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    Country Reports


Third periodic report dated 18 October 1996 (Addendum to E/1994/104/Add.16)

One of the most prosperous countries in Eastern Europe in the 1980s, Bulgaria has struggled with political fragmentation, corruption, and severe economic crisis since the transition from communism began in November 1989. Rampant inflation, high unemployment and the diminishing social safety net have contributed to considerable societal disillusionment. [1]   The country has had seven governments since the fall of communism, and the political scene has been dominated by power struggles and political attacks between parties. [2]


Bulgaria is situated at the crossroads of Europe and Asia on the Balkan Peninsula.  The country borders Romania, Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Yugoslavia and the Black Sea.   The 8.3 million population is comprised of Slavic Bulgarians (83 percent), Turks (10 percent), and Romany (6 percent), as well as smaller groups of Russians, Armenians, Vlakhs, Greeks, Jews and others (1 percent).  The main religions are Bulgarian Orthodox (85 percent) and Muslim (13 percent), but Roman Catholicism and Judaism are also practiced.


Unlike other Balkan countries, Bulgaria  has not experienced a rise in ethnic tensions and conflict. When popular and often violent protests erupted in some Balkan countries in 1996-1997, demonstrations in Bulgaria led to the non-violent resignation of the government and a democratic election.  The country began introducing political reforms, and political parties have respected the decisions of  the Constitutional Court. [3]   


Bulgaria has made progress toward improving relations with its neighbors, particularly Macedonia and Turkey, by establishing economic, political and cultural ties and signing regional agreements. [4]    In the last two years, the country has also shown signs of recovery from economic crisis.


Political History

Acute economic crisis led to massive protests against and the fall of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BPS) government in 1996.  Following a democratic election in spring 1997, the new parliament was elected and the pro-reform government of Prime Minister Ivan Kostov of the center-right Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) came to power. [5]   The current government has  been generally credited with bringing stability and recovery to Bulgaria.


A new constitution was adopted in 1991. [6]   According to analysts, the Constitution has provided an important framework for the transition and a crucial tool for political actors to resolve problems and conflicts.  The Constitution  contains a long list of human rights in conformity with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),  and it incorporates the rights included in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). [7]


Although the rules and procedures established by the Constitution have been respected, and the decisions of the Constitutional Court have been observed, according to commentators, the rule of law cannot be fully established until the judiciary and the police become more effective.  Deep rooted corruption and political pressure to protect friends and supporters of certain individuals in the power structure have hampered the effectiveness of the law enforcement system. [8]   According to some commentators, corruption has worsened as a result of privatization delays, arbitrary administrative intervention, and the dramatically declining real value of public officials’ salaries. [9]   Organized crime and shady business groups have dominated the most profitable industries such as banking and credit, foreign trade, insurance, tourism and entertainment, and construction. [10]


This highly unstable social environment has stalled improvement in living standards and prevented vulnerable groups from enjoying the rights guaranteed under the ICESCR.   The majority of Bulgarians have suffered acute economic insecurity, and family budgets are inadequate for decent living.   In addition, resources for intellectual and cultural activities have been withdrawn from public life. [11]


Women in Politics

Women’s representation in the power structures has declined sharply since the fall of communism;  they constitute only 10.4 percent of the Bulgarian parliament compared to 35 percent prior to 1989.  They make up 24 percent of the central government and 16 percent of the local government officials.


Women are practically absent from power and decision making positions. Only three ministers are women: Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihaylova,  Culture Minister Emma Moskova, and Environment and Water Minister Evdokia Maneva. [12]   Women’s groups in Bulgaria emphasize that political pressure and negative stereotyping of feminism prevent them from addressing issues of concern to women.   Even women who reach the high echelons of government complain of bias and of exploitation by male colleagues and party leaders.  Women who are active in politics are often depicted as power thirsty, bad mothers and bad wives. [13]


Freedom of  Expression and Human Rights


In general, the Bulgarian media, including the independent press, have enjoyed an improved work climate since the Kostov government came  to power in 1997, with the exception of smaller towns, where local authorities wield unlimited power and often attempt to intimidate and silence their critics.   But the majority of Bulgarians have access to television news only on the state-run TV, and the government has delayed the privatization of the second nationally available  TV channel. 


The sole alternative TV station, Nova Televizia,  is available only in the largest cities. Private radio stations operate without licenses and risk shut-downs at any time. December 1997 amendments to a highly restrictive 1996 Law on Radio and Television [14]    prohibit members  of the National Council on Radio and Television from interfering with editorial policy.  The ruling political parties, however, still retain control over the radio and television, and the Council will continue appointing the heads of state media.  Parliament selects the majority of the Council’s members, and the president appoints the remaining ones. [15]   Among the ten private radio stations in Bulgaria, only one of them, Darik in Sofia, has done in-depth news reporting. 


