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To discriminate means to differentiate between or treat in different ways persons in similar situations, while there is no actual difference that can justify such unalike treatment. To discriminate also means to treat similarly persons in essentially different situations.

In 2003, Bulgaria adopted the Protection against Discrimination Act , which came into force in 2004 as part of the harmonisation process of national legislation with EU equality standards.  It is a single equality law that bans discrimination on various grounds (race/ethnicity, sex, religion/belief, sexual orientation, social status, disability and age among others), and provides uniform standards for protection and remedy. The act also established the Protection against Discrimination Commission (PADC) – an independent specialised equality body, which functions beyond the duration of one government mandate.

Despite the steady expansion of the commission’s anti-discrimination activity, on 28 April 2010, the Council of Ministers of Bulgaria decided to reduce PADC’s membership from nine to seven persons, allegedly due to tight budgets. The Chair of the Council of Europe’s Commission against Racism and Intolerance, Nils Muiznieks, together with the Council of Europe (CoE) Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, condemned these restrictive measures against PADC. Ignoring the ensuing public criticism, parliament passed the respective amendment of the Protection against Discrimination Act at the first reading, while the second reading is still to be scheduled.

Another hindrance to the proper operation of PADC is the end of the legal mandate of its current membership – a serious dent in the legitimacy of the commission, often used as a counterargument by those, prone to discriminatory practices, i.e. supporters of the political party Ataka.  A more transparent PADC membership selection procedure is also vital for increasing the body’s legitimacy leverage. Moreover, PADC needs to hone its interpretation of the notion of ‘indirect discrimination’ as a separate concept from direct discrimination.

You can read more on the discrimination problematic in BHC’s annual report and in the sections below.