„Bilitis resource center“ Foundation, „GLAS Bulgaria“ Foundation and youth LGBT organization „Deystvie“ are reaching out to all members of parliament not to be misled by false interpretations of the text of the so called „Istanbul convention“, made up by political parties and fundamentalist religious NGOs, that have blown up in the media in the last weeks, and to not be scared of its ratification.
As organizations who are fighting for the rights of LGBTQ+ people in Bulgaria, „Bilitis resource center“ Foundation, „GLAS Bulgaria“ Foundation and youth LGBT organization „Deystvie“ strongly condemn the political games and propaganda, the hate speech against LGBTQ+ people, who involuntarily became victims of political PR on the back of The Fight against domestic violence and the conscious deception of the Bulgarian people about the true objective of the Istanbul convention.
With every passing day, in which the ratification of the Istanbul convention is being postponed, the life of thousands of Bulgarian women and of all Bulgarian citizens for that matter, who are being repeatedly molested, because of their gender, is threatened.
The facts that impose immediate action from Bulgaria’s side for more effective prevention and battling against violence against women are undeniable.
According to the European Union Agency for Fundamental Human Rights, 1 in 3 women in Europe, over the age of 15, has been a victim of physical or sexual assault at least once.
According to the „PartnersBulgaria“ Foundation’s research „Domestic and Gender-Based Violence: Victims Support Model“ 1 out of 3 women in Bulgaria is a victim of violence.
Roma women are forcefully married and impregnated at an early age.
Lesbian, bisexual and transgender women are not protected by law in cases of domestic violence in same-sex couples, or in violence caused by homo/transphobic motives.
Girls and women are typically sexually harassed at work or online
Some groups of women are more vulnerable to domestic violence: disabled women, elderly women, women of ethnic or religious minorities, refugee women.
Nearly 1 million Bulgarian women are subjected to psychological, physical, sexual and/or economic abuse by their partners. All these types of abuse directly and indirectly affect the kids, who unwillingly become victims. Women are more often subject to gender-based offenses, caused by the traditional and stereotypical understandings that the woman must be submissive to her man.
The Istanbul Convention is the only document, offering a comprehensive approach to prevention and solution of the problem of women who are abuse victims and also domestic violence. The objectives are clearly stated in Chapter 1, Article 1. In general, they are the removal of abuse and discrimination of women and girls and the creation of a comprehensive framework, policies and ways of supporting victims of violence. There is no statement in the objectives of the convention mentioning a „third gender“(whatever the understanding of the opponents of the convention is), neither is there a clause about „gay marriage“.
What the „abuse of women“ statement in the convention means is „infringement of human rights and discrimination of women and it means all gender-based acts of violence“, „gender-based acts of violence against women“ is all violence against a woman, because she is a woman, or violence concerning mostly women, and the definition of „gender“ in the Convention are socially constructed roles, behavior, acts and characteristics, which the society definitely finds fitting for men and women.
Gender is always social, so the convention is not implementing anything new. It’s a medical fact that the biological sexes are more than 2, but the people accept, in most cases, only two (male and female) as a foundation to social structures. The ratification of the Istanbul Convention will not, all of the sudden bring a change to the already fixed 2 genders in Bulgaria, neither will it force Bulgaria to change the civil registration documents.
The „gender“ concept used in the Convention is in no way referring to a „third gender“, but to the way the society sees the characteristics of the typical man and the typical woman and their respective behavior. The types of behavior have changed in time and will continue to change due to changes in the economic, cultural and social relations.
Concerning the statements of the opposition that the ratification of the Convention will lead to „teaching of transvestism and homosexualism“, we would like to point out that currently in the curriculum of the Philosophy, Psychology and Ethics subject for high school students, there are dedicated lessons about the diversity in the human sexuality and gender identity, so that the youth could get familiar with the terms „homosexual“ and „transgender“. The scientific way of presenting these things within the curriculum helps with overcoming of prejudice which leads to aggression and violence against these minorities.
Concerning the fear that the ratification of the Convention will lead to a flood of refugees presenting themselves as transgender (transvestites from Iran), we would like to put emphasis on that even now the Refugee Agency are looking into Asylum Applications from people who would be sentenced to death in their home country, because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and this practice is based on the Asylum and refugee law, the Geneva Convention and the Directive of the European Union EU/2011/95, in short „Qualification Directive“, according to which sexual preference could be one of the five reasons for chase. In the last 2 years there are 2 known cases of granted refugee status based on sexual preference.
In conclusion, we would like to point out the following:
The Istanbul Convention focuses on three key areas in the fight against violence against women: prevention, victim protection and prosecution of the abusers. The Convention will criminalize domestic violence, it will make data collection and prevention actions better, it will also make the coordination between Bulgaria and other EU-countries, that have ratified the convention, concerning this specific topic easier.
The fear of ratification of the Convention is unfounded. Unacceptance of a comprehensive approach to preventing and dealing with violence against women and gender based violence would only make the country an accomplice to the abusers.
We are calling out to all member of parliament to vote, not based on fear and emotions, but based on the facts and rationality FOR the ratification of the Istanbul convention.