Last Updated: Friday, 19 September 2014, 13:55 GMT

Bulgaria: Situation of homosexuals; protection available to victims of harassment or violence; organizations offering assistance or support to sexual minorities (March 2005 - August 2006)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 22 August 2006
Citation / Document Symbol BGR101645.E
Reference 7
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Bulgaria: Situation of homosexuals; protection available to victims of harassment or violence; organizations offering assistance or support to sexual minorities (March 2005 - August 2006), 22 August 2006, BGR101645.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/45f146fd2f.html [accessed 20 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis 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.

In 5 August 2006 correspondence with the Research Directorate, the Public Relations and International Affairs Officer for the Bulgarian Gay Organization (BGO) Gemini noted that despite some progress, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Bulgarians continue to experience discrimination. Although BGO Gemini has been promoting the rights of sexual minorities for 14 years, they claim that discrimination persists and there remains a pervasive belief in Bulgarian society that minority sexual orientations constitute a disorder that can be "treated and cured" (BGO Gemini 5 Aug. 2005).

A series of polls conducted in Bulgaria between 1996 and 2004 by an unnamed source found that 20 per cent of respondents felt that homosexual media publications were acceptable, while 38 per cent of respondents were against them (BTA 9 Mar. 2005). The polls also indicated that women were 25 per cent more likely to be tolerant of gay publications than men (ibid.).

The Executive Director of the Queer Bulgaria Foundation indicated that sexual minorities were visible in all areas of society except sports (1 Aug. 2006). However, the Executive Director described Bulgaria's gay business sector as still in its infancy (Queer Bulgaria Foundation 1 Aug. 2006). According to an undated article by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), tolerance is growing in some regions of Bulgaria, and there are gay bars and clubs in Sofia (n.d.).

Legislation

In 1 August 2006 correspondence with the Research Directorate, the Executive Director of the Queer Bulgaria Foundation indicated that texts of law that discriminated against sexual minorities had all but disappeared over the previous two years. The Executive Director added that only part of the Constitution (and the corresponding article in the Family Code), which defines marriage as a "sacred union between a man and a woman," discriminates against gays and lesbians (Queer Bulgaria 1 Aug. 2006).

According to the Public Relations Officer of BGO Gemini, Bulgaria's Protection Against Discrimination Act

provides protection against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the fields of employment, health care, and education, recruitment to the military, housing, accommodation, and a range of services available to the public (5 Aug. 2006; see also Bulgaria 1 Jan. 2004, Art. 4).

The Act defines sexual orientation as heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual orientation (Bulgaria 1 Jan. 2004, Add. Provisions 1). However, the Public Relations Officer also stated that two factors hinder the effectiveness of the Protection Against Discrimination Act: a lack of awareness of the law among sexual minorities and in society in general, and a lack of experience in implementing anti-discrimination legislation among the institutions that are mandated to uphold the Act (5 Aug. 2006). The Executive Director of the Queer Bulgaria Foundation stated that it was too early to assess the effect that the Act would have on sexual minorities (1 Aug. 2006).

Government and state authorities

According to BGO Gemini's Public Relations Officer, the Bulgarian Commission for Protection Against Discrimination, which was created in the fall of 2005 to enforce the anti-discrimination Act, has yet to fulfil its mandate (BGO Gemini 5 Aug. 2006).

While the exact number of sexual orientation cases handled by the anti-discrimination Commission could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate, BGO Gemini reports that 13 of the 194 complaints handled by the Commission between 2005 and March 2006 had to do with disability, sexual orientation or age (26 Apr. 2006).

In August 2005, various media sources reported that, in response to pressure from the local Orthodox Church, the Mayor of the Black Sea resort of Varna decided to cancel a number of public awareness events that were to take place as part of the country's first-ever gay pride parade (The Irish Times 26 Aug. 2005; AFP 24 Aug. 2005; IHF 2006; AP 24 Aug. 2005). According to a BGO Gemini representative cited in an Associated Press (AP) article, the event was allowed to proceed but only indoors; BGO Gemini said it planned to launch a lawsuit against the Orthodox Values committee, which had campaigned for the parade's cancellation (ibid.).

A February 2006 press review by the Bulgarian News Agency (BTA) reports that supporters of Volen Siderov, the leader of the Ataka parliamentary party, called for the re-introduction of capital punishment for homosexuality (BTA 1 Feb. 2006).

On 1 August 2006, the Executive Director of Queer Bulgaria Foundation noted that, so far, no federal politicians were openly gay and that Bulgarian Socialist Youth was the sole federal party to actively support sexual minority rights in Bulgaria. However, other sources indicate that Ivelin Yordanov, a member of the Socialist Party (Têtu 9 Nov. 2005), was the first Bulgarian politician to come out (ibid.; Bulgayria 11 Feb. 2004). In addition, an uncorroborated article found on Bulgayria's Web site notes that the New Time Party (Novoto Vreme) announced its intention to support sexual minority rights, including an undefined "partnership bill" (14 June 2005).

Although the Public Relations Officer of BGO Gemini indicated that the organization frequently receives complaints of discrimination from sexual minorities, she also stated that she had not heard of any such complaints being made to the police (BGO Gemini 5 Aug. 2006).

