Research Seminar: Intersectional Discrimination and Romani Women’s Rights in Europe: Pushing the Equ(al)ity Boundaries
May 10 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
Serena D’Agostino is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Centre for Migration, Diversity and Justice (CMDJ) at the Brussels School of Governance (BSoG), Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). She is the coordinator of the VUB Strategic Research Programme Enhancing Democratic Governance in Europe (EDGE). She regularly serves as a commissioned expert to the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) for its annual Fundamental Rights Report (chapter on Roma Equality and Inclusion, Belgium). Her research interests lie at the crossroads of (political) intersectionality, activism/social movements and minority politics and rights, with a focus on Romani (gender) politics and Roma (women’s) rights in Europe. Her work has been published in Politics, Groups, and Identities, the European Journal of Politics and Gender, the International Feminist Journal of Politics, and the Journal of Diversity and Gender Studies, among others.
Abstract: During the summer of 2021, the Czech Senate voted to compensate thousands of Romani women who were forcibly sterilized by the Czech (once Czechoslovak) authorities between 1966 and 2021. According to the newly approved law, survivors are eligible for a compensation of about 12.000€ each. A rather paltry amount for a huge violation of fundamental rights. Yet, this is considered a major victory and applauded as a landmark vote. The new legislation has indeed a profound symbolic significance: it contributes to delegitimizing the historical restrictions on Romani women’s rights recurrently perpetuated all around Europe and remained unpunished for centuries.
Reflecting on the institutional violence and abuse against Romani women (e.g. forced sterilization, segregated maternity wards, child removal, police brutality), this paper unpacks the concept of discrimination from a critical (race) theory and intersectionality perspective. Doing so, it aims to push the boundaries of contemporary European equ(al)ity regimes, “bring[ing] us closer to realizing the emancipatory potential of human rights” (Oprea 2017: 56). In particular, this paper retraces the recent evolution of ‘intersectional discrimination’ from a very embryonic, implicit and often misunderstood notion in European policy making into a key issue in political and policy debates about human rights, anti-discrimination and equ(al)ity. Focusing on the changes occurred in the last ten years (2013-2023), it asks how intersectional discrimination has been incorporated in EU (equality) policies, and whether Romani women activists have played a role in the process.