Reporters who have attempted to uncover instances of corruption and expose organized crime suffered threats and violent attacks in 1998. [16]   In May 1998, sulfuric acid was thrown in the face of Anna Zarkova, editor of the crime news department at Sofia daily Trud,  as she was waiting at a bus stop.   She suffered burns to her face and arms and lost sight in her left eye. [17]    Although Zarkova’s attacker confessed the crime, the police have been unable to determine who was behind the attack.  According to Zarkova, she had been receiving threats since 1996 when she started writing about corruption.  Zarkova covered corrupt prosecutors and government officials, police violence and arms smuggling. 


According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), criminal libel lawsuits against journalists increased significantly in 1998. The Penal Code criminalized libel and defamation.  In one case reported by CPJ, Yovka Atanassova, owner and editor of the independent daily Starozagorsky Novini, received five five-month criminal libel sentences and was ordered to serve sixteen months in prison.  In February 1999, the Penal Code was amended to eliminate imprisonment of journalists. [18]



Despite the lack of evident racial tension, some groups have claimed discrimination. IWRAW is concerned that minority women may suffer double discrimination, as women and as members of minority ethnic groups.



The largest Bulgarian minority, the Turks, numbers from 800,000 to one million [19]   and had suffered discrimination and forcible assimilation under communism. [20]   In the mid-1980s Turks were required, under threat of losing their jobs and going to jail, to change their names to Slavic sounding ones.  Mosques were closed down and strict limits were put on Turkish language education. [21] The Zhivkov government ordered a mass expulsion of people of Turkish origin which led to the outflow of some 350,000 of Turks in the end of 1980s. [22]


The post-communist governments restored Turks’ rights and, in recent years, Bulgarian authorities have taken steps to improve the situation.  The government plans to build new mosques and train Turkish language teachers, and  Parliament adopted a law addressing the issues in November 1998. The press reported that in the 1999-2000 school year, the Turkish language will become compulsory for pupils of Turkish origin, and a curriculum is being drafted by a special commission within the country’s Education Ministry. According to these reports, TV and radio programs in Turkish are to become more widely available. [23] In 1997, president Stoyanov visited Turkey and apologized for the discrimination against the Turkish minority under communism. [24]  


The Turkish minority has been represented in all parliaments in Bulgaria since 1989.  The Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) has considered putting up joint candidates in  the autumn 1999 local elections with the ex-communist BSP. [25]


Romanies (Gypsies)

The Romanies have consistently occupied the lowest social stratum in Bulgaria and suffered from poverty and prejudice. [26]   Gypsies were nomadic until the 1960s and are largely uneducated; many are illiterate and unemployed. 


Bulgarian Gypsies are impoverished partly as a result of discrimination by the dominant society. Romanies’ representatives have reported that both public and private companies  refuse to employ them. According to Andrei Terziyski of the Gypsy Union, 92 percent of Romanies living in Bulgarian cities are unemployed.  They often live from proceeds of theft, prostitution and begging. Authorities attribute over 30 percent of crime to Romanies, and ninety percent of prison inmates are Gypsies. [27]   The Romany groups claim that issues affecting the Gypsy minority are often ignored by the media, which contributes to ignorance, stereotyping, and discrimination. [28]


In the communist era,  Gypsies were forced to settle on Soviet-style collective farms or in housing projects, and they were provided financial assistance and jobs.  In the 1990s, they lost these positions and, as of January 1999, the government stopped welfare payments.   In June 1998, a number of Romanies went on a hunger strike and one set himself on fire in a wave of protests over discrimination and social ostracism. 

Discrimination and violence against the 300,000 Romany (Gypsy) minority continues to be widespread.   Reports in 1998 indicated that security forces harassed, physically abused and detained Romany street children.  Romanies were also the victims of racist attacks; police failed to take decisive action.  In May 1998, a 15-year-old was killed and several others were injured by a group of skinheads. Human rights groups, including the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, criticized the Bulgarian authorities for failing to respond publicly to the murder.  They also pointed out that the police and courts do not take these cases seriously. [29]  


In  April 1998,  government’s National Ethnic and Demographic Council announced that it planned to start drafting a program to improve the status of Gypsies in Bulgaria.  The Council’s secretary, Petar Atanassov, said that a Romany cultural and information center would be established to promote education and assist the community in finding jobs. [30]



Neighboring Macedonia claimed that the Macedonian minority within Bulgaria had been oppressed in the past.  In February 1999, the two countries normalized relations by signing a joint declaration including a renunciation of mutual territorial and nationality claims, and solving a conflict concerning the naming of the common language. [31]



One recent press report called Bulgaria a “success story of the International Monetary Fund” [32]   as in the last two years, after a major economic crisis in 1996-1997,  the economy has shown some signs of recovery.  Inflation has decreased and the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 4.5 percent in 1998, in contrast to having shrunk by 6.9 a year earlier.  In 1998, unemployment fell to 11 percent from 14 percent.  Still, the 1998 GDP constitutes only 66 percent of the 1989 level. 


