s been conducted for six years now in cooperation with Roma organizations: “Active inclusion and rights of Roma women in Western Balkans”.

The representative of the Council of Europe Office in Belgrade Vera Kurtic reminded the attending of the most comprehensive international document - the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence which was ratified by the National Assembly in 2013. Vulnerable and marginalized, Roma women are at an especially high risk of violence, said Kurtic. She also mentioned project ROMACTED co-conducted by the EU and CoE in 11 cities and municipalities in Serbia which promotes the integration of Roma into the local community.

Jelena Jovanovic, Deputy President of the National Council of the Roma National Minority, said that Roma women are the most vulnerable and sensitive group of women in our society and their education and schooling is the course to follow to open up their prospects for a dignified life, education and health protection.

Coordinator of Roma Women’s Centre “Bibija” Slavica Vasic presented her organization’s activities and campaigns. She stressed that hands-on work with Roma women in the field is of paramount importance.

The representative of the Roma Women Network Radmila Nesic and member of SASA Institute of Ethnography Dr Ivan Djordjevic presented the results of research “Child marriages in the Roma population in Serbia”, conducted March - June 2017 in 5 locations in Serbia, where in depth interviews provided an insight into the real life of the Roma community. The research showed that reducing and finally eradicating child marriages has to be a joint task, enterprise and effort undertaken by all the social factors - social work services, education system, the population, and even individuals.

In the course of the debate the participants agreed that child marriages are a dangerous phenomenon and that education, as the key to the empowerment and protection of Roma children’s rights, is vital for the prevention of child marriages.

Concluding the sitting, Committee Chairman Meho Omerovic said that the Committee on Human and Minority Rights and Gender Equality would continue to pay special attention to this topic and added that we must all work together to empowering the Roma community, implementing laws and raising public awareness of the problem of child marriages.

Praxis presented its activities focused on prevention and elimination of child, early and forced marriages and pointed at the presence of discriminatory acting on all levels. Praxis also highlighted the necessity to raise awareness of all relevant actors - parents, children, professionals and wider public, with an active role of media as drivers of change.

The sitting was chaired by Committee Chairman Meho Omerovic and attended by the following Committee members and deputy members: Nikola Jolovic, Milanka Jevtic Vukojicic, Ljibuska Lakatos, Milena Turk, Ljiljana Malusic, Vesna Ivkovic, Tomislav Zigmanov and Elvira Kovacs, as well as MPs Milena Corilic, Nada Lazic and Gordana Comic.

See the video here.

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Praxis means action
Praxis means action
Praxis means action
Praxis means action