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Advocacy

Research and analysis; Advocacy campaigns; Working with public institutions

Since its beginning, Bilitis has been actively working to change the environment and the legal framework with the common goal of eliminating all forms of discrimination and achieving equality of LGBTI people in Bulgaria. In 2012 Bilitis brought to the attention of the public institutions “Road map for LGBTI equality in Bulgaria” with the following main goals, which remain unchanged to this day:

Asylum

To achieve effective implementation of European and international standards in Bulgaria by monitoring and documenting application of these standards into the practice of the State Agency for Refugees, and by supporting strategic litigation cases where relevant to close gaps in the legal protections afforded by European human rights law.

Education

To enhance the application of the right to education for LGBTI people by strengthening national legislation and policies aimed at protecting against bullying, violence and discrimination in access to education, and creating space for discussion of the LGBTI identities in non-discriminative manner, so that to overcome negative stereotypes of LGBTI in the Bulgarian schools;

Employment

To achieve effective implementation of the Bulgarian anti-discrimination law, and the EU standards in this area by monitoring and documenting application of these standards into workplace practices, and by supporting strategic litigation cases where relevant to close gaps in law enforcement, particularly in relation to protection against discrimination based on gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics (intersex).

Family

To achieve legal recognition of partnerships of same-sex couples and trans people in the Bulgarian Family Code through strategic litigation and evidence-based advocacy at the national level.

  • To increase public awareness and visibility for the diversity of families in Bulgaria.

Freedom of Assembly, Association and Expression

To monitor and report on human rights violations and/or risks of human rights violations to European and national institutions to ensure these three freedoms are guaranteed.

Health

  • Research and document obstacles to the equal access to health services for LGBTI people in Bulgaria; raise awareness among health professionals of the problems faced by different groups of LGBTI in access to health services;
  • To achieve depathologisation of the trans identities including through evidence-based advocacy, strategic litigation, awareness raising activities;
  • Stop the “normalizing” body corrective surgery and other medical interventions conducted on intersex children without their informed consent: raise awareness of families and doctors that the right of bodily integrity is an essential human right of the intersex individuals, and should not be infringed; advocate for banning the normalizing surgery of intersex infants.

Hate Crime and Hate Speech

In 2016, Bilitis was part of a work group for the transposition of the Istanbul convention in the Bulgarian Criminal Code, at the Ministry of Justice. This created an opportunity to propose changes in the Criminal Code, which recognize homophobia, biphobia and transphobia as aggravating motives in hate crimes. It also enabled us to tackle a very outdated article in the part dedicated to sexual crimes, which treats homosexual rape differently than rape of heterosexual people. Our proposals, developed in partnership with the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee and Deystvie LGBT Youth Organization, were included in the protocols, but received small support even from the work group members. They were not further reviewed by the Parliament.

Objectives in this area:

  • To increase the protection against bias-motivated violence and hate speech targeting LGBTI people by developing adequate legal protection mechanisms in the revised Bulgarian Criminal Code (adequate hate crime law).
  • To enhance the capacity of law-enforcement bodies and the judicial system to adequately address bias-motivated violence and hate speech targeting LGBTI people particularly through exchange of knowledge and good practices among European and national actors.

Legal Gender Recognition

Since 2012, when Bilitis published its research on the legal practice for gender recognition in Bulgaria, we have become a point of reference for many trans people who wish to change their legal gender, or to start an HRT. We have provided legal support to several people in starting legal gender recognition cases at the regional courts, based on their permanent address. We have assisted 2 appeals of court decisions. The legal practice for legal gender recognition of trans and intersex people in Bulgaria is still very arbitrary.

Objectives in this area:

  • To improve the legal practice in Bulgaria by introducing clear standards for legal gender recognition; to ensure that legal gender recognition is a quick, transparent and accessible process for all trans and intersex people, through litigation and evidence-based advocacy at national and European levels;
  • To raise the capacity of judges and lawyers for dealing with cases of legal gender recognition by conducting training on trans and intersex issues (possibly funded within EU projects).