Bulgaria fails to ratify Istanbul Convention

The Istanbul Convention was not ratified in Bulgaria -- a country where every two weeks, a woman is murdered and in 93% of the cases, it is done by a current or former partner or relative. This is a huge setback for women's rights in Bulgaria. 

Editorial Team
Editorial Team NewsMavens, Europe
Bulgaria fails to ratify Istanbul Convention - NewsMavens
Women's protest in Bulgaria. Helsinki Foundation

Why this story matters:

The Bulgarian Constitutional Court decided on July 27 that the Istanbul Convention was not consistent with the Bulgarian Constitution, thus making its ratification impossible. 

The court did not approve of the convention's definition of gender as a social construct, claiming that "if a society loses the ability to distinguish between a woman and a man, combating violence against women would only be a formal but incomplete commitment." 

Not only did the court fail to acknowledge the need to protect women, but it also indirectly denied "the right to protection and recognition of the identity of transgender and intersex people," according to a press release on the decision. This exemplifies the Bulgarian government's commitment to traditional roles and beliefs. 

In Bulgaria, a woman is murdered every two weeks. Additionally, current laws do not prohibit domestic violence and there are few resources for victims of domestic violence. 

Details from the story:

  • The Bulgarian Constitutional Court issued a decision on July 27 stating the the Istanbul Convention was inconsistent with the Bulgarian constitution. 
  • "More than 30 prominent NGOs and individuals, working in the field of human rights, children's rights, women's rights and LGBTI rights, condemned the much awaited decision." 
  • The court stated that the Bulgarian constitution "understands social roles as deriving from the biological sex, stating that the notions of 'mother,' 'giving birth,' and 'midwifery' are inherently female roles". 
  • This decision is an example of the stereotypes assigned to women that the Istanbul Convention aims to discourage.
  • The court also believes ratification of the convention would challenge societal norms of gender, thus indirectly denying "the right to protection and recognition of the identity of transgender and intersex people".
  • "Despite statistics that every two weeks a woman is murdered, in most cases by a former or current partner or relative (93%), there has been close to no societal mobilization on the issue [of domestic violence]." 
  • Furthermore, Bulgarian law does not currently criminalize domestic violence.
  • Up to this point, no other judiciary in an EU member state has found problems or contradictions between their constitution and the Istanbul Convention. 
  • The Istanbul Convention has been ratified by 32 states, "including all other Balkan countries". 
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Karolina Zbytniewska
Karolina ZbytniewskaEuractiv, Europe
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