Protest in Sofia warns – violence against women corrodes society

“When will you start hating violence as much as you hate women?” (source: Vladimir Mitev)

Just on the day that marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25 November 2021) came another bad news about a new young woman killed in Sofia by her partner. “Enough,” demanded a mass rally called by Feminist Mobilisations outside the court in the Bulgarian capital. Protests also took place in Veliko Tarnovo, Varna and Stara Zagora.

Vladimir Mitev

This article was published on 14 December 2021 at the Bridge of Friendship blog. A Bulgarian version of the article also appeared on the Bulgarian section of the site “The Barricade” on 27 November 2021.

A few hours before last night’s national protest in Sofia, organised under the slogan “Not one more”, on the occasion of 25 November – the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, came the black news of another young woman beaten to death by her partner. The crime was committed in an abandoned house in the Hr. Smirnenski”. The victim was 21 years old and the murderer 28. This is already the third case of a woman killed in similar circumstances in November alone.

The protest, called at 6.30pm in front of Sofia court by the Feminist Mobilisations collective, began with a minute’s silence in memory of this and other victims of violence against women in the country. Among the placards raised, along with the event’s motto “Not one more”, were “You are not alone”, “Patriarchy kills”, “As long as there is violence, the fight continues” etc. Hundreds of people gathered, and among the participants were politicians – Borislav Sandov (Green Movement), Hristo Ivanov (“Yes, Bulgaria”), Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Atanas Pekanov and others.

Protests on the same occasion also took place in Veliko Tarnovo, Varna and Stara Zagora.

The nationwide “Not one more” protest was accompanied by an open letter distributed by the Bulgarian Fund for Women (BFW) to newly elected MPs and members of the incoming government, calling for immediate action to combat violence against women and domestic violence: “The definitions of gender-based violence, gender-based hate crimes and femicide are missing from Bulgarian legislation”. The BFW letter also says: “Bulgaria is in an unprecedented situation of political, economic and health crisis, but there is also an opportunity for change and political responsibility to address neglected social problems. Violence against women and domestic violence is a social problem of pandemic proportions. It is not just a problem of women and girls in Bulgaria, but a problem of the whole Bulgarian society, a problem that has real social and economic dimensions. As long as Bulgaria continues to be a graveyard for women, no crisis can be completely overcome and no reform can be qualitatively achieved. We call on the future government and the future composition of the National Assembly to show real commitment to violence against Bulgarian women and to take immediate action. Every day lost can costs lives. We call on the institutions to involve long-standing experts from the civil sector in tackling the problem and to create conditions for a constructive partnership! We also call on all Bulgarian citizens to have zero tolerance towards domestic violence and violence against women!”

The same emphasis was highlighted by speakers at the protest in front of the Sofia Court. Victims of domestic violence, women’s rights NGO activists, representatives of Roma and migrant communities also spoke. In addition to sharing heartbreaking stories of what causes the culture of violence in our country, a number of measures that can improve the protection of women against gender-based violence were mentioned. For example, creating an infrastructure of counselling centres for victims, producing official statistics on such crimes, legislating the classification of different forms of violence – not only physical, but also psychological and economic. 

The questions were also addressed to the Bulgarian Socialist Party, which claims to be a left-wing party, but at the same time has for years adopted conservative positions, attacks the so-called “gender ideology” and has done nothing to legislate for the protection of women against violence.

In the middle of the protest, a group of Bulgarian flag-waving men rushed the crowd. At around 7.30pm, they attacked one of the speakers and hit her arm in an attempt to take her microphone. According to the protest organisers, this was a provocation and the aggressors are well known to them – they always try to intervene at such events. However, the police, who were guarding the event outside the courthouse, lingered for quite some time before intervening and restraining the offenders. This happened only after the protesting girls made a human chain against the attackers.

The November 25 protest sent a clear message that the issue of violence against women should be taken out of the criminal chronicle and recognized as a serious socio-legal problem, to involve and push both politicians and the whole society to counter it, because it is the whole society that is being corrupted by this poison.

We offer a video of the protest with English subtitles:

Photo: “If he hits you, he is an agressor (not a lover)”, “As long as their is violence, the fight goes on” (source: The Bridge of Friendship)

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