Bulgaria’s Constitutional Court decided on March 20 that the request lodged by 75 MPs from GERB, the senior partner in the country’s ruling coalition, for a ruling on whether provisions from the Istanbul Convention on domestic violence were in conflict with the Bulgarian constitution, was admissible.
The court appointed judge Anastas Anastassov – who was an MP for GERB at the time he was appointed to the court in 2012 – as the rapporteur on the case, but gave no indication how long it would take to issue a ruling. Given the Constitutional Court’s previous track record, it was unlikely that a ruling would be made before the end of 2018.
GERB, which retracted the convention from the ratification process in Parliament earlier this month, lodged the request in January, with Danail Kirilov, the party’s MP who chairs Parliament’s legal affairs committee, saying that GERB wanted to hear the court’s opinion in order to bring clarity to the public debate on the document.
The Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, to give its full official name, is an international instrument directed against domestic violence, but in Bulgaria has been the target of an active negative campaign by conservative forces that claim it promotes the concept of a “third gender”.
The document has unexpectedly found itself in the middle of a controversy in Bulgaria at the start of the year, when the ultra-nationalist United Patriots, the junior partner in the ruling coalition, refusedto support the cabinet’s ratification proposal, saying that it would open the door for same-sex marriage and recognition of a “third gender”.
Surprisingly, the largest opposition party, the socialists, has also came out against the convention, as did, less surprisingly, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.
Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, the GERB leader, said at the time that the Istanbul Convention was retracted from ratification that the document would be considered by the Constitutional Court, and after that there could be a calm debate about it. He also claimed that his government had been “unfairly accused” over the issue.
Some polling agencies in Bulgaria claimed that up to 70 per cent of Bulgarians did not want the Istanbul Convention adopted.
(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)