Position Statement on Friday’s failure to pass the Bill for the Protection from Domestic Violence Act
This position has been adopted by the LGBTI organisations Bilitis, LGBTI Action and GLAS, as well as the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee.
On Friday, 27 January, with votes against and abstentions from the political parties GERB, Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), the ultra-nationalist pro-Kremlin Revival party and the Bulgarian Rise party, the Bulgarian parliament rejected an important bill to amend and supplement the Protection from Domestic Violence Act. However, along with some general and vague remarks against the bill, individual MPs openly stated that they opposed it “in defence of children” and spoke out against protection from domestic violence for victims living in a same-sex couple.
In the plenary session, MP and leader of the socialists, Kornelia Ninova (BSP/PES), said that Bulgaria was “saved from the Istanbul Convention by the BSP MPs,” that behind the convention, as well as behind the bill, “there are unpleasant things”, that “quietly [...] gender ideology is creeping in the world, in Europe and now in Bulgaria”, attacked the participation of NGOs in the sphere of education and with outright chauvinism made unacceptable insinuations that NGOs abuse personal data. She pointed out that it was dangerous for children to be “poisoned” with information about LGBTI minorities because they were thus “taught homosexuality.” She also said: “We will never sign and agree to have a third sex in Bulgaria, beyond man and woman.”
Also speaking before the plenary, MP Ivan Chenchev (BSP/PES) addressed the protection from domestic violence of same-sex domestic partners deeming it problematic, without, however, justifying why persons in such families are not entitled to protection from domestic violence.
The parliament’s speaker made no remarks on these blatantly homophobic speeches. They did not receive a specific and unequivocal rebuff from the MPs from the other parliamentary groups either.
On Facebook, MP Stefan Shilev (GERB/EPP) said, “I do not accept to give our children under the “protection” of NGOs, which will receive state funding without guarantees for the preservation of traditional Christian values.”
However, it is not the bill that puts Bulgarian children in danger, but those MPs who opposed its adoption. Not only did they take a position that is incompatible with morality. They took a position incompatible with the Bulgarian and European legal order. Once again, they have corrupted the public debate, uttering untruths, or manipulations, spreading misinformation and fear in Bulgarian society, and making lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people the scapegoat of their unscrupulous political populism. They demonstrated homophobia from the highest platform in Bulgaria—that of the parliament. Their statements will forever remain in the history of this institution.
This chilling propaganda against a vulnerable group, LGBTI people in Bulgaria, is shameful. It was even more shameful that it happened on 27 January, International Holocaust Remembrance Day. It should be recalled that non-heterosexual, trans and intersex people were one of the groups that fell victim to persecution and mass extermination in the death camps by the criminal and misanthropic National-Socialist regime in the Third Reich, and in the countries where its tentacles had reached out.
The disgraceful disrespect for the memory of the victims of this regime was no more acceptable than the disrespect that some of the MPs also showed to the victims of domestic and gender-based violence, to whom this bill actually referred.
The bill, which was not adopted at first reading, was attacked with absurd arguments, which, if not insincere, could only be the result of complete ignorance of the problems of victims of domestic violence and law enforcement under this law. Friday's debate managed in one fell swoop to undermine not only the equality of LGBTI people in Bulgaria, but also the rights of women and children, who are disproportionately affected by patriarchal violence.
The untruth that the bill was drafted without discussion after it was widely passed in parliamentary committees with representatives of all political parties will not clean anyone’s conscience. The untruth that this bill is unconstitutional will not earn those who uttered these calumnies a place of dignity in history. The untruth that this bill or the Istanbul Convention introduces a “third sex” or that it puts children in danger will not excuse anyone, but only turn the speaker of the untruth into a bully.
Not only the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria proclaims equality before the law of all people, but also the law of the European Union and the domestic law of the Republic of Bulgaria have made discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity an offence. The hatred that the aforementioned MPs openly preach in Bulgarian society towards LGBTI people is not just intolerable; it is illegal. It has no place in Bulgarian parliamentary life and is a disgrace to the institution of Bulgaria’s parliament.
We declare clearly and without hesitation that we will defend our rights and dignity from infringement by anyone, even when they have forgotten that they are in public elective office, to represent not only their constituents but the entire nation, without exemptions.