The Bulgarian Platform European Women’s Lobby (Bulgarian Platform – EWL) has finalised a communication and advocacy project on the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combatting violence against women and domestic violence(Istanbul Convention).
It has run from November 2022 to June 2023 and is one of two projects selected in Bulgaria under the call for proposals and funded by the Council of Europe programme “Ending violence against women: multi-country programme”.
Bulgaria is still one of the few European countries that have not yet ratified the Istanbul Convention while domestic violence is an institutional issue and one in three women in Bulgaria is a victim of violence.
“Most of Bulgarian society believes that the Convention opens the door to same-sex marriages and to fostering the so-called ‘gender ideology’…same-sex marriages are not mentioned anywhere in the Istanbul Convention” European Women’s Lobby (EWL) President Iliana Balabanova said in a BTA interview. “It only says that any victim of domestic violence or of gender-based violence has the right to protection, without distinction as to race, education, sexual orientation, etc. Even before the Convention was drafted Bulgaria adopted a Protection against Discrimination Act, which says precisely this: every person is entitled to protection against discrimination… that is precisely where I see the problem in power-holders at the national level, as well as on a global scale – using that manipulation of the public for the sole purpose of achieving their political goals” noted her.
The Bulgarian Platform – EWL project aimed to raise awareness about the values, aims, provisions and benefits of the Istanbul Convention among Bulgarian decision-makers and society. The campaign was based on the methodology developed by the the Council of Europe Gender Equality Division, Women Against Violence Europe Network (WAVE) and UN Women.
The Bulgarian Platform EWL reached over 3000 people and created a group of allies including politicians, public officials, academics, mass media, young people and civil society organisations. Whereas changes in perceptions and attitudes don’t come overnight, the campaign helped to put the topic of combating violence against women and domestic violence in the Bulgarian new cabinet’s political agenda. The project featured many activities including:
• A Political forum in December 2022 in Sofia that gathered over 100 participants from European and Bulgarian institutions. It was organised in cooperation with the Bulgarian Fund for Women.
• 3 open letters sent to the Bulgarian politicians lobbying for the urgent adoption of legislation in line with the Council of Europe standards.
• A conference “Protecting women’s and girls’ rights against domestic violence and gender-based violence” in March 2023 in Plovdiv, that gathered over 70 representatives of civil society, students and academics. It was organised in cooperation with the University of Plovdiv, and with the active support of the Gender Alternatives Foundation.
• Many Council of Europe communication materials were adapted to the national context, translated, promoted and disseminated reaching over 1000 people.
• A social media campaign reached over 2000 viewers.
“With the great contribution of the project, on 21 July 2023, after years of discussions, the Bulgarian Parliament adopted the amendments to the Law on Protection from Domestic Violence. The amendments include new protection and prevention measures that are in line with the Council of Europe standards on preventing and combatting violence against women and domestic violence” said Illiana Balabanova, President of the Bulgarian Platform – EWL.
More information about the results of the project can be found here