We must act now to put anti-LGBTI hate crimes first thing on the agenda of the new Minister of Justice of Bulgaria!
The homophobic attacks on teenagers in October 2020 yet again highlight the need for adequate criminal law measures to protect against acts based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI).
Sadly, there is a long history of neglecting the topic in Bulgaria. Following the homophobic murder of Mihail Stoyanov, the Ministry of Justice proposed a draft of a new Penal Code reforming the archaic Bulgarian criminal legislation in December 2013, which was approved by the Council of Ministers and filed in the Parliament 2014.
Despite several publicly announced cases of homophobic attacks in recent years, this project identifying sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected feature has not seen any progress in the National Assembly. In fact, human rights organizations even witnessed a backslide in progress.
Bilitis Foundation, the oldest active LGBTI organization in the country, along with their partners within the Rainbow Over Hate project - GLAS Foundation and Youth LGBT organization Deystvie, and partners such as The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, have been raising this issue publicly for years. The issue has been raised also in numerous reports of international non-governmental organizations, in a number of recommendations of the UN and the Council of Europe, the OSCE, as well as before the European Court of Human Rights.
However, to this day, the Ministry of Justice – as an institution with a legislative initiative – is not doing anything to fulfil their obligation. After the latest case of gathering a crowd for “cleansing” a park in the city of Plovdiv from gay people, four Bulgarian human rights organizations asked for a meeting with the Minister. To date, they received no answer.
It is therefore of utmost importance for the LGBTI communities in Bulgaria that this issue is finally seen as a priority by the Bulgarian Government. Therefore, we must put pressure on the new Government which will be formed after the upcoming parliamentary election in April 2021.