Last Updated: Monday, 22 September 2014, 09:37 GMT

World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Slovakia : Roma

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 2008
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Slovakia : Roma, 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/49749cb0c.html [accessed 22 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Profile

The 2001 census recorded 89,920 Roma (1.7 per cent of the total population), but the minority may in reality number more than 350,000 people. Roma live dispersed throughout Slovakia. Their concentrations in individual regions vary widely. According to the Population and Housing Census, the largest concentration of Slovak citizens who declared to belong to the Roma national minority live in the Presov region,


Historical context

Although recognized as a national minority in interwar Czechoslovakia, Roma were obliged to carry 'Gypsy Personal Identity Cards' and nomads had to register with the local authorities every time they moved. Roma suffered severe discrimination in Slovakia during World War II, but most (unlike those in the Nazi Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia) avoided extermination. After the war, many Slovak Roma settled in the Czech lands.

The communists introduced attempts at forcible assimilation, including a ban on nomadism. During the 1970s and 1980s, assimilation gave way to segregation and to the construction of housing estates reserved for Roma. Even in the late 1980s, however, one-third of Slovak Roma continued to live in shanty villages. On the basis of flawed psychological tests, Roma children were often sent to schools for the handicapped where they were taught manual activities. Roma employment rates gradually improved to 75 per cent of the active adult Roma population by 1981. From the 1970s, Roma women were encouraged to volunteer for sterilization and there were allegations of forced sterilizations.

Although flagrant human rights violations largely ceased after 1989, Roma continued to suffer considerable discrimination in employment, accommodation and access to services. In 1992 the new government abandoned an attempt to alleviate the Roma housing crisis; during the Meciar years of 1992-1998, anti-Roma rhetoric by the authorities increased.

Which Meciar's defeat in 1998 and Slovakia's decided turn toward the EU, the government initiated a number of measures intended to strengthen minority rights, and specifically Roma rights. In 1998 the new government created an advisory Council for Minorities and Ethnic Groups, in which Roma occupied two of 15 seats for minorities. Although the government passed a progressive language law in 1999 allowing minority communities to use their mother tongues in interaction with officials, a dearth of Romani-speakers in administrative positions drastically limited its practical effect. A new Anti-Discrimination Act passed in 2004 banned discrimination, including on the basis of ethnicity, in areas including employment, provision of government benefits, healthcare, and education. Also in 2004, in light of continued complaints that Roma women still faced coerced sterilizations, the government adopted a law specifying that sterilizations only be conducted at the request of the patient, and only following a 30-day waiting period from the request.


Current issues

Elections in 2006 resulted in the parties of former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar and ultra-nationalist Jan Slota returning to government as junior partners in the centre-left ruling coalition. Anti-Roma rhetoric during and after the campaign worried Roma rights advocates, especially in light of the continued problem of hate crimes directed at the community.

Roma in Slovakia still confront deep and prevalent discrimination in employment, education, housing, healthcare, and provision of government services. In 2007, a group of Roma civil society organizations wrote to Prime Minister Robert Fico to express concern about rampant evictions of Roma carried out by municipal authorities, often in violation of domestic and/or international law. Despite legal provisions for minority language education, as of yet there are no Roma-language schools. Rather, Roma children continue to be placed in separate schools for the developmentally handicapped, even when test results do not warrant it. Unemployment rates for Roma remain extreme, in some places reaching 95 per cent.

In August 2004 eight Roma women who had filed legal complaints over their forced sterilization filed a case with the European Court of Human Rights when Slovak hospitals allegedly denied them access to their own medical records. The case was ongoing at the time of writing.

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