The eighth annual Sofia Pride march will take place in the Bulgarian capital on June 27, and again – as has become customary – has drawn a statement of support from a number of foreign ambassadors, and opposition from the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and far-right politicians.
The march, in support of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people starts at 6pm. The gathering place will be in front of the Soviet Army Monument at 5pm.
Sofia Pride is the biggest annual event dedicated to the equality and human rights of all citizens and the biggest event increasing the visibility of LGBTI people in the country.
The focus of this year’s Pride is the discrimination against LGBTI people in educational institutions.
According to the organisers, almost all non-heterosexual and transgender people have faced discrimination in education, yet the problem continues to be unrecognised, invisible and unaddressed by parents and teachers, as well as experts, including in higher education establishments.
In their statement of support, a group of foreign ambassadors in Sofia said that promoting the principle of equal treatment for LGBTI people is an important aspect of a tolerant and respectful society.
“Sofia Pride is an opportunity to promote human rights and tolerance, celebrate diversity, and denounce homophobia,” the ambassadors said.
“The Pride March also increases visibility for Bulgarian LGBTI people and sends an important message to thousands of gays and lesbians across the country – you are not alone,” the statement said.
It said that in Pride events all across the world, gay and straight people come together for the principle that all citizens should have the same rights: to live, to love and to work without fear of discrimination.
“No one should ever be discriminated against on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. We are yet to achieve this goal – discrimination still exists everywhere, including in Bulgaria.”
LGBTI-inclusive education will help promote understanding among future generations and prevent discrimination, the statement said.
“We encourage Bulgarians to join the Sofia Pride March and to embrace LGBTI people as equal citizens, without prejudice or discrimination, and to promote LGBTI rights. We wish everyone a peaceful and happy celebration,” said the statement, which was signed by the ambassadors of Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The Sliven eparchy of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church issued a public statement against the parade, calling on people not to take part in it, while in Parliament, far-right party Ataka tabled its latest, and certain for defeat, legislative amendment calling for people who take part in Pride parades to be sent to prison.