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Over 70 people attended a conference to protect the rights of women and girls from violence in Plovdiv

With the participation of civil organizations from all over the country, representatives of Plovdiv University “P. Hilendarski” and specialists from state institutions held the conference “Protection of the rights of women and young girls from gender-based crimes and domestic violence” in Plovdiv on March 27. The event was organized by the Bulgarian Platform of the European Women’s Lobby and gathered over 70 interested people. The vitally necessary changes in the Domestic Violence Protection Act were discussed in depth and detail, as well as the need for a completely different approach to the problem on the part of all institutions involved in the problem.

A coordinated community response is necessary: there must be a mechanism by which all institutions – medical services, police, court, municipality, NGO, media, school – work together as quickly as possible when reporting domestic violence,” said Diyana Videva from Association “Demetra”, Burgas, which has been working on the topic of violence against women for 25 years. She also pointed out that it is mandatory to have additional specialization for the experts working on these problems – police officers, judges, social workers and everyone else, due to the specificity of domestic violence cases. Lawyer Anelia Yoncheva shared case studies from her practice, with which she confirmed that lawyers often have to be psychologists for women who are victims of violence, pointing out that victims need comprehensive help and support from various specialists after such an experience. The lack of crisis centers, the too short deadlines for submitting requests for protection, the lack of information and the requirements for too many specifics are some of the things that must necessarily be changed in the Law on Protection from Domestic Violence, according to lawyer Yoncheva.

“When we talk about the rights of women who have suffered from violence, we are talking about human rights,” reminded Dr. Blagorodna Makeva, a former employee of the Ministry of Internal Affairs with more than 23 years of experience in the system. She shared alarming statistics from the last three years: from 2020 to 2022, the single number 112 received a total of 109,399 reports of domestic violence, and at the same time, 9,955 protection orders were issued by the court. “That is, for every ten reports, one reaches the court, and we have 100 reports per day”, summarized Dr. Makeva. Once again, she emphasized the extreme necessity of keeping official statistics on the victims of domestic violence, which until now does not exist in Bulgaria, which also leads to a lack of adequate measures on the part of the state.

Stella Kehaiova from the “Women of Kazanlak”, who opened the first Violence Prevention Center in Kazanlak in 2021, and the “YES – united against violence” Foundation from Plovdiv, which actively work on various campaigns, including with children and youth, also spoke about their work and experience. Experts from the Social Assistance Directorate, Child Protection Department – Plovdiv also participated, who shared the challenges in their work with the extremely delicate cases that arise with children, witnesses and victims of domestic violence. “Children are the most damaged,” said Elitsa Mitova, a psychologist from the Directorate and called for greater sensitivity to the problem of violence. Assoc. Dr. Stoika Penkova, dean of the Faculty of Philosophy and History of Plovdiv University, also spoke about the need to change attitudes and overcome stereotypes and prejudices in order to eradicate the phenomenon of violence against women.

“We fight for the rights of every single woman, regardless of her ethnicity, religion or any other characteristic. We are fighting for a Europe without violence,” said Iliana Balabanova, chairwoman of the Bulgarian Platform of the European Women’s Lobby and urged: “Let us all become the voice against violence!”.

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