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Fear of Discrimination Prevents Roma Day Festivities

April 8th marks international Roma day, which is a day to celebrate Roma history and traditions. However few members of Finland’s Roma minority publicly observe the day because of apprehension towards the majority’s reaction.

romanimies ja -nainen istuvat sohvalla, miehen sylissä chihuahua-koira
Image: Kia-Frega Prepula / YLE

Although members of Finland’s Roma minority would like to celebrate Roma day, many say they keep a low profile to avoid drawing attention to themselves. Only in southern Finland's larger cities has Roma day become a tradition.

“We can’t congregate freely to celebrate international Roma day. If a group of us went to a restaurant, it’s unlikely that we would all be allowed entrance. Roma day festivities would most likely lead to some problems with the majority population,” says Leif Svart, who lives in Kokkola, western Finland.

“We’re afraid to go out on the town because we fear people’s reactions. Naturally, we’ve also developed pre-conceived notions. We’re quick to believe that we won’t be allowed entrance somewhere,” says Aila Lindeman.

"Roma Rarely Seen as Individuals"

Lindeman says she is most upset by ethnic Finns not recognising that Roma people are individuals.

“People belonging to the majority are not clumped together as one big group, which is a courtesy that we would also like to see paid to us,” says Lindeman.

In Finland, international Roma day has been observed since 2005.

The Roma, who trace their roots to medieval India, first arrived in Finland in the 1500s.

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