Bulgaria: Holy Synod, socialists and radicals against Istanbul Convention

Written by on January 23, 2018 in Perspectives - Comments Off on Bulgaria: Holy Synod, socialists and radicals against Istanbul Convention

The fact that the coalition of those in Bulgaria who are rejecting the Istanbul Convention is still growing, is causing disbelief within the country and abroad. The big question is how an agreement designed to fight violence, including sexual violence, against women can be rejected by anyone.

First the far-right United Patriots, who are part of the Bulgarian government, rejected it. Then the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) followed suit. Now the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church became part of this distinct group, which critics accuse of an alarming level of ignorance.

A statement by the Holy Synod said, it did not support the convention or “the introduction of concepts incompatible with the Bulgarian public order”. The Church did not want to accept “ideas incompatible with the faith of the Holy Orthodox Church” either.

In addition, the Synod said the term “gender” in the Istanbul Convention was different from “gender” in the Bulgarian legal order. Therefore the Church did not accept the legalisation of categories such as “gender” or gender as “socially rooted”.

The Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church urged the National Assembly in Sofia not to ratify the Convention.

The ideas of Volen Siderov, who is chairmain of the parliamentary group of the radical United Patriots, are not compatible with the Istanbul Convention either. “A woman cannot refuse her husband sex”, he recently said. “That is why she gets married.”

Krassimir Karakachanov, another United Patriots leader who is also Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence of the Republic of Bulgaria, said the convention would legalise the “third gender” and same-sex marriage, which is simply inaccurate.

Then, to the surprise of many, including even the harshest critics of the socialists, the BSP hopped on the bandwagon of ignorant adversaries of the convention. The statement of the Holy Synod was far less surprising.

Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s party GERB has been trying to correct and educate those who reject the Istanbul Convention. So far, they were not successful.

GERB is being joined by non-governmental organisations such as the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC). The organisation said that one in four women in Bulgaria experienced domestic violence. The Istanbul Convention was “an important international legal document that can change things”.

According to the BHC, the convention “would make it possible to introduce wide-sweeping measures” which would address “the shortcomings of the Bulgarian system.” The NGO has started a petition on the site change.org, which demands a ratification by the Bulgarian National Assembly. It can be signed here.

The Istanbul Convention, also known as “Action against violence against women and domestic violence”, was signed by Bulgaria 2016, but it has not been ratified by the National Assembly in Sofia.

Its purpose is to “protect women against all forms of violence, and prevent, prosecute and eliminate violence against women and domestic violence”, as it says in the first of its 81 articles. It wants to “contribute to the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and promote substantive equality between women and men, including by empowering women.”

Designing a “comprehensive framework, policies and measures for the protection of and assistance to all victims of violence against women and domestic violence” is among its goals, as well as to “promote international co-operation with a view to eliminating violence against women and domestic violence.”

In addition, the convention includes providing “support and assistance to organisations and law enforcement agencies to effectively co-operate in order to adopt an integrated approach to eliminating violence against women and domestic violence.”

Neither a “third gender” nor same-sex marriage are part of the convention. But even if they were, rejecting it would be wrong. At this stage it seems neither reason nor attempts to explain the actual content of the convention can break the growing wall of ignorance in Bulgaria.

Today, the convention will be discussed at Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski.

The entire text of the Istanbul Convention can be read here





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