The International Day of the Roma is celebrated on April 8. The day was officially declared in 1990, in honour of the first major international meeting of Romani representatives, 7-12 of April, 1971 in London. On the occasion of this day, a session of the Commitee for Gender Equality was held in the Serbian Parliament and was attended by members of several Roma associations. The topic of the meeting was the position of Roma women in Serbia. It was emphasized at the session that the average life span of Roma is 48 years and that only 3.5% of Roma women live until 65 years of age.
The chairperson of the Commitee for Gender Equality, Gordana Paunović Milosavljević, said that discrimination, prejudice and the lack of funds for life were the main problems of Roma in Serbia. Roma women are one of the most threatened groups in our country, as they usually do not have access to education, social and health care. They are often exposed to family violence, various forms of social discrimination, etc. and they live in inadequate conditions and poverty, she said.
A member of the government's Council for Gender Equality, Slavica Vasić, emphasized that 75% of Roma women are illiterate, 35% of them finish primary school, 25% finish secondary school and only 3% finish university. According to the Council for Gender Equality, 45% of Roma women have no personal documents, which complicates the process of exercising rights in the fields of health care and social welfare..
The secretary of the Council for Gender Equality, Dragana Petrović, emphasizes early matrimony and unemployment as one of the biggest issues of Roma women. Early matrimony forms part of the Roma tradition, but creates a problem, as it is due to that fact that Roma women quit education prematurely, she stressed. She added that 23 % of Roma women aged between 15 and 19 have one child at least, while 3,5 % of them give birth even before they turn 15.
A representative of the OSCE Office in Serbia, Christina Davies, emphasized that the position of Roma women in Serbia could be improved only with the cooperation of state institutions, international organizations and the civilian sector. According to the population census of 2002, there are some 108,000 Roma living in Serbia, but the unofficial number is estimated at some 500.000.