Czech Republic: Unique meeting of gay and lesbian Roma in Prague
A unique meeting of gay and lesbian Roma took place this past weekend in Prague with the aim of awakening interest in this very specific group among Romani people themselves and among members of the majority society. The meeting took place under the auspices of David Tišer, a well-known Romani activist, with creative lectures by fashion designer Pavel Berky and photographer Lukáš Houdek.
"In traditional Romani society, sexuality and topics related to it, such as different sexual orientations, are a big taboo. Homosexual persons are under enormous pressure in these communities and are often ostracized from them. Romani gays and lesbians are immediately subjected to triple discrimination: The larger society excludes them because of their ethnic origin, their own communities exclude them because of their sexual orientation, and they therefore become a kind of minority within a minority. These multiple layers of discrimination are very stressful and lead to many unhappy lives. The aim of our two-day meeting is to break down this taboo and begin long-term work on strengthening the self-confidence of Romani gays and lesbians," said Tišer, who is the director of the ARA ART nonprofit organization, which convened the meeting.
More than 20 Romani people from all over the Czech Republic attended the gathering. In addition to sharing their life stories, discussing them, and trying to find possible solutions to problems, they also attended creative workshops with fashion designer Pavel Berky and photographer Lukáš Houdek.
During the workshops those attending attempted to express their personal experiences through art. They also attended an educational bloc of presentations about activism and opportunities for public engagement in their home localities.
The ARA ART organization was created two years ago with the aim of working with this "minority within a minority". The group has already undertaken its first public campaign targeting the Romani LGBT community.
ARA ART has also established a counseling center where everyone interested in this topic can go, whether that be persons of same-sex orientation or their family members and friends. Last weekend's meeting took place thanks to the financial support of the Heinrich Böll Foundation in the Czech Republic, the Slovak-Czech Women's Fund, and the Embassy of the United States of America.
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