Budapest protest against the legalization of segregation in Hungary

Not long ago I wrote an article about the segregation of Roma pupils, “Segregation of Roma in education – through my Roma eyes “, highlighting the main issues and measures from the last 10 years. It was an article which reflected my own experience and opinion. But I never thought that a few months later I would be going to participate in a protest against the possibility of legalizing segregation under the guise of “integration”.

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photo: Galya Stoyanova

The Ministry of Justice in Hungary proposed on March 29 to the Parliament, to draft legislation changing Equal Treatment and the Promotion of Equal Opportunities and leaving an open door to legalize school segregation under the cloak of “social inclusion”, and would also provide a legal pathway to discrimination and the further spread of non-reported discrimination.

In response to these worrying developments, on Sunday 26 May in Budapest between 300 and 400 people organized a peaceful protest against the proposed law. I was lucky to participate in this protest and see what the people think. I was surprised that I saw many young people, many younger than me. One of the smallest participants was a boy probably around 5 or 6 years old.

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photo: Galya Stoyanova

The protest started before the Human Resources Department and then continued with peaceful marching to VIII District. The many engaged young people were holding slogans like: “Legalizing segregation is unjust and racist practice. European Roma youth protests against segregation”; “SAY NO 2 SEGREGATION”; “A gazdasági jólét feltétele az integrált oktatás!” (Economic welfare is the condition of integrated education.); “ Közös ország, közös tanterem!” (Common country, common classroom!); “A valódi integráció mindnyájunk érdeke” (Real integration is the interest of all of us).

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photo: Galya Stoyanova

There were also speakers at the protest before the Human Resources Department – a representative of Chance for Children Foundation, Roma students,  mothers. After an hour we started to march and I witnessed something which could not have been predicted. There were people protesting against this protest in a violent manner with some of the participants which all happened too quickly to be recorded. But what I saw is unacceptable in the 21st century in a country part of the EU; gladly the police representatives prevented further violence by arresting the young perpetrators.

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photo: Galya Stoyanova

In Hungary there are more than 200 schools that are considered as segregated on an ethnic basis and around 700 classes which are separated on an ethnic basis. The numbers speak for themselves in this case and the idea of legalizing the segregation “when needed” is another way that Hungary is violating the fundamental rights. When we take into consideration all the legal framework requiring measures against segregation it is somewhat frightening that such a law can prevail.

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photo: Galya Stoyanova

With no further “words” on how wrong this is I will list some relevant articles, strategies and International Frameworks created to prevent such legalization and treatment against human beings and especially children:

1. Universal Declaration of Human Rights; Article 26, Paragraph (2):

“Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.”

2.  Universal Declaration of Human Rights; Article 7:

“All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.”

3. Universal Declaration of Human Rights; Article 2:

“Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.”

4. An EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies up to 2020 from 2011; Access to education:

“…Roma children tend to be over-represented in special education and segregated schools. …This is why Member States should ensure that all Roma children have access to quality education and are not subject to discrimination or segregation, regardless of whether they are sedentary or not. Member States should, as a minimum, ensure primary school.”

5. National Roma Integration Strategies: a first step in the implementation of the EU Framework f Education’s feedback on the National Strategies for Roma Inclusion for EU Member States that:

  •        “Measures aimed at preventing segregation: CZ, EL, ES, HU, PL, RO, SK”
  •         “As part of an integrated approach, Member States should, as a matter of priority in the area of education: eliminate school segregation and misuse of special needs education.”

6. National Roma Integration Strategies: a first step in the implementation of the EU Framework, COMMISSION STAFF WORKING DOCUMENT with country specific recommendations reflect on the Hungarian National Strategy for Roma Inclusion for  “Education” with:

“IDENTIFIED GAPS:

More focus on desegregation, integrated education and ensuring that mainstream policies also respond to the specific needs of Roma could further improve this part of the strategy.”

The strange thing for me was that when I started reading again the Hungarian NATIONAL SOCIAL INCLUSION STRATEGY – EXTREME POVERTY, CHILD POVERTY, THE ROMA–(2011–2020) I couldn’t actually recognize the measures for desegregation they are planning to implement until 2020.

Could that mean they actually haven’t created any strong desegregation policies and have left “the door open” for proposals like legalizing segregation?

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photo: Galya Stoyanova

But whatever the reason for this law being proposed I think that in any rational society it is inconceivable and should be neither accepted nor implemented.

As one of the placards at the peaceful protest said – “Common country, common classroom”.

More detailed article about the issue is coming soon.

By Galya Stoyanova