Discrimination does not refer to every form of inequality. Discrimination only refers to unequal treatement based on a protected feature.
The features for which people may be discriminated against cannot be listed comprehensively. They can only be perceived by observing people’s behavior. For this reason, the law recognizes only certain fundamental features for which people all around the world may face discrimation. These include age, sex/gender, disability, race/ethnicity, sexual orienatation, and religion/beliefs. However, this does not mean that new characteristics cannot be added to this list if they appear in society.
Discrimination is a universal phenomenan that occurs in all societies around the world. It may be directed by a majority towards a minority, or by a minority towards a majority. Consequently, it is a divisive force that destroys the fabric of society and causes serious personal, social, and economic suffering.
The protection of vulnerable groups from discrimination—groups that are unpopular in society and are therefore not only victims of systemic discrimination but also often do not receive the institutional protection they deserve—is one of the areas in which the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee focuses its efforts.
According to data from the 2019 Eurobarometer:
- Discrimination against Roma people (38%) and sexual discrimination (35%) are the most widespread forms of discrimination in Bulgaria;
- 30% of Bulgarians say that they would not feel comfortable if their child were to one day have a relationship with a person of Roma origin;
- 39% of Bulgarians say that efforts made to fight against discrimination in Bulgaria are ineffective or nonexistent;
BHC is one of the civil organizations that significantly contributed to the adoption of the Protection Against Discrimination Act and directly participated in the preparation for its implementation. When it went into effect in 2004, the act was one of the most progressive in Europe. It also led to the creation of the Commission for Protection Against Discrimination. The Protection Against Discrimination Act is the main antidiscrimination law prohibiting various forms of discrimination, including those based on race, ethnic identity, sex/gender, religion, belief, sexual orientation, disability, and age. It also establishes uniform standards and mechanisms for protection.
Today, BHC monitors the application of the Protection Against Discrimination Act and publishes its observations on the issue each year in its Annual Report. Through signals to the Commission for Protection Against Discriminatinion and the Prosecutor’s Office, BHC fights against acts of discrimination and hate speach in the media and in the community.
BHC also conducts strategic litigation and advocacy efforts for protection against discrimination based on race, ethnic identity, age, health, or other attributes.