The post-communist economy continues its dependence on unprofitable state enterprises.  Privatization has proceeded at a slow pace.   In January 1999, Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandur Bozhkov stated that “we hope that by the end of this year [1999] we will have forgotten there was a privatization process.” [33]   According to some sources,  as of the beginning of 1999,  about 50 percent of companies were in private hands [34]   but other data indicate that only 30 percent of companies were privatized at the end of 1998. [35]


In July 1998, the UDF government and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed on a three-year loan of US$800 million to develop financial markets, improve social safety net programs, strengthen the tax system, reform agricultural and energy sectors, and continue trade liberalization. 


Worker Rights

The Bulgarian labor code was amended in 1996 in an effort to bring it into line with International Labor Organization (ILO) standards. The changes helped strengthen collective bargaining by increasing the number of unions that are allowed to bargain. [36]   The law, however, still prohibits strikes in public health, energy, communications and water supply industries.   Additionally, trade unions are barred from participation in political activities under threat of dissolution. [37]  


In 1997, there were reports of worker exploitation and labor law violations.  The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) reported that   some  textile companies in the Sandanski region hired workers without contracts and made them work 12 to 14 hours per day, including weekends.  According to ICFTU, one company forced employees to work for 30 hours with only two breaks.  Workers were denied medical leave and were fired if they attempted to start a union. [38]



Women’s NGOs

Many women activists emphasize that despite energetic efforts, women’s human rights groups have not been very influential in Bulgaria.  They claim that “feminism” is a dirty word and women risked being ostracized  if they call themselves feminists.  They also realize, as the more educated and aware “elite,” there is a big gap between women involved in NGOs and those who are not.


The existing women’s human rights NGOs in Bulgaria focus on a variety of issues, such as health, political empowerment, legal aspects of women’s status, and employment. One of the most active groups is the Women’s Alliance for Development (WAD), which also serves as an umbrella for several other groups.  WAD has worked in coalition with other national groups, as well as with women’s organizations and projects in the Eastern and Central European region, such as the KARAT Coalition and La Strada II (international anti-trafficking and prostitution project).  They organize conferences, work on specific women’s human rights’ projects, and publish a monthly thematic magazine on women’s issues entitled Fair Play.  Animus Association organizes training seminars on issues surrounding violence against women in an effort to increase societal awareness of the problem, and it provides help and support to women who are victims of violence.  Animus also has worked with international organizations on anti-trafficking  project La Strada II.   A new NGO, the Bulgarian Gender Research Foundation (BGRF) has focused on projects related to women’s legal rights in development, and on the protection of citizens’ rights during privatization.  BGRF cooperates with similar projects in Russia, Poland and Ukraine. [39]



The following report is based on the interviews that IWRAW conducted with representatives of non-governmental organizations, including human rights groups, as well as with  representatives of the Bulgarian national parliament and parliamentary human rights commission  on a visit to Sofia, Bulgaria in September 1998, as well as on subsequent correspondence with several activists in Sofia.    In addition to background information obtained from published books and articles, the report seeks to convey  the concerns that the individuals expressed at that time.







COVENANT ARTICLE 2: Non-Discrimination

and Obligation of States Parties


The Bulgarian government has ratified all major international human rights treaties, but non-governmental organizations emphasize that awareness of these instruments and attention given to them is very low in government structures.


The parliamentary Human Rights Commission received its mandate following the change of government in 1997 and it has concentrated in three main areas: violence and human rights, issues related to religious sects, and petitions from citizens.  Zhaklin Toleva, legal advisor to the Human Rights Commission, told IWRAW that the government planned to work more closely with women’s and children’s human rights organizations.  According to Toleva,  the Kostov government vowed to organize frequent consultations with human rights NGOs. [40] Nonetheless, the Commission does not have any projects related specifically to women, and there is only one woman among seventeen members of the Commission. [41]


COVENANT ARTICLE 3: Equal Rights of Men and Women


Under-Representation of Women in Decision-Making

Although Bulgarian women have the right to vote and to be elected at all levels of government and publicly elected bodies,  NGOs report that they are underrepresented and that their voice is virtually not heard.   It is a widespread opinion that women "do not wish" to participate in political leadership, that nothing prevents them from doing so, that women themselves hold back and that they should prove that they are as capable and deserve power as much as men do. [42]


