Bulgaria -- systemic problems with violence against women persist

As part of NewsMaven's final report, we asked our correspondents and partners their thoughts  about the status of women in their country. Today's sneak preview is from Bulgaria, courtesy of the Bulgarian Women's Fund.

Bulgaria -- systemic problems with violence against women persist - NewsMavens
Sveta Sofia, Wikimedia Commons

What is the biggest women's rights story?

In Bulgaria, the biggest women’s rights story over the last three years has been the country’s immense problem with violence against women. The year 2018 will remain notable in the country's history because of the massive scandal surrounding the government’s refusal to accept the Istanbul Convention.

According to statistics,  one out of every 3 murdered women in Bulgaria is killed in their home at the hands of someone close to them. Even more depressingly, over the last three years, the number of Bulgarian women murdered by their husbands, partners and close relatives has increased by 50%. During 2016, 22 women were murdered by their relatives, and in 2017 this number increased to 27. Last year (2018), this number reached 33 and reportedly over half of these femicides occurred because of “jealousy”.  In the first 6 months of 2019, the number of murdered women has already reached 12. To call attention to these murdered women, the Bulgarian Fund for Women organized protests against violence against women on November 26, 2018. Considering the prevailing attitudes on this issue in the country, the event was considered a success even though the attendance was only around 1,000.

Obviously more remains to be done on this issue. As part of its focus on fighting violence against women, the BFW organized a public awareness campaign to encourage public support for the Istanbul Convention and including protests and other events. These actions were not successful though, as the ruling party GERB passed responsibility for ratification of the Convention on to the Constitutional Court which pronounced it non constitutional, in essence tying everyone’s hands.  

The subject of abortions has also dominated the public sphere and was recently cynically exploited in the context of the 2019 European elections for Parliament.

What is the biggest obstacle to women's equal rights?

The lack of working institutions and the absence of any enforcement of existing legislation are the main obstacles to equal rights for women in Bulgaria. Domestic violence only became a criminal offense in Bulgaria during the last days of February 2019,  which clearly shows that the legislative framework does not support the needs of the victims. There is also a lack of crisis centers and social centers for support and prevention. The other obstacle is Bulgaria’s lack of any substantial feminist movement and the fact that Bulgarian women have never fought for their rights because of the persistent and incorrect belief that we already possess equal rights because of communism.

Who are the outstanding feminist voices?

The mission of the Bulgarian Fund for Women (BFW) is to nurture and develop the feminist movement in Bulgaria. The BWF works to support smaller NGOs working for for women’s rights and empowerment.  In recent years, the initiatives: You are not Alone (Не си самa), Academia Ekaterina Karavelova (Академия Екатерина Каравелова), Dear Mother (Майко Мила), and LevFem  (ЛевФем) have been among the most active and visible feminist associations which support various women’s causes.

Answers provided by the Bulgarian Fund for Women

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