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Young Roma woman denounces her case of discrimination to the UN, with the support of Fundación Secretariado Gitano [editar]

The FSG hopes there will be justice in what is considered a case of intersectional discrimination that reflects the violation of rights to which many Roma women are subjected, due to their twofold condition of being women and Roma.


Young Roma woman denounces her case of discrimination to the UN, with the support of Fundación Secretariado Gitano

Jennifer Muñoz Vázquez, a young Roma woman convicted of stealing a toy priced at 6.90 euros -despite having presented two proofs in the trial that would have demonstrated her innocence- has today submitted a communication to take her case to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the United Nations body responsible for ensuring compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

The events occurred in December 2019, when Jennifer went to a hypermarket with her sister-in-law and her baby. She was intercepted by the security guard, who claimed that the toy her baby was carrying, priced at 6.90 euros, was stolen. The young woman overheard the guard saying to his colleague: “They are Roma women, so of course they’re going to steal”. However, in fact, the toy was a present given to them at the opening of a toy shop a few days earlier and they had not even been to the toy shop of the hypermarket on that day.

Despite the young woman's explanations, the security guard kept her in the security room for more than an hour and a half, together with her baby, suffering the cold and unable to feed him or change his nappy until the police arrived. When the police arrived, they opened a police report, based exclusively on the testimony of the security guard and without considering the explanations of the young woman, who requested to view the camera footage to prove that she had not even been through the toy section. She then left the supermarket with a summons to a rapid court hearing for the offence of shoplifting.

The young woman then went to the toy shop where she had been given the toy some days before and spoke to the shop’s employee, who offered to testify on her behalf and called the head of security of the hypermarket to confirm that he had given her the toy as a gift. The head of security referred the woman to the police station, where she went to report the facts and stated that she had a witness, to which the officers replied that she would have to tell that to the judge, who would assess the case.

The following day, the rapid court hearing was held for shoplifting, in which only the security guard testified, who accused her despite knowing -confirmed by the shop employee- that the toy was a gift. Despite the fact that she asked the judge (it is shown in the trial video) to call the toy shop assistant as a witness and to check the security cameras -which would corroborate that she did not pass through the toy shop in the hypermarket- the judge only took into account the testimony of the security guard and sentenced the young woman to a fine of 26 euros for the crime of theft, which, in addition, gives her a criminal record.

The young woman was able to appeal the sentence with the help of the Fundación Secretariado Gitano, which decided to support the case due to the seriousness of the rights violation that had occurred. Firstly, an appeal was made to the Provincial Court against the sentence, requesting the nullity of the proceedings, as Jenifer Muñoz's right to defence had been violated. The appeal was rejected, which led to an appeal in cassation before the Supreme Court, who again rejected the appeal. Finally, it was appealed to the Constitutional Court, which did not admit it for processing as it was considered constitutionally irrelevant, meaning that finally the only way to defend her rights was to turn to an international instance such as the one offered by the CEDAW Committee.

According to Selene de la Fuente, lawyer at the Fundación Secretariado Gitano and member of the legal team that has participated in the entire judicial process, "we are fully convinced that Ms. Muñoz has been treated unequally and differently because of her double status as a woman and as Roma, a discrimination that has not been properly addressed by the Spanish courts, which forces us to turn to the UN. Now that International Women's Day is about to be celebrated, I think it is important to put on the table the stereotypes and prejudices that Roma women still face and that sometimes materialise in serious human rights violations".

The Fundación Secretariado Gitano wants to point out that this is a clear case of intersectional discrimination on several levels, committed precisely by those who should have protected her (national police, investigating judge and prosecutor, courts of other instances, etc.). For this reason, this case was considered strategic for litigation, in order, on the one hand, to transfer European and international human rights standards on discrimination to the Spanish jurisprudence and, on the other hand, to set a precedent that grants justice not only to Jenifer Muñoz, but to many other Roma women who are victims of discrimination, both in Spain and internationally.