Women’s Rights Are Human Rights (though perhaps not in Bulgaria)

One might think that even the most conservative-minded, religiously-guided, risk averse, and cautious would find nothing objectionable in the idea that one half of humanity is as worthy of protection from violence and discrimination as the other. In spring 2011 in Istanbul, the Council of Europe put forth a document simply titled Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. It defines violence against women “as a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination against women and includes all acts of gender‐based violence that result in, or are likely to result in, physical, sexual, psychological or economic harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”

Council of EuropeThe Council of Europe has 47 member states, covering virtually the entire continent of Europe. The Convention was open for signature, ratification, and entry into force by the member States, the non-member States that have participated in its elaboration and by the European Union, and for accession by other non-member States.

Turkey, not generally considered the leader in socially progressive causes, was the first to ratify. An additional 27 countries followed. They represent a wide variety of religious identity, fervor, and impact on the body politic; dominant political ideology, democratic experience, and stability; and history of government-supported and legally-enshrined gender equality:

  1. Albania
  2. Andorra
  3. Austria
  4. Belgium
  5. Bosnia and Herzegovina
  6. Cyprus
  7. Denmark
  8. Estonia
  9. Finland
  10. France
  11. Georgia
  12. Germany
  13. Italy
  14. Malta
  15. Monaco
  16. Montenegro
  17. Netherlands
  18. Norway
  19. Poland
  20. Portugal
  21. Romania
  22. San Marino
  23. Serbia
  24. Slovenia
  25. Spain
  26. Sweden
  27. Switzerland

Who signed but never ratified? A smaller group that equally represents a wide variety of religious identity, fervor, and impact on the body politic; dominant political ideology, democratic experience and stability; and history of government-supported and legally-enshrined gender equality:

  1. Armenia*
  2. Bulgaria
  3. Croatia
  4. Czech Republic
  5. Greece
  6. Hungary
  7. Iceland
  8. Ireland
  9. Latvia
  10. Liechenstein
  11. Lithuania
  12. Luxembourg
  13. Republic of Moldova
  14. Slovak Republic
  15. Macedonia (FYROM per Greece)
  16. Ukraine
  17. United Kingdom

* To be fair, Armenia just signed the Convention on January 18, 2018 and it is possible ratification will come without delay.

walk a mile
domestic violence hurts everyone / violence against women doesn’t make you more of a man

There are not two sides here. One either supports full human rights for women, or not. There are some surprises, at least for me, as to who chose what side. Why, for example, did the United Kingdom sign in June 2012 but more than five years later has yet to ratify?

None of the countries that signed in 2016 has ratified, but for one of these—Bulgaria—the reason is now apparent, public, and distasteful. Reuters has reported that “Bulgaria’s ruling party on Thursday delayed a vote to ratify a European treaty designed to combat violence against women in the face of opposition from religious and political groups who said it could promote moral decay.”

Yes, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church has somehow found “moral decay” in protecting women from violence, but not in the violence itself. The Mufti Office proclaimed that “gender topics are dangerous, bottomless traps,” but the trap of gender discrimination is apparently acceptable. The far-right United Patriots propagandize that the Convention forces the introduction of “school programs for studying homosexuality and transvestism and creating opportunities for enforcing same-sex marriages,” though no such language appears anywhere in the 81 articles detailed in the Convention. The Bulgarian Socialist Party shamelessly reversed decades of ideology insisting on the equality of women by now vigorously rejecting the “[promotion of] changes in the social and cultural patterns of behaviour of women and men with a view to eradicating prejudices, customs, traditions and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority of women or on stereotyped roles for women and men.”

Mendes Bota, General Rapporteur on violence against women and Political Co-ordinator of the Parliamentary Network “Women Free from Violence,” did not mince words in the Handbook for parliamentarians provided for those attending the Istanbul session:

This Convention is necessary, and long overdue.
Not to support this Convention would be a concession to violence.
Not to support this Convention would be a crime.
Not to support this Convention would be yet another crime against women.

bulgaria_flagIt is my hope that before Bulgaria’s term as EU president concludes, the country has properly informed its citizenry about the Convention’s true language and purpose, knocked sense into its contrarian ministers, and finally done what is necessary and long overdue. Bulgaria needs to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.


11 thoughts on “Women’s Rights Are Human Rights (though perhaps not in Bulgaria)

  1. Really sad…

    The truth, however, is that sexism will always be a social problem throughout the world.

    East, West, it’s all inside. As long as there are little boys that have never had seen a naked body but bitch that women can’t drive and little girls that believe that oral love (given to men) is mandatory, stereotypes will never be erased.

    From personal experience, British men can be more brutal (physically and emotionally), but what makes me angry is that the EU always pick up on Bulgaria.

    An attack against a Bulgarian? Let’s talk about corruption here. A segregated camp in France, let’s talk about the ‘Roma’ community here. And on and on. Hypocritical attitude towards a state that’s taking it. Cheap in the outsider’s eyes. Well, if it’s so cheap here, why something basic like a pack of butter (not a pint of ale) is four times the price compared to Germany (without even taking the standard of life in consideration)?

    Anyway, totally agree. Women’s rights do not exist. These are Human rights.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree entirely, both on the points regarding sexism/human rights and on the negative-only view of Bulgaria in the EU. I highlighted Bulgaria’s lack of ratification only because Bulgaria is the focus of my blog. However all the member countries are equally culpable for failing to ensure equitable treatment and justice for women, and all are equally responsible for taking the really quite small step of Convention ratification.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I love the way you’re open, honest, and objective about Bulgaria. So, thanks for your post/s.

        True, we all must ~ pay attention to the planks in our own eyes.

        And let’s hope that things here will change, and one day people all over the globe – men or women, white or black – we’ll manage to live in love and peace.

        Have a wonderful day!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear RPBG, I have had to think quite a lot about your comment and whether to approve its appearance on my blog. After much deliberation, I have decided not to do so. While I do not want to approve only those comments with which I agree or which “like” a given post, I do feel obligated to decline any that seem factually misleading. You are absolutely entitled to your opinion. However the Convention articles do not in any way promote more than the two genders biology provides us and nor do they promote anything untoward for the education of children. Whether or not laws in any given country are adequate to prevent/punish violence against women is obviously difficult for any one of us to objectively assess and I do not claim to do so for Bulgaria. Despite my decision not to approve your comment, I am sincerely thankful that you took the time to read my post and as well to write your thoughts in detail. I wish you the very best.

    Liked by 1 person

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