IT SEEMS that these days some societies in Europe are eager to protect those who do not need protection, while at the same time overlooking vulnerable groups who are in urgent need of protection from rather real threats, not to mention promoting campaign-induced fear.
Last year, the Interior Ministry recorded 30 victims of human trafficking who were, on average, 22 years of age. Undoubtedly, most cases of “modern slavery” will never make it to police records in part because the victims might not fully understand that what is happening to them is unacceptable and is a crime; they might feel that they have no other choice, or they simply happened to fall into a group of those whom society views through a set of stereotypes.
With that said, it comes as no surprise that today most victims of human trafficking are Roma, as Andrea Bezáková noted for the Sme daily. A representative of the Slovak Catholic Charity, Bezáková has been dealing with human trafficking for more than a decade.
Those Roma are living in settlements that are blind spots on the map; places which the majority population never visits, but still thinks they know and to which they stick their hasty labels.
Those who escape the nets of slave traders are exposed to a number of other threats. The lives of Roma in Slovakia are five to seven years shorter than everybody else, which is not a mere factor of Roma attitudes toward their own health, as many would promptly claim. This also says something about how the health-care system is tuned in Slovakia.
“The insensitively and non-practically tuned health-care system has a significant share on the bad health condition in the [Roma] settlements,” Andrej Belák, a social anthropologist, who studied the health condition of Roma, told Sme in a recent interview. “Regular standards in all types of health-care utilities appeared significantly less functional in cases of work with inhabitants of settlements.”
All of this, according to Belák, who lived for 13 months in a settlement and visited hospitals where Roma were treated, put further pressure on hospital staff.
This provides a real idea about the groups of people who need the protection and attention of politicians, not talk in campaign agendas.
There are voters who believe they cannot be fooled by politicians hunting for votes and that they will always see the real agenda wrapped into vivid campaign talk.
Still, many voters have once again been taken in by cynical calculations of politicians aimed at a single thing: getting out the vote.
This time politicians are using what they call the protection of traditional family, “defined as a unique bond between one man and one woman” as their gimmick to get voters’ attention.
Since the constitution already contains a provision stipulating that marriage, family and parenthood are protected by law, and it guarantees the protection of children and minors, one wonders whether there aren’t any more urgent issues to discuss and more real threats to protect real people from?
Why aren’t the Christian Democrats hysterically calling on the ruling Smer, or vice versa, to come up with a set of measures to make sure that young Roma will not end up abroad, or even at home, as slaves, or that they receive the education they need to understand that which might actually threaten their health?
If one wonders why a social democratic party is so eager to support an agenda which is as far from social democracy as Košice is from Bratislava (still without a highway connecting them), then the answer is rather simple: Smer has never been a genuine social democratic party.
Perhaps it is much easier to protect a nation from amorphous and undefined threats like that to the traditional family. This strikes somewhere between the fear from people’s own prejudices and the politicians’ cynicism.
Perhaps society could use some protection from being so easily brainwashed by those who care only about their own political passage to the highest posts.
3. Mar 2014 at 0:00 | Beata Balogová