The Romani Gypsies, or the Roma, have been victims of persecution and discrimination in Europe for centuries. Once viewed as sexual deviants with criminal predilections, they are now deported from countries, attacked in hate crimes and commonly accused of thieving.
The community is believed by some to have originated in north India and moved first to Mid-West Asia, and then to Europe, around 1,000 years ago. Today it is spread across Eastern Europe – Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic – and most of Western Europe.
It is estimated that there are over 12 million Roma in Europe, a good many of whom face deprivation. According to the United Nations Development Programme, the Roma are more likely than other communities in Europe “to live in poverty, have a higher risk of unemployment, stay in school for fewer years, live without access to drinking water, sanitation and electricity, and live in substandard, overcrowded homes ”. Moreover, Roma are more likely to suffer from “ chronic illness and have less access to health services”.
To highlight this tragedy, UNDP released a short graphic novel in April. Daria: A Roma Woman’s Journey tells the story of a Roma woman and her family in Serbia as they “struggle with poverty and discrimination”. It poignantly portrays the impact of the early marriage of Roma girls.