[-ongoing, long-term project ]
It is estimated that there are between 20.000 and 25.000 Roma people living in Poland today. This makes them one of the four major minorities. And yet, according to recent studies, they are one of the most hated and at the same time, the least known ethnic groups. In Poland, Romophobia is one of the last commonly accepted forms of racism, and over the years, it has led to multi-generational exclusi on. Polish majority society still maintains strict divisions, which often results in both very physical and mental separation of Roma people, and operates with prejudices based on negative stereotypes. It unjustly perceives this ethnic group as homogenous and ascribes certain, supposedly inalienable features to it, whereas the reality looks completely different. There are four subgroups of Roma people in Poland: Polska Roma, Bergitka Roma, Lovari, and Kalderash. They all have distinct traditions, customs, beliefs, and speak various dialects. One of the few patterns common for all four groups is their specific attitude towards women and their role in the community.
The status of Roma women is determined by Romanipen, the internal unwritten code of laws, values, and customs. It also defines gender roles. According to Romanipen, women are by nature impure; they should wear long dresses to cover lower parts of their bodies as their genitals are considered especially defiling. In terms of behavior, they are subjected to many restrictions, for instance, they are not allowed to enter relationships with non-Roma men. But Roma women today are predominantly bicultural and they adopt elements of global culture more eagerly than their mothers and grandmothers. Nevertheless, most of them live according to norms and rules sanctioned by the community, they identify with and belong to. What does it really mean to be a Romani woman then? How to deal with challenges of modernity and how to combine tradition with the need to be progressive?
The ongoing project Romni tells about it.