Spain: Gypsies Demand Recognition of Marriage Rites

Xxxx Xxxxx Xxxxxx xxxxxxxx at xxxxxxxxxxx.xxx
Fri Nov 17 16:38:07 MST 2000



http://headlines.igc.apc.org:8080/wnheadlines/974498769/index_html

            Headline: SPAIN: Gypsies Demand Recognition
            of Marriage Rites

            Posted by WomensNet on Friday November 17, @02:06PM

            MADRID, Nov 13 (IPS) - Organisations of gypsies or Roma in
Spain
            are demanding that their traditional marriage ceremonies be
granted the
            same official recognition enjoyed by the religious rites of
Jews, Muslims,
            Catholics and Protestants.

            SPAIN: Gypsies Demand Recognition of
            Marriage Rites

            Originally posted in IGC Member Conference:

            Topic 325 RIGHTS-SPAIN: Gypsies Demand Recogn
            newsdesk The Inter Press Service in English 7:04 PM Nov 13,
2000

            Copyright 2000 InterPress Service, all rights reserved.
Worldwide
            distribution via the APC networks. *** 13-Nov-0* ***

            Title: RIGHTS-SPAIN: Gypsies Demand Recognition of Marriage
Rites

            By Tito Drago

            MADRID, Nov 13 (IPS) - Organisations of gypsies or Roma in
Spain
            are demanding that their traditional marriage ceremonies be
granted the
            same official recognition enjoyed by the religious rites of
Jews, Muslims,
            Catholics and Protestants.

            ''The marriage rites of gypsies reached Europe when this
continent was
            only just taking shape as a society,'' Manuel Mart¡nez
Ram¡rez,
            president of Gypsy Presence, a multi-ethnic non-
governmental
            organisation that has been defending the interests and
rights of the Roma
            since its founding in 1972, told IPS.

            The regional parliament of Arag¢n -- one of Spain's 17
autonomous
            communities -- approved a bill last week introduced by the
Spanish
            Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) which, if adopted by Spain's
national
            parliament, will mean the register office will legally
recognise marriages
            conducted according to age-old Roma traditions.

            Another Roma association, Kamira, wants the rites approved
in their
            most traditional form, in which a ''match-maker'' (an older
woman)
            breaks the hymen of the bride with a handkerchief and
exhibits it before
            an assembly of men as proof of her virginity.

            A Kamira spokesman said if that part of the rites was
eliminated, ''it
            would put an end to the gypsy people.''

            Mart¡nez Ram¡rez, however, said the ''match-maker'' rite was
not
            obligatory. ''It can only be practiced by those who
specifically accept
            it,'' because ''no religion, culture or rite can take
precedence over a
            citizen's right over their own body.''

            But he also pointed out that traditional gypsy weddings
began to be held
            in Spain a full 575 years ago.

            The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial
            Discrimination commended the Spanish government in March for
its
            efforts to improve the situation of gypsies in the country,
who numbered
            around 650,000 of a total population of 40 million.

            But while the UN committee said the Spanish government ''was
treating
            that segment of the population in a very favourable
manner,'' it added
            that ''a high percentage of the members of the gypsy
community had
            been affected by unfavourable social conditions in
comparison to the
            rest of the Spanish population.''

            An estimated 90 percent of Roma in Spain are married in
traditional
            gypsy ceremonies.

            The Aragon regional parliament's initiative is a test of the
sensitivity of
            those who fight for their rights, said Mart¡nez Ram¡rez, who
pointed out
            that when the constitution was drafted, only the Andalucista
Party (in the
            southern region of Andaluc¡a) met with delegates of Gypsy
Presence,
            while the Spanish parliament never even discussed the
question of gypsy
            marriages.

            Law professor Fernando Mari¤o, the president of the Spanish
Pro
            Human Rights Association, told IPS that the important thing
was to
            foster the establishment of officially recognised links
between people
            who want to live together, marry, and form a family.

            ''The form is only a secondary issue,'' said Mari¤o, a
professor of
            international law at the Carlos III University. ''What must
be guaranteed
            is the broadest freedom of form, including the gypsies'
right to marry
            according to their age-old traditions.''

            Mari¤o, however, objected to the ''match-maker'' rite.

            All legislation must take into account public order, ''which
establishes
            equality between women and men, and rejects any degrading
treatment.
            And that aspect of the rite is humiliating for women,'' said
Mari¤o.
            (END/IPS/tra-so/td/ag/sw/00) Origin:
Montevideo/RIGHTS-SPAIN/
            ----


--

Xxxx Xxxxx Xxxxxx
PhD Student
Department of Political Science
SUNY at Albany
Nelson A. Rockefeller College
135 Western Ave.; Milne 102
Albany, NY 12222


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