Documenting Roma life: Teenage marriage, delinquency and social media


The "Roma 101 Daily Life Observatory" page on Facebook monitors and captures, with each of its posts, the daily life of this community, giving the public a taste of what it means to be Roma.

The presence of the Roma in Greece, but also in Europe, travels back to the Byzantine Empire. Since then, the Roma community in Greece has grown to approximately 160,000 to 200,000 people, according to the Roma European Report 2020.

In Greece, the presence of this community sometimes encapsulates delinquency, social marginalisation and a regime of lawlessness. On the other side, of course, these people are often subject to racist attitudes and unjustified police violence, events that perpetuate prejudices about their lives and their delinquency.

The Roma continue to have a distinct culture, adopting many particular behaviours that blur the lines between culture and delinquency.

The Roma in Greece are particularly active on social media, which are flooded with content with moments of their daily life, their customs and their life in general. On Facebook pages and TikTok, videos and snapshots capture Roma lives, including delinquency.

There are times when they post pictures of themselves from the courtroom smiling and feeling proud or videos of their arrests, which they celebrate and cheer.

The above comes to be connected with the general attitude of the community towards the legal system of Greece.

From eating hedgehogs as delicacies, an animal protected by Presidential Decree 67/1981, to petty shoplifting, which they indoctrinate their children into, the Roma are often oblivious to the consequences of their offences.

Living in a regime of lawlessness, they themselves often find inventive ways to commit fraud, sometimes dressing up as Santa during Christmas and roaming neighbourhoods looking for their next target, or ringing house bells and saying: "We are from the electric company, we have come to takes measurements," in order to gain access to the building.

Special customs

Where does etiquette stop and transgression begin?

This is a question that one often asks when observing the everyday life of the Roma, starting with curses, witchcraft and special wishes, which have an innocent and funny character, to weddings and engagements of children.

In the Roma community, children are often betrothed or married between the ages of 10 and 15 and go on to start their own families. Many capture these moments of weddings, parties and engagements and post them on social media.

But as much as this is part of their culture, seeing little girls and boys getting married and having children is not only disturbing, but also illegal.

In their videos, the Roma often show that they can do whatever they want, without being restricted. They occupy parking spaces with old tables and chairs, which no one dares to move, besides themselves. They block streets with bins and improvised stalls, and even organise street parties. They videotape the moments they steal items or break into houses.

The problem is of course not the social media, as they simply reflect the daily practices of a large part of the Roma. Both on TikTok and on other social networking platforms, the brazenness with which their material is uploaded and displayed is simply a reflection of the brazenness they often display in their normal lives.

And as much as we find this content funny and laugh at its extremeness, it doesn't make us question if it ultimately stems from their culture or if it has been shaped by social conditions. Maybe it's both...

Peggy Babatha is a columnist for Proto Thema.

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