Antiziganism or anti-Gypsyism, is the particular racist structure, ideology and hostile prejudice targeted at Roma. It seeks to dehumanise, alienate and drive away Roma precisely because they are Roma. Antiziganism infringes the principle of equal value and equal rights. It is based on seeing people as being of unequal value and contributes towards an unequal distribution of power and resources.
Antiziganist prejudices often concern stereotypical assumptions about Roma being thieves, particularly unreliable or rude. These attitudes affect Roma in their daily lives through the hostility they encounter in public spaces.
What particularly makes antiziganism stand out is that it is largely seen as being legitimate. People who are accused of discrimination against Roma may exclaim in surprise: “But they were Gypsies!” as if this were reason enough for their behaviour. Antiziganism is widespread in society and affects Roma, among other things, through extensive discrimination in every area of society, marginalisation and vulnerability to hate crime.
Racism against Roma has taken various forms of expression over time but these forms of expression have been and often are consistent across the countries of Europe. Two important elements in European antiziganism are the desire to exclude or eradicate Roma from society, or a desire to control Roma by assimilating them into the majority society.
The clearest example of eradication is the Roma Genocide in the Second World War, in which between half a million to a million Roma were exterminated. The sterilisation policy carried out by Sweden as late as the second half of the twentieth century, in which Roma were forcibly sterilised, is a clear example of an eradication policy targeting Roma. Roma in Europe today are still excluded, driven out and perceived by many as being unwelcome.
After the Second World War the Swedish Government’s approach changed towards a policy of assimilation. Social policy programmes were carried out that made Roma the object and target of measures, without Roma themselves having had an opportunity to exert any real influence over the decisions that affected them. The new social policy meant, for example, that children were forcibly taken into the care of the state. This policy drew on the extensive and systematic surveys of Roma carried out by local and national authorities throughout the twentieth century.
Directly discriminatory legislation has now been abolished in Sweden but attitudes with persistent prejudices about and negative attitudes towards Roma have persisted, leading to Roma still being the victims of abuse and discrimination in Swedish society. Historical abuse against Roma, as described in the White Paper on abuses and rights violations against Roma in the twentieth century, often has a mirror image today, although the way it is expressed may have changed somewhat.
Antiziganism is still part of many Roma’s daily lives and a contributory factor towards low trust in society on the part of Roma. In the view of the Commission, an important precondition for overcoming the lack of trust is measures that question stigmatising thought patterns about Roma and counter antiziganism.