Women in public life very often are accused of being bad mothers, bad wives, not "real" women, power- thirsty etc.  They are underrepresented at all levels of power, including NGO leadership.   Over the past seven years of transition, the number of women elected as Members of Parliament has significantly decreased.  However, since the municipal elections in 1994, the number of women appointed to public offices has slightly increased (22.6 percent).  Eight percent of mayors of cities and 15 percent of mayors of small municipalities are women.  Three ministers and 9 deputy ministers out of 15 are women. [43]



COVENANT ARTICLE 6 and 7: Right to Work and

Right to Just and Favorable Conditions of Work


The economic and political crisis of 1996-1997 and subsequent re-structuring of economy exhausted the resources of the Bulgarian population to an utmost extent. Women were and are being affected more deeply than men due to their traditional roles.  Women carry the main burden of unpaid family work (approximately four hours per day ) in addition to the waged work outside home.  This creates specific obstacles for women in the competition for jobs, that men do not face.  It affects their access to job training and their health status. [44]


Although the unemployment rate of men and women does not differ significantly, there is a growing gender-based income stratification.  Only 28.5 percent of the leading managerial positions are occupied by women.  In 1997, women made up 0.8 percent of employers (men - 2.8 percent), 7.6 percent of self-employed persons (men - 11.5 percent), and  2.6 percent of unpaid family workers (men - 1.1 percent).   Women predominate in low-paid occupations, such as supporting staff (75.5 percent), trade and services (64.1 percent), odd jobs (51.5 percent). [45]



Two thirds of the Bulgarian poor are women and their children.  Poverty is growing among female-headed households, which constitute 21.4 percent of households in Bulgaria, and their number continues to grow due to women’s higher life expectancy (life expectancy is 74.6 for women and 67.1 for men [46] ), the fall of the marriage rate and the increasing number of divorces.   64.9 percent of female households are poor. [47]


At the same time, female poverty is almost invisible: social discrimination and exclusion hides them at home away from the public eye.  Even if they qualify to receive social benefits, they often lack the necessary information to obtain them. [48]


Quality of Employment and Discriminatory Practices

According to surveys conducted in the last few years, more than 50 percent of women report poor working conditions.  They also complain of a lack of options, particularly of difficulty in access to promotions and decision-making positions in the workplace.   Additionally,  because of discrimination against the disabled, women with special physical needs are particularly disadvantaged in the job market. [49]  


Privatization and economic restructuring implemented by the current government since 1997 is accompanied by violations of the Labor Code, especially with regard to the  provisions affecting women.   Some of the protective labor legislation was repealed after 1992, such as the guarantee of equal pay for equal work and the prohibition of laying off pregnant women.  While this was supposed to help women get jobs, in practice, it legalized discriminatory practices.  In addition, the remaining protection of pregnant women and mothers of minors seriously limits their opportunities and chances of career advancement.  Hiring  personnel without a labor contract as a way to avoid taxes (income tax, social insurance - until recently) is one of the most frequent violations of the Labor Code.   Women more often are offered jobs on short term, at minimum wages and often without medical insurance and other benefits, and they are more likely than men to accept them.  Young women in particular are subjected to such discriminatory employment practices.  In addition, there is a high incidence of sexual harassment.  Women over 35 years old have a much more difficult time finding jobs. Job offers published  in the media contain requirements not relevant to the positions, such as age limits and "nice appearance." [50]


Despite employers’ declarations that they do not favor men over women for certain jobs, in practice managerial positions are commonly reserved for men, while women are regarded as most appropriate for executive jobs without decision-making powers.  Women are asked in job interviews about family status, plans for number and age of children, while men are not. [51]


Legal protection against employment discrimination is limited by procedural issues.  The burden to prove the act of discrimination resides with the employee, but in disputes with the employer, they have no access to the necessary evidence. [52]



COVENANT ARTICLE 9 and 10: Right to Social Security 

and Protection of the Family and of Mothers and Children


Child Delivery Services

The Mothers’ House Hospital in Sofia, the capital’s main hospital for prenatal care and delivery, lacks basic personnel and medications.  Mothers are advised before admission to bring their own nightgowns and sheets.  Some have also been advised to bring equipment such as syringes and needles.  Many bring medication, as hospitals are notoriously known to run out of basic aids, such as anesthetics.  According to an article by Peter Kanev, women who cannot afford this luxury are told by nurses to “hold on, you want to remember the time you became a mother.” [53]   Women also have reported swarms of cockroaches in the Mothers’ Hospital wards. [54]


As the economic crisis led to the cuts in government subsidies, health care was hit especially hard.  Under communism, citizens had access to free medical care, including maternity.  At present, women have to pay the equivalent of US$27 for delivery while the average monthly salary amounts to roughly US$180 (minus 30 percent taxes).  In addition, tipping doctors has become a standard way of ensuring acceptable medical care. [55]


