Bulgaria: Observations and Concluding Remarks

In document Policy contexts and responses to changes in intimate life (Page 126-131)

1. Bulgaria (Mariya Stoilova)

1.13. Bulgaria: Observations and Concluding Remarks

Historic Trends of the Idea of Citizenship in Bulgaria

Citizenship in the history of New Bulgaria (after 1878) has had different directions of development. After the liberation from Turkey (1878) citizenship was mainly focused around issues of nation-state and unification of the Bulgarian nation which was divided into Principality Bulgaria (independent) and Eastern Rumelia (under Turkish

governance). During communism (1944-1989) citizenship took a different path, with still great emphasis on nation but this time in relation to the population homogeneity. All ethnic groups were ‘encouraged’ to identify as Bulgarians. This introduced ethnicity and religion as important issues related to citizenship. Another aspect important during socialism was the place of origin, or local citizenship so to speak. There were inter- country restrictions on mobility and employment of individuals outside their birth town. Since the fall of communism the membership in the European Union has received an important role, which can be framed as European citizenship. Here issues that became important are cross-national migration and European human rights regulations. Bulgaria did not have another wave of nationalist citizenship in the same way that other post- socialist countries did, such as the former Yugoslav republics and members of the Soviet Union. Intimate citizenship, although it has never been in the focus of citizenship issues, it has had a very dynamic history, for example in relation to abortion rights, marriage and divorce legislation.

Concerns with rights in the sphere of intimacy have intensified with time, mostly during the last decade. There are still quite a few policy and law documents where ‘sexual orientation’ is missing, for example the Law on the Ombudsman (2004). It has to be noted that gender as grounds of discrimination is not present in any of the documents, as this word does not exist in the Bulgarian language. There are two words that can be used instead of gender – ‘пол’ (sex) and ‘род’ (kin) but they do not carry exactly the same

meaning. Some sociologists have recently started to make attempts to capture the meaning of ‘gender’ with the phrase ‘социаленпол’ (social sex), while most NGOs working in the area use the foreign word ‘gender’ without translation.

In comparison to ‘sexual orientation’ which is the new-comer in Bulgarian legislation and policy, ‘sex’ has a longer tradition and was present in the first Bulgarian (Turnovo) Constitution from (1879) when regulating the freeing of slaves. This can be explained in relation to the historical development of the idea of human rights. As Charlesworth and Chinkin (2000) argue, legal theory defines several spheres of rights, called ‘generations’. The first generation consists of individual and political rights and freedoms that serve as protection of the individual against the state. These rights include right to life and freedom from torture, right to liberty and security of the person, right to free movement and residence, and freedom of expression, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, the right to marry and to found a family; the right to own property (Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by General Assembly, Resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948).

Charlesworth and Chinkin (2000) further argue that the first generation of human rights are based on a clear-cut dichotomy of the public and the private that is additionally

obscured by gender inequality in the understanding of what rights should be protected. As a result some issues of particular importance to intimate citizenship, such as sexual harassment and domestic violence have not been initially recognised. It has been only recently that rights related to intimate citizenship have been added to the more traditional understanding of human rights. Charlesworth and Chinkin (2000, p 37) point out that only in 1998 did International Criminal Tribunal began to consider rape and sexual violence against women as genocide in the same terms as acts against national, ethnic, and religious groups.

The second generation of human rights are of social, economic and cultural nature, such as the right to social security; the right to work; the right to equal pay for equal work; the

right to rest and leisure; the right to a standard of living adequate for health and well- being; the right to education; and the right to participate in the cultural life of the

community (Universal Declaration of Human Rights). These rights do not ‘abide’ to the public/private dichotomy in a straight forward way and as a result of this they have had more controversial status and weaker implementation at international law (Charlesworth and Chinkin, 2000, p 237).

The third basket is the most recent one that reflects contemporary global developments and justified rights linked to access to information, healthy environment, living standards, and right to intimate life, and most importantly in relation to intimate citizenship – the right to self-determination. The right to self-determination is usually related to political status and free persuasion of economic, social and cultural development (International Convent on Civil and Political Rights, Adopted UN General Assembly Resolution 2200 A (XXI) of 16 December 1966), hence the meaning of self-determination extends into the private sphere and ‘incorporates family relations, cultural and religious traditions and sex and gender roles within society’ (Charlesworth and Chinkin, 2000, p154). Self-

determination can be understood as the right to define and express one’s own sexuality and to choose one’s own lifestyle (National Organisation for Women, 2004). The shortcomings of the definition of self-determination lie within the assumption of group identity and commonality (Charlesworth and Chinkin, 2000, p154) and become

particularly apparent in relation to gender and sexuality. In spite of the shortcomings of the classification of human rights into three generations, it demonstrates the dynamics of the conceptualisation of human and political rights, where intimate citizenship is the ‘new-found’ land of rights and freedoms.

This is observable in Bulgarian legislation where the classical rights such as individual and political rights from the first basket and some of the rights from the second, such as education, were enacted by the Bulgarian Tarnovo Constitution dating from 1879. At the same time rights related to intimate citizenship have been incorporated into legislation very recently. For example, the first Antidiscrimination law that explicitly opposes

discrimination on the grounds of sexuality was passed in 2004. Since then sexuality has been included in other policy documents, but not yet in the Constitution. Examples of this were given in the section on Homosexuality and Anti-Discrimination Legislation.

Another observation relates to the legislative and policy obsession with marital and blood ties. It appears that both ‘marriage’ and ‘origin’ have relatively equal weight and

importance and give rise to quite similar rights and obligations. It can be argued that legislative documents offer a ‘classification’ of the ties that can be seen as implicit ‘rating’ of kin relations in order of importance. In this sense marriage and parent–child relations (including adoption-related ones) have a privileged status, followed by other more distant blood relations, then relations acquired through marriage, and then are all other relations. The group of ‘other’ is very diverse and I would put here same-sex partnerships, de facto unions, and friendship.

This last group, that I would call ‘significant others’, has few rights and obligations as it is almost non-existent in present Bulgarian legislation and policy. The right and relations with ‘significant others’ are usually ‘written between the lines’ of the documents or implemented in practice, which makes them heavily dependent on the personal judgments of civil servants. This creates a lot of possibilities for indirect discrimination and

corruption. Whenever there are legal rights and entitlements, these are linked to the economy of the household, rather than to personal relations which result in de- sexualisation of non-marital relations.

However, there is growing awareness that marriage/ blood relationships do not exhaust the closest intimate relations, especially as more than half of children were born outside the wedlock in the recent years. The place of cohabiting partnerships (LATs are not discussed at all) in legislation and policy is becoming more and more contested. It is recognised that the group that I have framed as ‘significant others’, or at least some of the relationships in this group, needs to be given higher priority in terms of legislation. Debates are mostly related to the rights of the children of non-married couples and the

obligation of their parents. It seems that the changes that are most likely to happen first are linked to some wider recognition of heterosexual cohabitation. It will be very

interesting to explore if this ‘climate of change’ has been created under the impact of any NGOs and of women’s NGOs in particular. Recognition of same-sex cohabitation and the option of civil partnership for gay couples or same-sex marriage are discussed by the LGBT non-government sector but not by legislators and is much less likely to happen at this stage.

In document Policy contexts and responses to changes in intimate life (Page 126-131)