Bulgaria Domestic Violence Universal Periodic Review

The Advocates for Human Rights, together with the Bulgarian Gender Research Foundation and the Alliance for Protection against Gender Based Violence, submitted a joint stakeholder report on Domestic Violence in Bulgaria for the 36th Session of the Working Group for Universal Periodic Review in May 2020.

The report acknowledges the Bulgarian government’s progress in preventing domestic violence but urges Bulgaria to take further action. Bulgaria has updated many of its laws to enhance the legal framework against domestic violence. The government repealed Article 158 of the Criminal code to allow better investigation and increased penalties for cases related to domestic violence. The government also amended laws to give special protections to domestic violence victims. However, many of these improvements are not sufficient. According to the amended law, for instance, victims must report three previous cases of domestic violence by the same perpetrator before an investigation begins. The government’s programs lack sufficient funding to function adequately. Due to pervasive gender stereotypes and the normalization of domestic violence, many judges, police officers, and healthcare workers do not pay adequate attention to domestic violence charges. Furthermore, many women do not report cases of domestic violence because  of societal stereotypes and prejudices

Recommendations to the government of Bulgaria include:

  • Actively counter harmful stereotypes about women and domestic violence, including through comprehensive education and awareness-raising campaigns on women’s rights, and provide improved trainings for police, prosecutors, judges, social services and healthcare providers.
  • Ensure consistent and adequate funding for shelters, counseling, legal aid and other social services for victims of domestic violence and their children, in conformity with the requirements of domestic law (including 2016 amendments to the Legal Assistance Act), as well as international and European law.
  • Amend the Criminal Code to remove the requirement that survivors prove three prior incidents of domestic violence before public criminal charges are filed against perpetrators; one incident should be enough.