Women are guaranteed full wages for five months after childbirth instead of two years that they once received.  The situation is much harder for single mothers and, according to Dr. Tatiana Kotzeva of the Association of University Women, one-third of all births occur out of wedlock. [56]


Child Support

Dr. Kotzeva criticized the system of child support.  She has proposed a  legislative project to change the law on child support: the existing law does not provide adequate remedies for women whose former partners fail to pay.  Child support claims can take several years to process, as the judge looks for the father.  Even if it is paid,  current child allowance awards are totally insufficient: approximately US$4.5 (8000 lev) per month for the first child,  US$6.70 (12000 lev) for the second and US$9.5 (17000 lev) for the third child. [57]



COVENANT ARTICLE 11: Right to an Adequate Standard of Living


Boika Vitanova of Women’s Alliance for Development (WAD) told IWRAW that the living conditions in rural areas are especially difficult.   There are no health centers, few schools and jobs, and bus lines are practically non-existent.  Child mortality figures are higher as these areas are often close to industrial centers and have high rates of pollution.   According to Vitanova, no official data are available on urban transportation, homelessness and other issues related to rural zones.


Romanies residing in rural areas are in a particularly precarious situation as they live on land to which they have no legal right. [58]   They typically live in barracks without sewage and water.   Because of the lack of  land regulation, when former owners claim their rights to the land, the Romanies are expelled and become homeless.


Bulgaria has no housing regulations for the disabled to make it easier for them to access sidewalks and buildings. 



COVENANT ARTICLE 12: Right to Physical and Mental Health


Impact of Economic Crisis and Restructuring

Women have experienced the a significant deterioration in the field of health care. With the cut back of spending for health care (by  3 to  5 percent as a percentage of  GDP in the period 1993-1997) guaranteed access to medical service is disappearing: a number of primary health centers and hospitals were closed down or now operate with reduced capacity.


The negative population growth (- 0,4 per thousand in  1990, -2,2 in 1992, -5,4 in 1996) has had direct political and psychological impact on the status of women, as they are most often blamed for "being too emancipated" and "not wishing to have children." In 1990, abortion was liberalized, but the cost is about 33 percent of the average monthly salary. [59]


Abortion and Family Planning

Abortion was liberalized in Bulgaria in 1990 (according to some sources, prior to that women were required to obtain  their husband’s consent and were allowed to have  an abortion only after giving birth to two children). [60]   Today, abortion is the primary method of contraception — although there remains a strong cultural prejudice against women who decide have them [61] — mainly as a result of high cost of alternative methods.   In 1996, the number of legal abortions totaled 98,000 (compared to 72,000 births). [62]      No pre-abortion counseling is offered. 


While only a few years ago modern contraceptives were unavailable or simply unknown, today a variety of hormonal contraceptives, IUD, condoms, spermicides and diaphragms can be purchased in pharmacies  at a price of 15 to 40 percent of the average monthly salary.   According to a recent study, only 22 percent of Bulgarian women use contraceptives.  At the same time, there is a considerable increase of mothers under the age of  18 (nine times higher compared to the beginning of the century).   In most cases young mothers have not completed their education and/or are  jobless. [63]


Some activists indicate that the ignorance and disregard as to reproductive health results also from the patriarchal “shyness” of the society and the unwillingness of the state health education system to offer a sex education program. [64]   In 1997, the Health Ministry decided to distribute free contraceptives to students and to women with more than three children to fight the high abortion rate. [65]   The results of the campaign are unknown.


Violence Against Women

Violence against women, particularly spousal abuse, is a serious problem.  Every year, about 60,000 women and girls become victims of violence (rape, physical abuse, etc.).   Sixty to 70 percent of the perpetrators are colleagues, or neighbors, relatives, spouses or friends.  In Sofia, at least 15 women die annually as a result of spousal abuse. [66]   The press reported that just during the Christmas holiday period in 1998, 30 women were treated in Sofia hospitals for injuries inflicted by husbands and partners, such as broken ribs and facial injuries. [67]   Police do not interfere in what is regarded the private sphere. [68]


Violence within the family is not treated as a crime unless it results in major physical impairment.   In reality, if a women is stabbed by a stranger on the street, the state authorities do prosecute the offender, but if the woman is attacked and stabbed by her husband at home, often there is no further prosecution.  In most cases, the attacker has only to pay a fine or receives a provisional penalty.  Another measure frequently taken is compulsory treatment for alcoholism, because domestic violence is regarded a medical problem.   Most of the cases against perpetrators of violence (which must be  initiated by victims as a private complaint) conclude by abandonment or by out-of-court settlements.  There is no legal definition of gender-based violence, nor the courts keep statistics on cases of violence.  The Penal Code and other relevant legal provisions appear "gender-neutral," but women carry a disproportionate burden in enforcement, as the victim has to file the complaint against a violent man, with whom as a rule she shares her home, and she is responsible for her own safety during the trial, as well as for the safety of any witnesses. [69]


