Bulgaria

Population Size:

6,940,506.[1]

Number of People Experiencing Domestic Abuse Each Year:

2018: 33 women were murdered by their husbands, while 28 women were severely injured or disabled as a result of domestic violence.[2]

2017: 27 women were murdered by their husbands.

2016: 22 women were murdered by their husbands.

No research on male victims or other gender identities.

Cost of Domestic Abuse to the Economy Each Year:

No research.

Estimated % Change due to COVID-19:

The Bulgarian Fund for Women has reported that, since 13th March 2020, when a lockdown was imposed in Bulgaria, 8 women have been killed by their partner.[3]


Current Law and Policy:

Bulgaria is committed to combating violence against women, protecting victims and strengthening existing legal frameworks.

Domestic violence is a serious and widespread problem in Bulgaria, particularly amongst the Roma communities. In 2005, Bulgaria became one of the few countries in Europe to adopt targeted legislation and introduced the Protection Against Domestic Violence Act. The Act regulates the rights of victims of domestic violence, protection measures and the procedure for applying for any such measures. However, during 2017 and 2018, more than 60 women were killed in domestic violence incidents, which suggests that the current legislation is ineffective. 

Despite the country’s high incidence rates of domestic violence, Bulgaria has not yet ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combatting Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (the ‘Istanbul Convention’). Bulgaria was one of the most ardent opponents of the Convention and, in 2018, its Constitutional Court delivered a binding judgment that it was incompatible with the country’s Constitution. The Convention’s use of the word “gender” proved controversial and led to an ‘anti-gender’ campaign being launched by the Bulgarian public. As a result, the Court’s judgment found that “despite its undeniable positive aspects, the Convention is internally contradictory and … the meaning of some of its provisions goes beyond the Convention’s stated purposes and its title”. However, Bulgaria maintains that this ruling does not mean that the country has stopped fighting domestic violence. Speaking to the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in February 2020, Bulgaria highlighted its criminalisation of all forms of domestic violence, comprehensive programme of action and training of judges and prosecutors to deal with the issue. 


Bulgaria has systematically improved its legislative framework that deals with domestic violence. In 2019, the Penal Code was amended to strengthen the legal basis for punishing perpetrators and work was started to amend the Protection of Domestic Violence Act 2005. This amendment aims to better align the law with European legislative practices and strengthen the protection and support given to victims. At the February 2020 Committee meeting, Bulgaria added that the amendment will also incriminate psychological violence in any form (i.e., it does not have to reach a “systemic” level). 

Roma women are particularly at risk from domestic violence due to deeply entrenched stereotypes and prejudices on their role within families. Such violence is considered the norm and is set against a background of low-level education, school dropouts, early marriage, poverty and unemployment. At the February 2020 Committee meeting, it was suggested that Bulgaria should adopt multisectoral measures in order to address these issues.


 

Sources


[1] Worldometer, “Bulgaria Population (Live)”, (worldometers.info).

[2] Novinite, “”Dramatic Increase in Murders of Women in Domestic Violence in Bulgaria”, (novinvite.com, 5 February 2019).

[3] S. Todorov, “Bulgaria Charity Warns Domestic Violence Worsening in Pandemic”, (balkaninsight.com, 28 May 2020).