Bulgaria: Organizations offering assistance or support to homosexuals (1999 - March 2005)
|Publisher||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Author||Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada|
|Publication Date||11 March 2005|
|Citation / Document Symbol||BGR43407.E|
|Cite as||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Bulgaria: Organizations offering assistance or support to homosexuals (1999 - March 2005), 11 March 2005, BGR43407.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/42df60ab16.html [accessed 23 October 2014]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Bulgarian Gay Organization (BGO) Gemini
Established in 1992, the Sofia-based BGO Gemini lobbies, advocates, and participates in "human rights protection activities" on behalf of Bulgarian gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transsexuals (Bulgayria n.d.). According to its Website, the Bulgarian Gay Organization (BGO) Gemini is a membership-based, non-governmental organization that promotes equal rights for Bulgarians, irrespective of their sexual orientation, as well as the elimination of legal, social, cultural, and economic discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgendered people (18 Jan. 2005a). The organization claims to also meet the information needs of sexual minorities; partners with national and international organizations; initiates national and international campaigns to support the rights of sexual minorities; and works on HIV-prevention programs (BGO Gemini 18 Jan. 2005c).
Leadership and Structure
While some reports noted that the President of BGO Gemini was Genko Genkov (AP 21 May 2000; SNA 12 Feb. 2002), a more recent article in Sofia Echo stated that Desislava Petrova was the Chairperson of the organization (6 Feb. 2004), and the Bulgayria Website mentions Dessislava Petrova as the BGO Gemini's contact person (n.d.).
BGO Gemini comprises 5 board members, 7 local group leaders, and a total of 106 members, 20 of whom have passed a leadership skills development training course (BGO Gemini 18 Jan. 2005a).
History since 1999
In a 21 May 2000 article, the Associated Press (AP) referred to the Gemini gay club as the "only homosexual organization" in Bulgaria. The article stated that the club, whose members did not reveal their identity due to the perceived intolerance of sexual minorities in Bulgaria, had been involved with the Bulgarian Red Cross in organizing an AIDS awareness event (AP 21 May 2000). In 2001, the project assistant for BGO Gemini, Bogdan Stefan, wrote that members of his organization had begun discussions with European officials on matters related to the situation of sexual minorities in Bulgaria (Balkan LGBT Network 8 July 2003). Stefan noted that his organization's lobbying of Bulgarian politicians to repeal legislation considered discriminatory against sexual minorities was widely supported by consulting members of the European Commission (ibid.).
Recent History (since 2004)
Among the various activities organized by BGO Gemini were a gay radio broadcast (BGO Gemini 7 Feb. 2005) and the distribution of 10,000 copies of "The Small Book for You[r] Rights" throughout Bulgaria in an attempt to raise awareness of the rights of sexual minorities (ibid. 18 Jan. 2005d), as well as a research project initiated in May 2004 related to information on discrimination in Bulgaria (ibid. 18 Jan. 2005e).
During a series of extensive meetings with sexual minority members in the Bulgarian cities of Bourgas, Varna, and Rouse, BGO Gemini found that some individuals had not attended meetings because they were afraid of revealing their sexual orientation in public (18 Jan. 2005c).
The Queer Bulgaria Foundation is a non-profit non-governmental organization founded in 2003 whose stated goals are to eliminate societal discrimination against sexual minorities and to promote a network of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trangendered organizations in Bulgaria (Queer Bulgaria 2004b; Bulgayria n.d.). Headed by Milen Mihajlov, the Chair, and Tsvetomir Delijski, the Executive Director, Queer Bulgaria is involved in the following activities: partnerships with other Bulgarian organizations focusing on the rights of sexual minorities; participation in fundraising activities; initiation of networks of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender-friendly professionals, such as lawyers and healthcare workers, to ensure equal access; promotion of sports for members of sexual minorities; and work with similar organizations around the world (Queer Bulgaria 2004b).
In October 2004, Queer Bulgaria supported the Club of Young Journalists' "Express Yourself" campaign, which promoted the self-expression of youth of various identities, an initiative also supported by a member of parliament and the director of the national public television network (Queer Bulgaria 22 Oct. 2004b). Also in October 2004, Queer Bulgaria commenced a lawsuit against Sofia University for allegedly discriminating against gay men by preventing them from using a sauna in the university sports centre (Queer Bulgaria 22 Oct. 2004a). Among the non-governmental organizations supporting Queer Bulgaria in its protest were the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, BGO Gemini, and the Health and Social Development Foundation (ibid.).
Bulgayria, "[t]he Gay Site of Bulgaria," identified The Fat Cats Sports Club as a gay organization (n.d.). BGO Gemini also cited the Bulgarian Sports Club Tangra, to which it promised to provide logistical support (18 Jan. 2005b). Founded in 2000 and a member of the European Gay and Lesbian Sport Federation (EGLSF) (Queer Bulgaria 2004a), Tangra claims to be the first lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered sports club in Bulgaria (Tangra Cup 505 n.d.).
Among the other organizations providing assistance or support to homosexuals are Queer Bulgaria's partners: the Lesbian and Bi-women Resource Center Bilitis, founded in 2001, which is a "non-membership" organization devoted to providing support groups, learning facilities, and activities to lesbian and bisexual Bulgarian women in an attempt to help them integrate into mainstream society; the Club for Her, which organizes entertainment activities for lesbian women and works on establishing a lesbian network; and Dolphin Gay Club for Naturism and Sport, which organizes nature trips, camps, and sporting events for gay people (Queer Bulgaria 2004a).
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
Associated Press (AP). 21 May 2000. "Bulgarian Homosexuals Call for Tolerance, Prudent Sexual Behavior." (Dialog)
Balkan LGBT Network. 8 July 2003. Bogdan Stefan. "Bulgarian Gay Organization GEMINI Meets with EU Officials."
Bulgarian Gay Organization (BGO) Gemini. 7 February 2005. "News."
_____. 18 January 2005a. "General Information."
_____. 18 January 2005b. "Resume from Meeting on 31.08.2004."
_____. 18 January 2005c. "Resume on Meetings."
_____. 18 January 2005d. "Small Book for You[r] Rights."
_____. 18 January 2005e. "Why We Do It?"
Bulgayria.com. n.d. "Organizations/Groups."
Queer Bulgaria. 22 October 2004a. "Lawsuit Against Sofia University for a Case of Discrimination of Gay Men."
_____. 22 October 2004b. "Queer Bulgaria Foundation Will Support the Youth Campaign 'Express Yourself!'."
_____. 2004a. "Partners."
_____. 2004b. "About Us."
Sofia Echo. 6 February 2004. Velina Nacheva. "Reading Room – Discrimination: Homophobia Endures."
Sofia News Agency (SNA). 12 February 2002. "The Bulgarian Gay Organization Gemini (BGO Gemini) Launched An Equality for All Campaign."
Tangra Cup 505. 7 Mar. 2005. "Who We Are."
Additional Sources Consulted
Internet sites, including: 365Gay.com, Amnesty International (AI), BG Lesbian (in Bulgarian), Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC), European Country of Origin Information Network (ECOI), European Parliament Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights, Fat Cats Sports Club, Freedom House, Human Rights Watch (HRW), International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Organization, International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA), Open Society Institute, Planet Out, United States Department of State, World News Connection (WNC).