Violence against women and domestic violence in relation to the Istanbul Convention

AuthorGenoveva Tisheva
10 Violence ag ainst women and domestic v iolence in relat ion to the Istanbul
10.1 General (legal) context
10.1.1 Surveys and reports on issues of violence against women and domestic violence
Bulgarian society has a deeply rooted notion of gender difference where there are still
traditional gender roles without a r eal sense of gender inequality. Bu lgarian society as a
whole still denies the existence of a power imbalance between men and women as well as
the prevalence of violence and abuse. Many women are silenced by social and cultural
norms and endure violence and cruelty in their homes. In the last year and a half, over 55
women died about 40 in 2018 alone at the hand of their intimate partners or relatives
but the protests and declarations against these cases of femicide were silenced by certain
conservative circles, even openly b y persons in positions of power. Out of 138 intentional
murders in Bulgaria, according to official data of the Ministry of Interior, over 40 were the
murders of women in an intimate and close relationship.80 This all happened and was
endured in the context of fierce opposition of these circles political, religious, media
circles to the issue of violence against women and to the ratification of the Istanbul
Convention. The term ‘gender’ and related notions of ‘gende r equality’ and ‘gender-based
violence’ were rejectedз distorted and debased by these political and ideological circles. It
can be noted that leading social scientists and women’s rights experts mention the link
between the increased number of murdered women and th e failed ratification of the
Istanbul Convention it is an issue of a cult ure condoning violence against women and
impunity for such acts of violence.
Every fourth woman in Bulgaria is a victim of domestic violence. More than 70 % of women
who are being abused at home do not seek help and medical assistance. Between 4 % and
10 % of the domestic violence victims seek justice, an estimated 900 000 women in
Bulgaria suffer from domestic abuse every year. Also, according to the auth or, there i s a
severe lack of adequate support services for victims, and Bulgaria does not fulfil the Council
of Europe recommendation of safe accommodation in specialised women’s shelters.
Moreover, the absence of specific provisions criminalising domestic viole nce and marital
rape, until recently, at the end of 2018, called for reforms in the legal framework to ensure
the protection of victims of such violence.
All forms of GBV are known in Bu lgaria and are encountered often domestic violence/
physical, sexual, psychological, financial economic violence/, sexual violence, sexual
harassment, early and child marriages, stalking, etc. The main groups of more vulnerable
women and girls identified also through the work of NGOs, are Roma women and girls,
women and girls with disabilities, and women and girls seeking international protection.
As main groups of victims of multiple discrimination, they were identified through the work
of the Alliance for Protection from GBV.81
There is a National Study on Domestic and Gender-Based Violence, conducted and
published with the support of the teams o f Partners Bulgaria Foundation, Cente r for the
Study of Democracy and Human Rights Academy, Norway: National Study on Domestic
and Gender-Based Violence (DGBV) and Elaboration of Victims Suppo rt Model (VSM).82
The results and findings from this study confirm the trends mentioned above, and namely:
81 The NGO is a registered network of 11 NGOs all working in the field of GBV in Bulgaria.
82 Policy Brief, 2016, available in English at: and Domestic and
Gender-Based Violence: Victims Support Model. (Practical advice for victims and guidelines for work of
professionals in the area of domestic and gender-based violence), 2016, available in English at:

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