Trafficking and Prostitution

Trafficking of women is a fairly new phenomenon for Bulgaria.  Since 1989 there has been an alarming increase in traffic in women in and from Bulgaria, and police officials and social assistance organizations in both Eastern and Western Europe so far have been able to only reach a fraction of the victims.  Traffic in women is often invisible: victims are hidden away from the world by their recruiters and those who return home are silent out of fear and shame. Often they have nowhere to go and sometimes see no other choice than to return to prostitution. [70]


According to information provided by Animus, a Sofia-based NGO participating in an international project La Strada II aimed at fighting the trafficking of women into prostitution, more than 10,000 Bulgarian women have been forced into prostitution abroad. [71]    These women, who seek legitimate jobs as servants or baby-sitters in Western Europe through some dubious employment agencies based in Bulgaria, become victims of crime and are eventually lured into brothels and sex slavery.   They are usually taken to other East European countries  and then illegally transferred to Germany, Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands. [72] As of August 1998, 20 women were able to escape and subsequently testified to Animus. 





So far the spread of AIDS in Bulgaria has been slow, but the World Bank and the UNDP warned in 1998 that poverty, high migration rates, and increasing number of drug addicts  contributed to a growing number of HIV/AIDS cases in Bulgaria.  Although the government has adopted some preventive measures, NGOs claim that a comprehensive AIDS strategy is needed to avert an epidemic. [73]


Older Women

According to the 1995 UNDP report, women who are no longer of reproductive age are not screened by the health system.  Periodic check-ups and specialized consultation services for older women are not provided. [74]


Psychological Disorders

Bulgaria ranks 12th out of 23 European countries in the suicide rate among women, and suicide has been on the rise in the last three years.  Cases of depression and neurosis, and the consumption of tranquilizers and other medication, have increased. [75]



COVENANT ARTICLES 13 and 14: Right to Education


Gender Gap in Education and Training

There is a serious gap between women’s high educational level and their professional training level.  An increasing number of young women finish secondary school without professional training.  The majority of female university students choose a specialty within the humanities, which prepares them for work in humanitarian professions or in administration. Job opportunities are limited in these fields, and the women are either forced to change jobs frequently or to get additional training. Training courses are not designed  to allow women with small or handicapped children or disabled women to attend. Access to such courses is often hampered because of bureaucratic procedures, an insufficient infrastructure and the lack of skilled trainers. [76]






Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women: Bulgaria.4/05/98.A/53/38, paras.208-261.




·        Pay particular attention and provide detailed descriptions of measures to change the prevailing attitudes and policies with regard to women's role in the home, to remove stereotypes from school books and from other facets of the education system, so as to overcome the legal, economic and social problems of female heads of households with children, to combat all forms of discrimination against women in employment and to improve women's access to free legal aid and the standard of living of rural women.


·        Introduce a definition of discrimination modeled on article 1 of the Convention into its constitution and other relevant laws.


·        Give priority to the establishment of a strong and effective national machinery with adequate financial and human resources for advancing the position of women in Bulgaria.  Special attention should be given to where this machinery should be placed within the Government structure to make it as effective as possible.


·        Embark upon the procedure of setting up an appropriate national machinery for the promotion of women's rights using the experience of other European Governments that have been through the same procedure in the past.


·        Appoint an ombudsperson, in accordance with the current proposal before Parliament, and allocate sufficient resources enable the office to function effectively. The ombudsperson should also be provided with a clear mandate to address gender issues.


·        Adopt temporary, special measures, in accordance with paragraph 1 of article 4 of the Convention,  in all necessary areas, particularly in the areas of employment and political decision-making, to accelerate the de facto situation of equality for women in Bulgaria. The Committee suggests that the Government give further consideration to the nature and role of affirmative action. Experts of the Committee could be called upon to provide further information and assistance to the Government in that respect.


·        Strengthen legislative measures protecting women against all forms of violence, both public and private.  In particular, provision should be made for the prosecution of offenders even in the absence of a complaint by the victim. The Committee urges the Government to develop an array of medical, psychological and other measures to assist women victims of violence and to change prevailing attitudes to domestic violence, which view it as a private problem, and to encourage women to seek redress. A range of strategies are available, including the utilization of popular music, theater and so on, with the cooperation of civil society, including women's organizations.


·        Cooperate at the regional and international levels with regard to the problem of trafficking in women and their exploitation through prostitution.   Address  women's economic vulnerability, which is the root cause of the problem.  Review and amend national legislation in accordance with the Convention, create effective administrative and police structures, conduct media sensitization and training campaigns and promote the work of women's non-governmental organizations in this area.


