Bulgaria Appendices

In document Policy contexts and responses to changes in intimate life (Page 131-136)

1. Bulgaria (Mariya Stoilova)

1.14. Bulgaria Appendices

1.14.1. ‘Homosexuals’ vs. Alma Mater

This is the first case of sexual discrimination won by one of the biggest LGBT organisations, Queer Bulgaria, on behalf of the victims. The Sofia University ‘St. Kliment Ohridski’ was found guilty of direct discrimination against a group of four young men who were denied access to the sauna in January 2004 due to their sexual orientation.

The young people were members of a non-formal sports club ‘Delfin’ whose members attended the sauna of Sofia University regularly. According to the management of the University there were many complaints from other people using the sauna that members of the group were openly demonstrating their intimacy and once two of them were even seen having sex in the shower room. Based on these complaints the Chancellor of the University gave verbal orders that the group not to be allowed to use the sauna. As a result, the four victims were denied access and verbally assaulted by the security guards. The organisation Queer Bulgaria initiated a court case on behalf of the victims with the following claims: access to the sauna be allowed, the court to enjoin the University from giving such discriminatory restrictions, the victims to receive compensation of 2000 BGN. The regional court found the University guilty of direct discrimination, and the sentence was confirmed by the Sofia Public Court based on the argument that the victims have suffered non-material damages due to the caused feelings of insult and humiliation, of inferiority and violation of their self-esteem, and discomfort from the unfair accusation that they were doing something criminal or uncivilized. The remedy offered to the each of the victims was 500 Bulgarian leva and the University had to grant their access to the sauna.

The case attracted a lot of media attention and triggered homophobic attitudes and

statements, including in media publications. The fact that a group of gay men can take the university authorities to court was described as ‘scandalous and unprecedented’ by the newspaper ‘168 Hours’ (21.11.2004 cited in Pisankyneva and Panaiotov, 2005, no page). This was the first judicial trial for discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and would have not been possible without the new legislation. The main comments were that the lawyers of the University underestimated the case and did not take into consideration the shifted burden of proof provided by the Law on Protection against Discrimination.

1.14.2. Biology vs. Marriage

This case study represents the real-life circumstances of Anna12 in the way that she explained them in Lex.bg. Lex.bg is an on-line portal offering a range of judicial materials and services. The site also contains discussion forums where individuals

publish information on difficult or problematic situations and seek advice from practicing lawyers. This case was published and discussed by Anna and several lawyers in the discussion forum on Family Law.

Anna’s circumstances: Anna was married to Ivan when she gave birth to a child whose biological father was Peter and not her husband. Although Anna and Ivan were going through a divorce procedure officially the marriage was not terminated. According to the regulations of the Family Code Ivan - the husband of the mother - was put down as the father of the baby on the birth certificate. This child was given Ivan’s family name. Later Anna divorced Ivan and married Peter who was the biological father of her baby. She requested a DNA expertise to be done at a private hospital and the results proved that Peter, her second husband, was the father. Later Peter died.

Now Anna’s child is 21 years old and wants to use the family name of his ‘real’ father and to prove his origin. Anna is asking for legal advice on how the biological father of

12 All personal names are pseudonyms

the child can be recognised and the names changed. Anna received the following comments on her case from lawyers:

1. The important aspect is that the child was born during the marriage with the first husband and therefore the law does not allow for any other possibility than him to be the father.

2. The DNA expertise is illegitimate before the court because it was not done as part of a case contesting fatherhood.

3. As the biological father has passed away there is no way to prove that the DNA used for the test was his.

4. The law does not allow the child to make a claim and to contest fatherhood in cases when the father is known in the sense that he is defined by the law. If the father is not known the child can request search for paternity origin, but no later than 3 years after entering adulthood.

5. The mother of the child can contest fatherhood only within 1 year from the birth of the child. There is no legal procedure after the end of the first year that would allow the mother to change the father of the baby. In this case the deadline has been missed. 6. In the presence of a legally defined origin from the father (husband of the mother) the biological father cannot admit to being the father of the baby and to recognise his paternity.

7. The change of names can have a separate court case that can be initiated by Anna’s child. However, the layer believed that it was not very likely that the court would allow the child to change his names with the argument that very important circumstances required this. The lawyer discussed a recent case from her/his practice when the court

allowed a young adult to take the names of a person who he felt very close and like a father in spite that they were not biologically related. This happened because the biological father of the boy was unknown.

8. Even if the court allowed the change of the names, Anna’s child would still not be considered legally as son of her second husband in spite that he might be allowed to carry his name and that in fact he is the biological father.

Conclusion: the experts agreed that according to their practice and competence the officially registered father could not be changed. Anna did not say if she still wanted to initiate a court procedure after the comments on her case.

Reference:

Lex.bg, Family Casus, Topic: Origin of a Child [Произходнадете], Posted on: 18.12.2007

1.14.3. Public Morality vs. Azis

A billboard with the image of a famous homosexual couple was removed from the streets in several Bulgarian cities in late November 2007. The accusations were that it was pornographic and scandalous and was removed because of the municipalities received many complaints from shocked citizens.

The image on the billboard was part of the PR campaign of a new television and

portrayed a famous Bulgarian pop-folk13 singer Azis exchanging intimate caressing with

13 Pop-folk music, and Azis in particular, are very famous in Bulgaria. However, it is considered to be of

very ‘low-level’ ‘crass’ music.

his same-sex partner (the image on the left). The personality of Azis is a very

controversial one, often in the spotlight of the Bulgarian media. The singer , who is from the Roma minoritised ethnic group, became very popular with his voice but also with his non-standard stage behaviour of cross-dressing, nakedness, and pronounced

homosexuality. He has often gained the attention of the public with his decisions to enlarge his penis, to get breast implants, to marry his same-sex partner, to become a father and raise the child together with his partner and the mother of the baby. Much liked and much hated Azis has always been a widely discussed public figure. He took part in the Bulgarian version of Celebrity Big Brother with his partner in 2007 (Standart, 12.04.2007), was one of the people nominated by the Bulgarian National Television within the campaign for public election of the greatest Bulgarians in 2007 (Standart, 18.12.2006) and came 21st, and took part in the elections for members of Parliament in as a Honorable Chairperson of the Roma minority party ‘Euroroma’ (Dnevnik, 03.05.2005).

This is the second time when his billboards are removed. The first time they contained the image of his bare bottom and were promoting a new single in 2004. The debate is very heated based around the issue of whether this is discrimination, if the municipalities had the legal right to remove the billboards, and if they were against public morality more than other naked images, for example of naked women.

The Bulgaria Gay Organisation ‘Gemini’ sent an open letter to the Bulgarian media where they argued that there are no legal reasons for the removal of this image, and that Bulgarian society ‘cannot accept that love can exist between same-sex partners, the idea of homosexual families, or the fact that two gay people have feelings, cannot accept the fact that the happiness of the children of ‘normal’ [people] can be with a person from the same sex’ (quote from ‘Capital’, 23.11.2007, no page). In support of the argument there is an image of billboard with the advertisement of Vodka ‘Flirt’ with a provocative blond in underwear holding a whip (see image below).

In document Policy contexts and responses to changes in intimate life (Page 131-136)