On 19 May 2005, the Sofia News Agency reported that the Bulgarian Commission for Protection against Discrimination had taken on the case of an ethnic-Albanian gay man who said he was verbally and physically abused by police because of his ethnicity and sexual orientation. Further or corroborating information on this incident could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within time constraints.

In April 2005, the Queer Bulgaria Foundation reported that it had "won the first case for discrimination based on sexual orientation [against] St. Kliment Ohridsky Sofia University," which had reportedly prevented four gay men from accessing the university's athletic centre because of their sexual orientation (Queer Bulgaria Foundation 25 Apr. 2005). The Regional Court of Sofia ruled that the university must pay each man 500 leva [roughly CAN$371 (XE.com 10 Aug. 2006)] in compensation and grant the men access to the gym (Queer Bulgaria Foundation 25 Apr. 2005).

Military

According to the Executive Director of the Queer Bulgaria Foundation, the army continues to treat homosexuality as an "aberration" and homosexuals are exempt from military conscription; in addition, safeguards against discrimination are reportedly difficult to monitor and enforce in the Bulgarian military, both prior to and following enrolment (1 Aug. 2006). This information could not be corroborated by the Research Directorate.

Employment

According to uncorroborated information found in Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2005, Bulgarian sexual minorities "were often refused employment on the grounds of sexual orientation or fired after revealing their sexual identity" (8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 5).

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs)

In addition to BGO Gemini and the Queer Bulgaria Foundation, other advocates of sexual minority rights in Bulgaria include the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, the Bilitis Resource Centre of Lesbians and Bisexual Women, and the gay sports clubs Tangra and Dolphin (Queer Bulgaria 1 Aug. 2006).

In October 2005, several NGOs hosted Bulgaria's first gay and lesbian film festival in Sofia (BGO Gemini 29 Sept. 2005; Bulgayria 1 Oct. 2005).

For a list of gay bars, clubs, discotheques, hotels, shops, media and organizations please consult the Web site Bulgayria.com (ibid. n.d.).

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.

References

Agence France-Presse (AFP). 24 August 2005. "Municipal Officials Ban Gay Parade in Bulgarian Seaside Resort." (Factiva)

Associated Press (AP). 24 August 2005. "First National Gay Festival in Bulgaria Stirs Angry Reaction." (Factiva)

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). N.d. "Bulgaria – Entertainment." [Accessed 8 Aug. 2006]

Bulgaria. 1 January 2004. Protection Against Discrimination Act. (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Web site) [Accessed 8 Aug. 2006]

Bulgarian Gay Organization (BGO) Gemini. 5 August 2006. Correspondence from the Public Relations and International Affairs Officer.
_____. 26 April 2006. Desislava Petrova. The Commission Against Discrimination's Annual Report. [Accessed 8 Aug. 2006]
_____. 29 September 2005. Desislava Petrova. "Gay & Lesbian Fest in Sofia." [Accessed 8 Aug. 2006]

Bulgarian News Agency (BTA). 1 February 2006. "Press Review: Home Scene." (Factiva)
_____. 9 March 2005. "Bulgarian Women Are More Tolerant to Homosexuals." (Factiva)

Bulgayria. 1 October 2005. "First Gay and Lesbian Fest in Sofia, Bulgaria." [Accessed 8 Aug. 2006]
_____. 11 February 2005. "First Youth Gay Organization in Bulgaria – Sensus." [Accessed 8 Aug. 2006]
_____. 14 June 2005. "New Time (Novoto Vreme) Political Party Declares Support for Gays." [Accessed 8 Aug. 2006]
_____. N.d. "Sofia Gay Guide." [Accessed 31 July 2006]

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2005. 8 March 2006. "Bulgaria." United States Department of State. [Accessed 8 Aug. 2006]

International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF). 2006. "Bulgaria." Human Rights in the OSCE Region: Europe, Central Asia and North America, Report 2006 (Events of 2005). [Accessed 3 Aug. 2006]

The Irish Times [Dublin]. 26 August 2005. Daniel McLaughlin. "Bulgaria Bans Country's First Gay Parade in Face of Church Pressure." (Factiva)

Queer Bulgaria Foundation. 1 August 2006. Correspondence from the Executive Director.
_____. 25 April 2005. "First Anti-Discrimination Case Based on Sexual Orientation Was Won." [Accessed 8 Aug. 2006]

Sofia News Agency (Novinite.com). 19 May 2006. "Homosexual Complains of Sofia Policeman." (BGO Gemini Web site) [Accessed 8 Aug. 2006]

Têtu [Paris]. 9 November 2004. Judith Silberfeld. "Premier coming-out d'un homme politique en Bulgarie." [Accessed 10 Aug. 2006]

XE.com. 10 August 2006. "Universal Currency Converter."

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet Sites, including: Amnesty International (AI), Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Council of Europe (COE), European Country of Origin Information Network (ECOI), Freedom House, Global Gayz, Human Rights Watch (HRW), International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA), Open Society Institute, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Sofia Echo.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

Search Refworld

Countries