This year, Society and Values Association (SVA) took another huge step forward by starting constructive actions to strengthen the marriage and family, and concurrently continued our work to protect the rights of parents, children as well as the rights and dignity of women.
Below is a brief overview detailing some of our most important achievements for 2012: -
New Child Law:
At the end of 2011, SVA first issued an official statement alerting the public as to the dangers, which are hidden within the proposed Child Law. This law proposed breaking fundamental parental rights, which could facilitate the process for children to be taken away from their families far more easily. As a result of our public statement, a number of parental organizations and movements were formed in Sofia and other cities.
SVA was a co-organizer as well as a participant in a round table discussion in Parliament, earlier this year and participated in a series of civil actions, public debates, media broadcasts and protests on this topic.
At this round table Parliamentary discussion, Allan Carlson, chairman of the World Congress of Families, sent a letter to the Bulgarian authorities giving his input on the issue. Later as a consequence of the common civil actions initiated and supported by SVA, the proposed Child Law was frozen and the planned upload to the Council of Ministers site in May, postponed.
photo of protest against the law on child in May 2012., NDK, Sofia
In 2012 Society and Values Association actively continued its actions against the implementation of changes that will lead to the legalization of substitute (surrogate) motherhood. Our mandate being that, besides the increased risk of the rights and dignity of woman and children being violated, legalization could lead to a significant increase in exploitation of Bulgarian woman. In January SVA initiated a second opinion supported by the 15 organizations against the changes to legalize surrogacy, which was later under consideration at a second reading in Parliament.
In the middle of March Society and Values Association presented the problem in Brussels at a meeting with representatives of European organizations. In view of the situation in Bulgaria and two lawsuits at ECHR, nearly a month later few NGOs held a conference on "Surrogacy - violation of human rights" at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. MEPs and members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) attended the conference. During the event, a declaration on surrogacy was presented, exposingthe violation of several international treaties that infringe human rights and exploits women. Society and Values Association also gathered support from 16 Bulgarian organizations and sent an official letter of its support to the President of (PACE); Jean-Claude Mignon. Immediately after the conference of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, SVA presented an open letter against the legalization of surrogacy in Bulgaria, which received the support of representatives of various international organizations.
As a result of the joint action, examination of the changes in the second reading by the committees in Parliament,was suspended. SVA continues to monitor the subject.
photo of the conference on the occasion of surrogacy in the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on April 26, 2012.
This year, SVA took action in relation to the support of 12 ambassadors in Bulgaria of the annual gay parade. The Association along with 19 other NGOs came up with an Open letter against unlawful interference in the internal affairs of Bulgaria and targeted political pressure to dilute the values and public attitudes toward the family.
The letter was sent to the ambassadors, with a copy to the government (President, Prime Minister and others) and to the foreign ministries of relevant countries. Bulgarian and international media reported on our initiative. SVA also prepared and sent a letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr.Mladenov concerning the support of our ambassador in Bucharest of the gay parade in Romania this year. To date we have not received any response to these letters.
SVA continues to monitor the policy in the area of homosexuality in our country and in Europe, and will continue to keep members and supporters informed and educated about important developments.
At the beginning of June, during a conference on human trafficking we learned about the removal of art. 329 of the Penal Code, which will lead to unimpeded practice of prostitution in the open. We informed supporters, professionals, media representatives and NGOs working in this field and will continue to assist in reducing the high levels of prostitution and human trafficking in Bulgaria.
In October, Society and Values Association sent a motion to Sofia Municipality in connection with a request from one of our collaborator to assist with the removal of the massive advertisements on a sex shop windows near a school in Sofia.
We received a call from a representative of the municipality that the ads had been removed and that regular inspection is conducted on the shop.
Further to this, we also prepared and uploaded information on our web site to raise awareness of and assist the average citizens to know what action is available to them to take, in order to resist the widespread indecent advertisements on the streets.
The draft law on pre-school and school education: In February SVA, together with The Parents Committee, sent a letter to the Ministry of Education in connection with a Draft Law on education that was uploaded on their website with regards the introduction of compulsory pre-school for 4 year olds.
As a collaborative group, we continued to inform the government about the potential consequences of the law and highlighted the violations of human rights as well as the Constitution with voted changes. Despite our efforts, the work on draft law continued and our demands remained unheard. In November we prepared a letter to send to the government, which was supported by more than 20 organizations, all of whom were against compulsory preschool for 4 year olds as well as the banning and issuing of fines against alternative forms education.
On this occasion, and in conjunction with the passing of the text of the second reading in the Committee on Education 22.11 we initiated a press conference in order for the public to learn more about what was to be adopted. The news took a major place in media and as a result other parental and civic organizations have joined our motion.
the press conference against compulsory pre-school training for 4 years, BTA 22.11.2012 Sofia
On the 12.12.2012 as one body, SVA in conjunction with Parental & Civic organizations and Media protested outside the National Assembly, followed up by a round table discussion in Parliament.
On 14.12.2012 we then, via a formal letter invited the government and international NGOs toa second press conference focusing on the demands of our protest. This press conference was attended by representatives of the Orthodox Church and the resulting actions led to a postponement of the entry of the Draft Law's second reading in Parliament, which was scheduled to pass before Christmas in the National Assembly. SVA will continue to keep the Bulgarian public, NGO’s and other Parental and Civic organizations aware of any developments in this regard.
Marriage week - This year for the first time in the Bulgaria, we celebrated “ Marriage Week”. This initiative received very good media coverage on television and news radio, with online media interviews. It included a short film and an interview highlighting the benefits of marriage for society and why factual cohabitation you should not legalized. Many organizations supported this initiative and in November we presented it tothose supporters of the training that had taken place earlier in the year.
Several familiesexpressed the desire to participate in future broadcasts dedicated to the Marriage week and there are many opportunities for families to work to strengthen marriages in Bulgaria. We will be delightedif more people were to get involved in promoting Marriage week next year. The dates are 7 and 14 April 2013 and more information on this can be found on our website www.sva.bg.
Training in two parts
For the first time this year, Society and Values Association organized and conducted training for members and supporters in defense of marriage, promoting the benefits of family, Marriage week and other family focused initiatives. The training was two fold – the first part focusing on awareness and the benefits of marriage, family etc. while the second part of the training focused on more practical preparation in connection with public appearances. This training was attended by more than 30 people and we look forward to training even more people and families going forwards.
SVA celebrated five years since it’sestablishment
This year SVA in the company of friends and associates celebrated it’s Fifth year anniversary. During the event, guests were introduced to the Association's activities and achievements over the past five years. Members and volunteers shared what had inspired them to be a part of SVA and how by working together our focus to help to protect the dignity of the individual, marriage and children in Bulgaria could be met.
At this event we had the opportunity to sharethe many salutationsthe Association had received for the occasion,from representatives of different organizations including: the founder of the international initiative "Marriage week," The chairman of the World Congress of Families, and representatives of Non-Governmental International organization "Care for Europe", "Alliance Defending Freedom" as well as many other organization and NGO’s.
Society and Values Association, December 30, 2012.