As a part of the project »Early marriage – culture or abuse?« a round table for general public »Wealth of multiculturalism – yesterday, today, tomorrow« was held on April 5, 2016 in Kočevje.
The guests shared experiences of their general and family life as members of specific majority, confrontations with stereotypes and prejudices, as well as the role of women and intercultural coexistence today and in the future.
Janja Rošer, the president of Council of Roma community of the Republic of Slovenia as a representative of Roma ethnic minority and Faila Pašić Bišić, the president of Humanitarian society Up, as a representative of Islamic community in Slovenia, were honestly speaking of their personal experiences as well as views of communities they represent. Beside stereotypes and prejudices they were facing when growing up, they talked about how the role of women is changing in their communities. The status of women, being powerlessness and in an inferior position to men, is successfully changing. Individual women, who decided to cross the boundaries of being just mothers and housewives, present the role models and motivation for all women. When speaking about women and mothers the debate addressed also early marriage issues. They both strongly criticised and highlighted the different views of practicing arranged (forced) marriages within different groups in each community. Janja Rošer highlighted the need of separating different Roma communities in Slovenia regarding different way of living, different culture and language and finally practicing different forms of marriage. Roma communities in Prekmurje (North East of Slovenia) and Dolenjska (South East of Slovenia) are not familiar with arranged early marriages. In both regions, early cohabitations in a form of so-called “elopement” are known and practiced. A young couple decides to “marry” and start to live together. In most cases, without parents’ knowledge or despite their disapproval. When searching for possible solutions, it is important to stress out that it is not possible to isolate the issue, since it’s complex and connected with many other issues, but it is vital that the community itself recognises the problem as unacceptable in a modern world.
Coexistence is only possible in a tolerant society, with active inclusion of both sides, members of minority as well as of majority population, being willing and prepared for respectful cooperation, intercultural dialog, equal inclusion in decision-making process, always and everywhere. Not only the differences alone enrich us but also common values, wishes and fears which we not often highlight.
At the end the visitors joined the debate with their opinions and questions and their response to the content and organization of the event was very positive.
A short video on round table was broadcasted on national TV channel RTV SLO2 in the Roma programme “So vakeres?”.
Prepared by Tjaša Šerkezi.