·        Develop appropriate measures to address poverty amongst women, particularly the most vulnerable women, including elderly women, women with children and women with disabilities.


·        Undertake efforts to collect statistical information on the social, economic and political status of women of different ethnic minorities.


·        Take special measures to encourage women to become entrepreneurs.  Provide training and take measures to facilitate access to credit and loans for women, in particular rural women.


·        Facilitate consultations between Bulgarian women's non-governmental organizations and other European women's non-governmental organizations, in order to discuss Bulgarian women's issues and receive any necessary assistance.





Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination: Bulgaria 23/04/97. CERD/C/304/Add.29.


No recommendations concerning women were issued by this Committee.



Concluding observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child : Bulgaria. 24/01/97.



No recommendations concerning women were issued by this Committee



Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee: Bulgaria.. 03/08/93. CCPR/C/79/Add.24 .




·        The continuing exodus of Bulgarian citizens of Turkish ethnic origin as well as about the many disadvantages experienced by the Romany (Gypsy) minority.


·        Very little information was provided about the status of women and their participation in public life.

[1] “Lonely Planet - Destination Bulgaria,”  Lonely Planet, on-line, available at www.lonelyplanet.com>, accessed on 4 April 1999.

[2] “Bulgarian President Urges National Reconciliation in Annual Address,” Xinhua News Agency, 22 January 1999, on-line, Nexis, 17 February 1999.

[3] John D. Bell, ed.  Bulgaria in Transition: Politics, Economics, Society, and Culture After Communism (Boulder: Westview Press, 1998), 3-5.

[4] Kevin Done, “Still Hurdles to Overcome,” Financial Times (London), 8 March 1999, on-line, Nexis, 18 March 1999.

[5] “Bulgarian President Urges National Reconciliation in Annual Address,” Xinhua News Agency, 22 January 1999,  on-line, Nexis, 17 February 1999.

[6] John D. Bell.

[7] Evgeni Tanchev, “The Constitution and the Rule of Law,” In:  John D. Bell, ed.  Bulgaria in Transition: Politics, Economics, Society, and Culture After Communism (Boulder: Westview Press, 1998).

[8] Roumen Daskalov, “A Democracy Born in Pain: Bulgarian Politics, 1989-1997,” In: John D. Bell, ed.  Bulgaria in Transition: Politics, Economics, Society, and Culture After Communism (Boulder: Westview Press, 1998), 24-25.

[9] Roumen Daskalov, 24-25.

[10] Ibid., 27.

[11] Genoveva Tisheva - Bulgarian Gender Research Foundation (BGRF), correspondence with IWRAW, 3 April 1999.

[12] “People in Power: Bulgaria,” Janet Matthews Information Services-CIRCA (Cambridge International Reference on Current Affairs), January 1999, on-line, Nexis, 17 February 1999.

[13] Christina Kotchemidova, report received through the Network of East West Women, <women-east-west@igc.apc.org> on 13 November 1998.

[14] Committee to Protect Journalists, Country Report 1997: Bulgaria, available at www.cpj.org/countrystatus/1997/Europe/Bulgaria.html, accessed on 16 March 1999.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] “Paying the Price for Her Reporting,” American Journalism Review  (December 1998), on-line, Nexis, 17 February 1999.

[18] Committee to Protect Journalists.

[19] “Turks and Bulgars Make Up,” Economist, 27 February 1999, on-line, Nexis, 18 March 1999.

[20] Antonina Zhelyazkova, “Bulgaria’s Muslim Minorities,” In: John D. Bell, ed.  Bulgaria in Transition: Politics, Economics, Society, and Culture After Communism (Boulder: Westview Press, 1998), 168-169.

[21] “Turks and Bulgars Make Up.”

[22] Roumen Daskalov, 16-17.

[23] “Bulgarians to Learn Turkish Language,” Middle East News, 7 February 1999, on-line, Nexis, 18 March 1999.

[24] “Turks and Bulgars Make Up.”

[25] Ibid.

[26] Antonina Zhelyazkova, “Bulgaria’s Muslim Minorities,” In: John D. Bell, ed.  Bulgaria in Transition: Politics, Economics, Society, and Culture After Communism (Boulder: Westview Press, 1998), 171-172.

[27] “Rights Groups Slam Bulgaria Over Gypsy Attacks,” Agence France Presse, 20 May 1998, on-line, Nexis, 18 March 1998.

[28] “Gypsy Sets Himself Alight in Bulgaria Protest,” Agence France Presse, 2 June 1998, on-line, Nexis, 18 March 1999.

[29] Rights Groups Slam Bulgaria Over Gypsy Attacks.”

