Position of the P.U.L.S. Foundation regarding the changes made in the Law on Protection against Domestic Violence

No to violence! Those who remain inactive become accomplices!

The PULSE Foundation, as an organization working in support of people affected by domestic violence and gender-based violence, advocates for more effective and functional measures to protect victims of all forms of violence.

For hundreds of people in Bulgaria, domestic violence is a daily reality. According to data from the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), nearly 1 million out of a total of 3.78 million Bulgarian women have been affected. This figure does not include the children and men who have also suffered.

Today, 01.08.2023 by Decree of the President of the Republic of Bulgaria, the Law on Amendments and Supplements to the Law on Protection against Domestic Violence was promulgated. What will change, and whether the changes made to the Law on Protection against Domestic Violence are sufficient to protect the real victims of domestic violence, are the persons in an intimate relationship protected, as was the case of the girl from Stara Zagora, who was disfigured by her intimate partner, or the women who have been murdered in the past few years?

There are no statistics on the cases of persons killed by their intimate partner with whom they do not share a common household. No cases have been filed under the Law on Protection against Domestic Violence, as these cases do not fall within the circle of protected persons. Since the beginning of 2018, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, together with other activists, has been systematically collecting information on the cases of intentional murders of women by men in Bulgaria, reflected in media publications on the Internet, from which, although without any claim to comprehensiveness, we read:

  • 2023: At least 12 women killed by men in Bulgaria
  • 2022: At least 20 women killed by men in Bulgaria
  • 2021: At least 22 women killed by men in Bulgaria
  • 2020: At least 19 women killed by men in Bulgaria
  • 2019: At least 24 women killed by men in Bulgaria
  • 2018 : At least 35 women killed by men in Bulgaria

AND SOCIETY REACTED - WITH A PEACEFUL PROTEST! A concrete reason for the peaceful protest of 31.07.2023 is another serious case of an 18-year-old girl, a victim of severe violence, who went through cruel forms of torture with a living human being, which was carried out by her intimate partner: more than 20 stab wounds with а craft knife, more than 400 stitches, a broken nose, a shaved head... An experience that can be described as close to death in a place that should be the most protected - her home... In similar cases, those who seek help from our organization often shared that they didn't know if they would survive or not...

And despite the cruelty of this violence, there is no justice - immediately after the violence, the perpetrator is free, and the injured girl is no longer the same... The mental and physical wounds inflicted will take a long time to heal...

For 24 years now, we have been wondering how to stop violence so that people can live in a world of peace, prosperity, and love. Where does the system fail? Why do people harm each other? Can the state apparatus react adequately to protect victims of all forms of violence? What measures have been taken by our legislative body to address human rights violations, including gender-based violence, and most importantly, understanding and acknowledging the problem?

For years, the PULSE Foundation and other human rights organizations have been advocating for the elimination of the private nature of physical harm between spouses, close relatives, and family members. Victims of domestic violence are in a much more vulnerable position compared to other victims of similar crimes because of their proximity to the perpetrator, and they are at a higher risk of subsequent attacks. We insisted and expressed our opinions for the ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, also known as the Istanbul Convention, adopted in 2011. Unfortunately, Bulgaria is among the countries that have not ratified the Convention, which is based on the understanding that violence against women is a form of gender-based violence, committed against women simply because they are women. The Istanbul Convention leaves no doubt: there can be no real equality between women and men if women experience gender-based violence on a large scale, and when state agencies and institutions turn a blind eye to it.

It is the obligation of the state to fully engage in the prevention and combat of violence in all its forms and to take measures to prevent violence against women and domestic violence, protect the victims, and prosecute the perpetrators.

On July 21, 2023., The 49th National Assembly voted on the Law on Amendments and Supplements to the Law on Protection against Domestic Violence. With the new amendments to the Law on Domestic Violence, the legislative body addressed a significant portion of society's needs for more effective measures in dealing with domestic violence.

