In a letter addressed to Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov and Justice Minister Nadezhda Yordanova, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, called on the Bulgarian authorities to improve the legal and institutional protection of victims of violence against women and domestic violence.
Mijatović said that the requirement of “systematic” violence provided by the Criminal Code in respect of offences committed in the context of domestic violence must be repealed without delay.
“I am particularly concerned that the requirement of “systematic” violence not only exposes victims of domestic violence to serious risks, but also limits the possibilities to sanction perpetrators and sends a dangerous message to society that domestic violence is acceptable,” Mijatović said.
She reiterated her previous recommendations to the Bulgarian authorities to urgently address the severe lack of support services for victims of domestic violence and to take further measures to promote equality between women and men, including through awareness raising, training and education to fight sexist prejudices.
Yordanova, replying to Mijatović’s letter, said that amendments to the Domestic Violence Act had been finalised.
Yordanova said that the main points of the bill included extending the scope of the law.
In addition to the rights of victims of domestic violence and current protection measures, the draft law regulates the bodies and the mechanisms for conducting state policy for prevention and protection against domestic violence and the interaction between them, Yordanova said.
The procedure for imposing protection measures against domestic violence had been improved, to speed up proceedings and ensure more effective protection, she said.
The circle of victims who could seek protection under the act had been expanded, and the circle of people who could initiate court proceedings for a protection order also had been extended.
The types of measures for protection against domestic violence were increased in the amendments.
There will be a possibility to provide free legal aid in a simplified manner, Yordanova said.
A National Commission for Prevention and Protection against Domestic Violence would co-ordinate, monitor and evaluate policies and measures to prevent domestic violence and improve interaction among state authorities and organisations relevant to the problem, she said.
“A co-ordination mechanism setting out clear rules of action and co-ordination between the competent authorities and organisations has been established, thereby ensuring reliable, timely and adequate protection of persons who have suffered violence.”
The establishment and maintenance of a national information system on cases of domestic violence was envisaged, the letter said.
In the bill “judicial proceedings for imposition of measures for protection against domestic violence has been optimised and improved with respect to its speed, effective law enforcement and the creation of safeguards for protection of the interest of the victims,” Yordanova said.
The bill provided for the Cabinet to determine annually funds for projects by legal entities active in prevention and protection against domestic violence, she said.
The bill also envisages a national telephone line for assistance to victims of domestic violence or at risk, an Advisory Centre for Victims of Domestic Violence, and protected housing.
Perpetrators of domestic violence would be referred to a specialised programme for overcoming aggression and dealing with anger.
“I would like to assure you that the Ministry of Justice would continue to build on what has been achieved so that the rights and the protection of victims of violence against women and domestic violence in Bulgaria take their priority place at political and institutional level,” Yordanova said.
(Photo: Fabrizio Turco/ freeimages.com)
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