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There is no focus on domestic violence prevention in Bulgaria

Photo: library

“Very often the institutions in this country push the victims of domestic violence away, downplaying what they have been through. Without realizing that a slap in the face, a blow, even when followed by a reconciliation between victim and abuser, is just an indication of a growing problem which almost always escalates over time,” says Radoslav Stoyanov, legal expert at the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, BHC. It is his professional opinion that being comparatively new, having been adopted just two years ago, the law on protection from domestic violence in Bulgaria is still riddled with many problems and discrepancies. After the debate surrounding the ratification of the Istanbul Convention and the fact that Bulgaria is one of six countries to have refused to adopt the document, it was decided to amend the domestic Bulgarian laws to align them with the principles of the convention. But these amendments are not enough, Radoslav Stoyanov says.

“First of all I would like to stress that the measures in criminal law only come when the worst has already happened. In Bulgaria there is no focus on prevention. That was something that was envisaged when the bills introducing the Istanbul Convention standards in Bulgaria were being developed. There was a proposal connected with education, with consolidating children’s knowledge of gender equality in society, that women are not men’s “property”, that women are not the “weaker sex” etc. The measures aimed to nip in the bud the system of beliefs in our society, and in many others, of the inferior position of women. These measures were rejected and, unfortunately, there are no such messages addressed to our children. For reasons I simply cannot comprehend it was deemed that for an act to qualify as having been committed as an act of domestic violence there has to have been systematic violence, i.e. there have to be no less than three official complaints of domestic violence. Which means that the violence should have been left to develop long enough to have escalated to very dire consequences.”

Psychological and emotional support for the victims and talking about the problem openly is essential. In this connection the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, in partnership with the Alliance for Protection Against Gender-Based Violence are launching a two-year project, co-financed by the European Commission – Breaking the cycle of gender-based violence against women and children in Bulgaria. The first initiative from this project is an open-air photo exhibition “Invaluable objects” by Anna Stoeva. The exhibition will be displaying, in front of the British Council building in Sofia, photographs of the personal belongings of women killed in acts of domestic violence until 28 October.


One in four women in this country experience some kind of violence which means that each and every one of us has encountered the problem without even knowing we have, Anna Stoeva says.  As part of this project the BHC is developing a designated website to help people affected by domestic violence. The website will replace the now-existing https://ubita.org, which mapped femicides in Bulgaria.

“We collected information from Bulgarian law courts about convictions connected with the killing of women. We put together a map, which made it clear that the overwhelming percentage – around 90% - of femicides in Bulgaria, including those that do not fall under domestic violence, were committed by someone the women knew, by a partner or a family member. That is how it all began, now we are developing the idea and the website is to become spasena.org, where we shall include information targeted at abused women – where they can turn to for help, what they can do.  We shall also post information for people who have witnessed domestic violence, because it is often the case that we hear screams behind the walls of the apartment building but we do nothing – either because we are afraid, or because we do not know what to do. This site will provide the answers. And last but not least there will be information addressed at the people who feel the urge to commit acts of violence because it is quite possible for people to have realized they have a problem and to be in need of help.”

Especially for the campaign, the rock band PIF made a video of their song “Friend” treating the issue of domestic violence.

The website will be active as of the second half of October and will also offer information in English.

Interviews by Radio Sofia, BNR

Editing by Vesela Krasteva

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