[30] “Bulgaria to Promote Integrating of its Gypsies,” AAP Newsfeed, 8 April 1998, on-line, Nexis, 18 March 1999.

[31] Willian Pfaff, “Good News from the Balkans: Bulgaria and Macedonia,” International Herald Tribune (Neuilly-sur-Seine, France), 9 March 1999, on-line, Nexis, 18 March 1999.

[32] Kevin Done,”Currency Board is a Boost to Stability,” Financial Times (London),  8 March 1999, on-line, Nexis, 24 March 1999.

[33] “Minister Says Privatization Programme 50 Percent Complete,” British Broadcasting  Corporation, 21 January 1999, on-line, Nexis, 18  March 1999.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Genoveva Tisheva - Bulgarian Gender Research Foundation (BGRF), correspondence with IWRAW, 3 April 1999.

[36] The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, 1998 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Right: Bulgaria (Brussels: ICFTU, 1998): 114-115.

[37] Ibid., 114-115.

[38] Ibid., 114-115.

[39] Genoveva Tisheva, Bulgarian Gender Research Foundation (BGRF), interview with IWRAW, 24 September 1998.

[40] Zhaklin Toleva, legal advisor to the Parliamentary Human Rights Commission, interview with IWRAW, Sofia, Bulgaria, 25 September 1998.

[41] Ibid.

[42] Regina Indsheva, Women’s Alliance for Development (WAD), correspondence with IWRAW, 1 April 1999.

[43] Ibid.

[44] Ibid.

[45] Ibid.

[46] “Bulgaria Sees High Mortality, Low Birth Rate,” Xinhua News Agency, 26 March 1998, on-line, Nexis, 17 February 1999.

[47] Regina Indsheva, Women’s Alliance for Development (WAD), correspondence with IWRAW, 1 April 1999.

[48] Ibid.

[49] UNDP (1995), “Women’s Health in Bulgaria - The Exhausted Resource,”  Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights Newsletter 62, no. 2 (1998), 12.

[50] Regina Indsheva, Women’s Alliance for Development (WAD), correspondence with IWRAW, 1 April 1999.

[51] Ibid.

[52] Ibid.

[53] Peter Kanev, “Loving, but Poor: Motherhood after Communism,” WIN (Women’s International Net) Magazine no. 8 (1998).

[54] Ibid.

[55] Ibid.

[56] Dr. Tatiana Kotzeva, interview with IWRAW in Sofia Bulgaria, 23 September 1998.

[57] Genoveva Tisheva - Bulgarian Gender Research Foundation (BGRF), correspondence with IWRAW, 3 April 1999.

[58] Boika Vitanova, interview with IWRAW in Sofia, Bulgaria, 24 September 1998.

[59] Regina Indsheva, Women’s Alliance for Development (WAD), correspondence with IWRAW, 1 April 1999.

[60] UNDP (1995), “Women’s Health in Bulgaria - The Exhausted Resource,” 12.

[61] Dr. Tatiana Kotzeva, interview with IWRAW in Sofia Bulgaria, 23 September 1998.

[62] “Bulgaria to Distribute Free Contraceptives to Schoolgirls,” Agence France Presse, 3 December 1997, on-line, Nexis, 17 February 1999.

[63] Regina Indsheva, Women’s Alliance for Development (WAD), correspondence with IWRAW, 1 April 1999.

[64] UNDP (1995), “Women’s Health in Bulgaria - The Exhausted Resource,” 12.

[65] “Bulgaria to Distribute Free Contraceptives to Schoolgirls,” Agence France Presse, 3 December 1997, on-line, Nexis, 17 February 1999.

[66] “Extramarital Birth in Bulgaria Reaches 14 Percent,” Xinhua NewsAgency, on-line 19 January 1999, Nexis, 17 February 1999.

[67] “30 Women Beaten, Sent to Hospital during Holidays in Bulgaria,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 28 December 1998, on-line, Nexis, 17 February 1999.

[68] Regina Indsheva, Women’s Alliance for Development (WAD), correspondence with IWRAW, 1 April 1999.

[69] Ibid.

[70] Ibid.

[71] Veselin Zhelev, “Thousands of Bulgarian Job-Seekers in Western Europe Forced into Prostitution,” Associated Press, 5 August 1998, on-line, Nexis, 17 February 1999.

[72] Ibid.

[73] “Bulgaria Expected to Encounter Rise in Number of AIDS cases,” Xinhua News Agency, 30 November 1998, on-line, Nexis, 24 March 1999.

[74] UNDP (1995), “Women’s Health in Bulgaria - The Exhausted Resource,” 12.

[75] Ibid., 12.

[76] Regina Indsheva, Women’s Alliance for Development (WAD), correspondence with IWRAW, 1 April 1999.





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