Europe’s Dirty Secret: Roma Sterilization

So, I’m perhaps going out on a limb here by saying that when you hear the word “Roma,” you think of tomatoes or the Vatican. That’s okay! Roma culture traditionally prefers a lack of spotlight. Arguably, we are not a flashy people. It has only been within the past few decades that we’ve let ethnographers and gadje – non-Roma people – into our cultures and ways of life. Often referred to as “gypsies” – which should be capitalized in usage and honestly not used at all – we’re a hugely diverse group of people spanning from India to the United States.

And, as an Americanized Roma, I’m breaking cultural norms and taboo by even talking about this. However, we can’t afford to be silent. As someone who may have children one day – as someone who just cares in general – I feel responsible to do everything within my power to prevent the injustice of the past centuries from seeping into this one.

Today, I’m talking about sterilization.

For the moment, I do not wish for my own emotions to become too entrenched into this. I mainly want to help others become aware of the situation. When something so close to one’s heart is so despicably violated, it becomes hard to talk about that something. For this reason, I encourage readers to do their own research – just a Google search – and read the linked articles below. However, from what I know from friends, gadje and Roma alike, from Europe, I’ll add a few details.

  1. These articles hide behind the folds of the Iron Curtain like a child behind its mother’s skirts. This issue is not dated twenty years back to 1989; it is still happening, particularly in Slovakia.
  2. If you’re one of the many who aren’t familiar with the Roma as an ethnic group or as anything at all, it should hopefully horrify you that not only do we face sterilization but mass, forced resettlement into ghettos – squalid huts that often have no plumbing, let alone electricity, let alone a tampon, let alone a shred of dignity. Also, our children are left dead on beaches while those of us still alive are tagged and tallied like cattle. (Link, of course, at the end of this post.)
  3. It is generally considered unethical to force a woman into sterilization, as the world expressed when it discovered rural Chinese women were being coerced into the procedure to attempt to enforce the one child law in their nation.
  4. There is a long, complicated history of lack of privilege and extreme poverty within Roma culture; naturally, this does not quite convey itself within the articles cited. Either trust me – or don’t; none of the government officials cited would – or do a little research however you can. I’m always available for questions, if I can answer them. The Roma are a very large group – I can’t even speak for my own vitsa, really – but there’s the general feeling of having the same hardships and experiences that’s as vast as our home ranges.
  5. And here we thought Europe went too far with its anti-Islamic laws! Yeesh!

In America, Europe is often considered the bastion of culture and acceptance. With recent laws such as the French “burqa ban” and the Swiss “minaret ban,” this perception is beginning to change. However, as a culturally rich, diverse society, I think it’s high time we stop admiring the mother country and her continent and begin to see the dirt she keeps swept under the rug.

I just wish that dirt wasn’t my people.



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