woman or the Jewess as a dangerous seductress and of the male Gypsy or Jew as a dark sinister threat featured widely in literature” (Brearley: 1996, p. 9).
This passing reference to the exotic Gypsy woman corresponds to the voyeuristic sexism that intersects with racism towards many minority ethnic groups. However there is sometimes another internal form of the oppression of women, which is evident in the attempt to deny or control the sexuality of Gypsy/Traveller women by restricting them to asexual roles as homemakers and mothers.
Racism towards Roma, Gypsies/Travellers is not only manifested in the widespread acceptance of negative images and stereotypes used to legitimate their social exclusion but also in the living conditions they endure in virtually all countries. What is evident in the country-by country reports for the Leuven seminar is that despite variations between different countries in terms of legislation, socio-economic contexts and policies, Roma/Gypsies/Travellers are among the most marginalised who experience extreme deprivation, poverty and disadvantage. Despite the lack of accurate statistical data, the clear picture which emerges is that they fare very poorly in terms of all the indicators used to measure equality and development: levels of poverty and social exclusion, life expectancy, birth rates, infant mortality, health status, employment, accommodation, education and participation in socio-political institutions.
In order to develop a clearer analysis of this racism towards Roma/Gypsies/Travellers and how it contributed to their social exclusion, it is important to examine how racism is defined in the international context and also to take an overview of different approaches and responses to racism and the assumptions associated with these.
Racism and Racial Discrimination
Racism is a specific form of discrimination usually associated with skin colour and ethnicity. It is an ideology of superiority which provides a rationalisation for oppression. It also involves an abuse of power by one group over another group. So, while racism involves negative stereotypes and assumptions it should not be reduced simply to attitudes thereby equating it with prejudice. The reality of unequal power combined with prejudice enables some groups to treat others in racist ways by denying them access to opportunities, resources and decision-making processes.
UNESCO, in its Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice (1978) provides the following definition:
"Any theory which involves the claim that racial or ethnic groups are inherently superior or inferior, thus implying that some would be entitled to dominate or eliminate others, presumed to be inferior, or which bases value judgements on racial differentiation, has no scientific foundation and is contrary to the moral and ethical principles of humanity".
The UN International Convention of Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1969) defines racial discrimination as follows:
"Any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life".
Approaches to Racism
While these working definitions have broad acceptance, the concept of racism is frequently contested among academics and others. There is the polarisation between those who argue that certain societies are inherently racist and those who claim that racism is a less serious issue related to the anti-social behaviour of some individuals. There are also a variety of approaches which can be categorised as follows: moral, biological, psychological, multi-cultural and structural (see table below).
The moral, psychological and cultural approaches, when used in isolation from socio-economic and historical contexts, tend to depoliticise the issue of racism by focusing almost exclusively on individual attitudes and behaviours dislocated from their social, political, economical, and historical contexts. Solutions based on the moral approach rightly draw attention to the reality that racism is a moral issue and as such merits serious attention. The psychological approach, as Kovel argues, is by no means a sufficient tool for understanding the phenomenon of racism; it is, however, a necessary