TO: DUBRAVKA ŠIMONOVIC,
UN RAPPORTEUR ON WOMEN’S VIOLENCE
COPY TO: MEDIA
DEAR MRS. SIMONOVIC,
We appreciate the views and recommendations expressed in the area of protection against domestic violence and violence against women in our country, in your capacity as UN representative on violence against women.
In connection with your statement and recommendations* made to our country, we would like to inform you about the following:
1. The reason for Bulgaria’s rejection of the Istanbul Convention is not the mistranslation and misunderstanding of the term “gender”. The reason for the rejection of the Convention is the fact that it does not comply with the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria.
Here’s what part of the Constitutional Court decision №13 of July 27, 2018** states in connection to that:
“The Convention paves the way for the introduction of gender and gender-based identity, which will require the establishment of procedures to ensure the legal recognition of non-biological sex in violation of the Constitution.”
“The term gender/genre is present in the Convention as a separate category other than gender as a biological entity.
… The Convention does not define gender identity (l’identité de genre). The Explanatory Report to the Convention (§ 53) defines ‘gender identity’ as follows: “Certain groups of individuals may also face discrimination on the basis of their gender identity, which in simple words means that the gender with which they identify themselves, does not match the sex assigned to them by birth. This includes certain categories of persons, such as transgender persons, transvestites, travesties and other groups of people who do not conform to what society has defined as belonging to the category of ‘men’ or ‘women’.”
2. Given the extensive analysis of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Bulgaria on the meaning of the term “gender”, incl. the definition given to the term “gender identity” in the Explanatory Report and the practice of its interpretation by the European institutions, we consider as unfounded your recommendation to reconsider its meaning.
3. In its standpoint of 14.10.2019 the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe states that it cannot foresee the constitutional consequences for the Member States of the Istanbul Convention. It states that the Constitutional Court is the supreme interpreter of the constitutional conformity of ratification of international treaties and that the Member States have the freedom to ratify or not ratify the Istanbul Convention (par. 8 and par. 96).
4. With regard to your recommendation for the implementation of European Directive 2012/29/ EU containing the terms “gender” and “gender identity”, it is important to note that it only concerns victims of crime, which is a narrow legal category. Moreover, this Directive does not bind Member States to a specific legal definition of the term “gender identity”, unlike the Istanbul Convention.
5. We urge you to respect the decision of the Bulgarian Constitutional Court that the Istanbul Convention does not comply with the Constitution of Bulgaria. Any attempt to press for its ratification can be considered as a form of interference in the internal affairs of our country.
The United States earlier this year opposed the use of the word “gender” in a UN Resolution to combat the use of rape as a weapon of war. Do you suppose that a country like USA is not aware of the meaning and interpretation of the term “gender”, stating that it is used to promote the rights of the transgender?
In view of your claim that “our overall legislative framework does not meet international standards” we would like to know more about your specific recommendations for improving Bulgaria’s legislation in this field.
We look forward to seeing you and meeting you on your next visit, and discuss the subject. We also recommend that you meet with various representatives of civil society in Bulgaria, as well as with representatives of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and our traditional faiths, so that you can get acquainted with different perspectives on the issue.
Chairman of Society and Values Association
31 October, 2019
* Video of the press conference of Mrs. Dubravka Šimonović in Sofia, Bulgaria:
** Decision №13 of July 27, 2018 of the Constitutional Court can be found on: http://www.constcourt.bg/bg/Acts/GetHtmlContent/f278a156-9d25-412d-a064-6ffd6f997310