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Bulgaria: Follow-up to BGR31064.E of 5 February 1999 on domestic violence, and the protection available to women who are being stalked (January 1998 - February 1999)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 1 March 1999
Citation / Document Symbol BGR31495.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Bulgaria: Follow-up to BGR31064.E of 5 February 1999 on domestic violence, and the protection available to women who are being stalked (January 1998 - February 1999), 1 March 1999, BGR31495.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6ac746b.html [accessed 22 August 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.

 

A 24 February 1999 letter sent to the Research Directorate by a psychologist with the Animus Association Foundation in Sofia states:

Hereby I send to you the information you need. It is wholly based on our practical experience with working with women victims of violence. The Centre for rehabilitation for women victims of violence at Animus Association Foundation (AAF) is the only of its kind in Bulgaria....This information is based not only on my viewpoint but also that of AAF...Animus Association Foundation is a non-governmental women's organization. Women from the helping professions work in it - psychologists and psychotherapists, social workers. The organization was registered in 1995. A Centre for rehabilitation of women victims of violence within the organization started functioning in 1996. Since June 1998 "Animus Association" joined as Bulgarian partner in the international La Strada Program for Prevention of Trafficking in Women in Central and Eastern Europe....The La Strada Program is financed by the Dutch Government and the European Union. The Care program for women survivors of trafficking and sexual violence is financed by the Dutch development aid fund Novib.

 1.a) How effective and available is the resource in Bulgaria (police, judiciary authorities, women's shelters, etc.) for women victims of or threatened by domestic violence?

The Bulgarian society is a patriarchal one. Violence against women is a common thing. In some communities it has almost become a norm. Usually it remains concealed and not talked of. One of the reasons about this is the restricted alternatives women have very few alternatives for help. They have little trust in the Bulgarian institutions. As far as violence against women this lack of trust is justified. The society mostly has a victimising attitude towards women victims of violence (domestic violence, sexual violence, trafficking and forced prostitution). This is the attitude women usually face when they seek help from the institutions.

The police usually does not react adequately. The police regulations do not allow the policepersons to intervene in family arguments and to enter the home. Except for cases when public order is threatened or the woman's life.  In case the woman files a complaint in the police on occasion of domestic violence the procedure requires that the perpetrator is summoned to sign a declaration that he will not exercise violence any more. Practice shows that this is not a strict precaution and not effective either. In most cases the effect is just the reverse. The violence grows and the woman is being punished by her husband for seeking help. The other problem is that it is mainly men that work in the police. Usually they do not understand the way a woman victim of domestic violence feels and their behavior towards her brings to revictimising and retraumatise her.

The Bulgarian legislation does not treat domestic violence specially. Domestic violence does not exist as a term in the legal texts. According to the law domestic violence is a crime of a private character. Except for the cases when the woman is badly hurt. The situation as such does not allow for the woman to be adequately justly supported by the legal mechanisms. Violence in the family should be proved by the woman (witnesses are necessary). This is a very humiliating procedure. Since domestic violence does not appear to be considered a violation of human rights and normally occurs in the absence of witness, most of the facts reported by the woman do not have value in the court. Cases of divorce as a result of domestic violence are quite complex. Typically, violence continues to exist although spouses are separated. Nevertheless, legislation does not foresee precautions for defending the woman. 

The only shelter in Bulgaria for women victims of domestic violence is located in Sofia. There is place for 16 women. Women can go there with their children. The admission procedure foresees an in-take interview with a specialist which can happen during work time (9 a.m.-17 p.m.). The shleter is not accessible at nights or weekends in emergency cases.

b) How effective and available is the resource in Bulgaria (police, judiciary authorities, women's shelters, etc.) for women victims of or threatened by sexual assault?

The Police can offer a procedure for purusing and reporting to the court about the crime. The women victims of sexual violence feel very bad during police interrogation which has a retraumtising effect on them. All working officers and examining magistrates dealing with cases of sexual violence are men.

Bulgarian legislation considers sexual violence is a crime of a common nature. Rapists receive serious sentences but despite this women are afraid to report. One of the reasons is that they are afraid. In Bulgaria there is recently adopted a law for defending witnesses but still there is no experience in applying it. Another reason is that legal procedures do not conform with the feelings of the women victims and the women feel very bad, guilty and humiliated. Actually the fact that the rapist is sentenced does not bring the women moral satisfaction.

c) To what extent does the answer to question b) differ with respect to Roma women?

In Bulgaria there is negative and discriminative attitudes against Rome people. This can also be seen in the work of the institutions. Cases of violence against Roma women are harder solved and support is harder to get on the part of Bulgarian institutions.

2.How effective and available is the protection (police judiciary, women's shelters, restraining others, etc.) for women in Bulgaria who are being stalked by their spouses or former spouses?

"Stalking" is not recognised as a separate category with respect to violation against women. Typically, it is hard for someone to be defended by the institutions in such a situation. In terms of domestic violence "stalking" is not treated in no way. The shelter accepts women only in a most threatening situation.

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 to refugee status or asylum.

Reference

Animus Association Foundation (AAF), Sofia. 24 February 1999. Letter sent to the Research Directorate by a psychologist.

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.

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