As an organization registered for public benefit and working for more than 24 years on prevention programs and direct services for persons and children who have suffered from violence, trafficking and other risk groups, the PULSE Foundation declares its unequivocal support FOR the adoption of the new Law amending and supplementing the Law on Protection against Domestic Violence. On August 1, 2023, the Law on amendments and supplements to the Law on Protection against Domestic Violence was promulgated in the State Gazette with Decree № 141 of the President of Bulgaria and will come into force on January 1, 2024., except: §8-art.6а and art.6b - National Council for the Prevention and Protection of Domestic Violence; §12- the application should be submitted within a period of up to three months from the act of domestic violence, except if it is objectively impossible, but no later than six months.; §32- In the Law on Legal Aid, new paragraph 4; which take effect from the day of promulgation. §8-art.6d - In 12 months from the promulgation, a NATIONAL INFORMATION SYSTEM is created.

With the Law on Amendments and Supplements to the Law on Protection against Domestic Violence, an expansion of its scope is adopted, including programs and specialized services for the protection of individuals affected by domestic violence. The law sets out its objectives, partially widens the circle of individuals who can seek protection under this law, optimizes the procedure for imposing measures for protection against domestic violence towards speed, effective law enforcement, and creating guarantees for protecting the interests of victims, especially women and children. It also establishes legal norms for engaging executive authorities and social services with the aim of creating conditions for the implementation of prevention programs and protection of victims of violence, as well as the responsibility of the state for coordinating, monitoring, and evaluating the implementation of policies and measures in the field of prevention and countering domestic violence.

We find that the Law on Amendments and Supplements to the Law on Protection against Domestic Violence is an important instrument for taking urgent legislative changes to achieve a more comprehensive protection of victims of violence, as well as prevention, prosecution, and elimination of domestic violence. The changes in the law are necessary to create a comprehensive framework, policies, and measures for the protection and assistance of all victims of domestic violence.

Unfortunately, we note with regret that in Article 3 of the Law on Protection against Domestic Violence, the term "cohabitation of fact" is retained instead of being replaced with the term "intimate relationship," leaving a significant number of victims of violence and "femicide" without protection under this law. There is no definition to determine what is meant by the term "cohabitation of fact" under the Law on Protection against Domestic Violence. Consequently, there is a lack of political will to provide immediate protection to victims like the girl from Stara Zagora and others, in accordance with the Law on Protection against Domestic Violence. The Bulgarian legislative body is one of the few that refuses to adopt the term "intimate relationship" in the Bulgarian legislation, despite it being an international obligation stemming from the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights in Bulgarian cases brought by victims of domestic violence.

In the latest decision of the European Court of Human Rights dated May 23, 2023, in the case of domestic violence - A.E. against Bulgaria, appeal number 53891/20, the Court acknowledges a violation of the prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment and upholds the appeal, finding a breach of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 14, in conjunction with Article 3 of the Convention. The Court awards the appellant compensation of 10,000 euros due to the ineffective investigation of the complainant's signal. In this case, the Prosecutor's Office of the Republic of Bulgaria does not recognize A.E.'s case (who was 15 years old at the time of the incident) as falling under the "conditions of domestic violence" because she and her partner do not live together permanently. To establish the violation, the European Court of Human Rights presents four reasons, one of which is the absence of the term "intimate relationship" in the definition of domestic violence in Bulgaria: "interpreting the law as requiring permanent cohabitation, as well as the requirement in the law for both persons in the relationship to be adults and to have lived together for at least 2 months, can hardly be justified... as it is doomed to exclude a large number of cases in which violence is inflicted on a woman by her intimate partner." (paragraph 97 of the decision. )

At the time of discussing the Law on Amendments and Supplements to the Law on Protection against Domestic Violence in the Bulgarian National Assembly, the restrictive definition of domestic violence, limited to violence between cohabiting individuals, was internationally recognized as insufficient, not meeting mandatory standards, and a failure in the state policy on victim protection. Despite this, there was a lack of political will and courage to take this important step for Bulgarian society, leaving many vulnerable individuals unprotected outside the scope of the Law on Protection against Domestic Violence.

As a non-governmental organization, the PULSE Foundation remains uncompromising towards violence and supportive of victims, regardless of their age, gender, sexual orientation, faith, profession, political affiliation, personal and social status, or financial situation.  

We insist on fair punishments for perpetrators of domestic violence, creating conditions for coordinated and professional support for victims of violence throughout the country, and last but not least - initiating the necessary changes to the Law on Protection against Domestic Violence that will protect the rights of victims of domestic violence in Bulgaria.

Contact Us

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  •   (+35976) 60 33 60

  • pulse.women@gmail.com

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Recipient / Holder: PULSE Foundation

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