Trav­eller women in UK risk abuse

Cyprus Today - - NEWS -

ROMA and trav­eller women in Bri­tain face high lev­els of do­mes­tic abuse and rarely seek help be­yond their close-knit and iso­lated com­mu­ni­ties, a par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee heard on Wed­nes­day.

Their male-dom­i­nated cul­tures leave many women vul­ner­a­ble to abuse by men, rel­a­tives and part­ners alike, ac­cord­ing to ev­i­dence given to the Women and Equal­i­ties Com­mit­tee.

“Co­er­cion and con­trol is an as­pect that reaches far and wide,” Janie Codona, the man­ager of the com­mu­nity group One Voice 4 Trav­ellers, told the com­mit­tee.

The term “trav­eller” is used to cover a num­ber of tra­di­tion­ally itin­er­ant peo­ple, in­clud­ing Ro­many Gyp­sies and Irish Trav­ellers, both of which are recog­nised as dis­tinct eth­nic groups un­der Bri­tish law.

There are an es­ti­mated 63,000 trav­ellers in Bri­tain, ac­cord­ing to the most re­cent cen­sus in 2011.

They typ­i­cally live in car­a­vans, mov­ing reg­u­larly en masse with their com­mu­nity; some live at more per­ma­nent sites.

Wher­ever they live, the women risk a dou­ble dose of dis­crim­i­na­tion, from in­side their own com­mu­nity for their gen­der and out­side for their eth­nic­ity.

Trav­ellers are recog­nised as among the most dis­ad­van­taged groups in Bri­tain. A gov­ern­ment in­quiry in 2012 found they have sig­nif­i­cantly lower ed­u­ca­tion and worse health than av­er­age Bri­tons and face wide­spread dis­crim­i­na­tion.

Politi­cians heard how trav­eller women and girls of­ten face gen­der­based con­trol, with girls as young as eight ex­pected to take on house­work and the care of male rel­a­tives.

“A lot of them are not al­lowed to go to work. They are lit­er­ally dragged out of school and it’s clean­ing, cook­ing, iron­ing older broth­ers’ shirts, babysit­ting younger ones. This is prepa­ra­tion for mar­riage,” said Ms Codona.

“They are in the con­trol of a fa­ther and they then be­come con­trolled by their hus­band.”

Vi­o­lence and sex­ual abuse was also cited in the ses­sion.

“Some women I have worked with be­lieve it is their hus­band’s right to have sex with them when­ever they want and when a trav­eller man sleeps with a woman he owns her,” said Kim White, a for­mer con­sta­ble at Kent Po­lice in south-east Eng­land.

Girls and women are of­ten kept largely iso­lated from out­side so­ci­ety so strug­gle to ac­cess sup­port, while in some cases dis­crim­i­na­tion among po­lice and of­fi­cials mean they are not given the help they need, the com­mit­tee heard.

“There is an ex­pec­ta­tion still among some po­lice of­fi­cers that do­mes­tic abuse is preva­lent in the gypsy trav­eller com­mu­ni­ties so they don’t ac­tu­ally sup­port women to leave,” said Win Lawlor of the Irish Com­mu­nity Care or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Cyprus

© PressReader. All rights reserved.