UN Women's Rights Committee Calls on Serbia to Address Discrimination against Romani Women

13 June 2007

UN CEDAW's Concluding Comments on Women's Rights in Serbia Prioritizes Situation of Roma

Budapest, Belgrade: The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), in partnership with the Serbian non-governmental organisations Bibija, Eureka, and Women's Space, today welcomed the concluding comments of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in their review of Serbia's compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. CEDAW's comments address Serbia's initial report on its progress in eliminating sex and gender discrimination since becoming party to the Convention in 2006. The ERRC, Bibija, Eureka and Women's Space had previously submitted a report to the Committee bringing attention to the critical situation for Romani women in Serbia.

CEDAW's comments highlighted the particularly vulnerable position of Romani women in Serbian society, who face multifarious barriers to education, political representation, and legal justice due to the combination of sexual and racial discrimination. The Committee requested that Serbia take immediate action in a number of areas:

  • Domestic violence

The Committee cautioned that admission criteria for safe houses may represent "de facto discrimination against Roma women threatened by domestic violence." It urged Serbia to "review and monitor the application of admission criteria used by safe houses for victims of domestic violence in order to ensure that these do not exclude Roma women."

  • Education

Questioning the "lack of current sex-disaggregated data and information in regard to education," the Committee showed particular concern in regards to "Roma women and girls and other marginalized groups," amongst whom rates of illiteracy and educational attainment levels are alarmingly low. It recommended that "special attention be paid to achieving equal access [to education] for marginalized groups of women and girl, in particular of the Roma minority…the Committee also recommends that literacy and vocation programmes be provided to Roma women, in particular those who are elderly and illiterate."

  • Health care

The Committee noted concern about "the limited access to adequate health-care services for women, especially for women in rural areas and Roma women," and called on Serbia to "increase its efforts to improve the availability of sexual and reproductive health services, including family planning." It extended this concern to the area of early marriage, "particularly within the Roma population," due to the "negative effects of early marriage on women's enjoyment of their human rights, especially their rights to health and education," and as such urged Serbia "to enforce the legal minimum age of marriage, which is set at 18."

ERRC, Bibija, Eureka, and Women's Space are pleased that the Committee included such detailed recommendations to the Serbian government to improve the dire situation of Romani women, and they urge Serbia to take immediate, strong action to implement the Committee's recommendations.

For further information, please contact:

Ostalinda Maya Ovalle (ERRC): ostalinda.maya@errc.org
Vera Kurtic (Women's Space): catz@bankerinter.net
Tatjana Peric (ERRC consultant): peric@panline.net
Ilona Kovacs, Piroska Kovacs (Eureka): ilonasu2000@yahoo.com
Svetlana Ilic (Bibija): bibija@eunet.yu

The full text of the CEDAW Committee’s concluding comments on Serbia are available at: http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/cedaw38/cc/Serbia.pdf

The ERRC/Bibija/Eureka/Women’s Space parallel report on the situation of Romani women in Serbia is available in English and Serbian at: http://www.errc.org/cikk.php?cikk=2136


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