Part II – Other Movements for Gender and Sexual Equality and Change in Bulgaria

Appendix 2: Intimate Citizenship, the Women’s Movement and Other Movements for

Change in Bulgaria - Timeline



Around 1850

The first women’s organisations were established mainly working in the areas of charity and education. The organisations became more visible in the public sphere between 1969-1876; they also became involved in the Bulgarian liberation movement 91876-1878). In 1878 there were 61 women’s organisations, seven form them were established by Bulgarian immigrants and were outside the Bulgarian territories.

1879 Liberation from Turkey and the first Bulgarian (Turnovo) Constitution: granting voting rights to all Bulgarian citizens over the age of 21, officially including women. In practice women were not allowed to vote, ‘citizens’ stood for men only.

1840 First school for girls was founded in Pleven by Anastasia Dimitrova

1890 The right to heritage was equalised for both genders (Law on Heritage)

1897- 1898

The duration of high school education of boys and girls was equalised

1899 A new piece of legislation banned married women teachers to practice their profession (removed in

1904 as a result of the women’s movement)

1901 Bulgarian Women’s Union (БългарскиЖенскиСъюз) was founded. Claims for access to education,

voting and to some of the prestigious professions such as layers, doctors, artists and architects. Representing mostly middle-class women’s interests.

1901 Women allowed to study at University

1904 Subjects studied at high school equalised for boys and girls

1906 Women’s rights to heritance were limited

1907 Women were banned from access to University; this happens as part of the so-called ‘university crisis’ when the university was closed by the government and all professors are dismissed after students booed Prince Ferdinand at the opening ceremony of the National Theatre. The crisis ended in 1908.

1909 Union ‘Equality’ (Съюз ‘Равноправие’) founded: women’s voting rights was a main issue; a petition

was sent to the Parliament demanding equal voting rights for women (1909)

1912 Law banning brothels

1914 Socialist Women’s Union (Социалистическиженскисъюз) founded; has class orientation and was

close to the socialist party

1921 Women’s Social Democratic Union (Женски социалдемократическисъюз): demaniding protection

of civil and political rights of working women; equal pay, improvement of health and hygiene, social support for the poor and for the unemployed, good education for all Bulgarians, protection of children and ban on prostitution


1922 ILO Maternity Protection Convention (1919) ratified

1924 Society of Bulgarian Women with Higher Education (Дружество на българките с висше

образование ) founded. Worked for the opportunities for development of women professionals – lawyers, doctors, artists, teachers, writers

1926 Bulgarian Women’s Union ‘Love for the Motherland’ (Български женски съюз ‘Любов към

Родината’) was formed: a right wing organisation

1936 Unsuccessful attempt of the government to introduce family legislation: ‘Bill on the Conclusion and

Termination of Marriage’

1937 Legally married women with children were allowed to vote for local elections

1938 All married, divorced or widowed women above 21 were enfranchised. Women could not be elected

1939 The first woman to be appointed as a reader at Sofia University was Elisaveta Karamihajlova who became a Reader in Experimental Atomic Physics


The main characteristics of the Bulgarian women’s movement until 1944 according to Daskalova (2005; 2002), were its focus on the exclusion of women from prestigious social spheres and its urban and mostly bourgeois character. The demands the movement made were for access to education and to some of the prestigious professions such as law, medicine, art and architecture; voting rights for women; equal pay; political representation of women and access to higher positions of power; equality in marriage in terms of free right to end marriage on will, not to adopt the nationality of their husbands, and change of the tradition of surname after marriage; ban of prostitution and sexual exploitation; protection of children and minorities; reforms providing for the equality of children born within and without marriage (Daskalova, 2005: 318-323, 325).The Bulgarian feminist organisations from this period were active also on the international scene as members of international feminist organisations.


1944 (9th of September) Soviet occupation, the Fatherland Front ceased power

1944 Decree on the equality of women and men: grants equal rights in all areas of life

1945 The Bulgarian Public’s Women’s Union (Българскиятнароден женскисъюз ) was formed. It was

the sole women’s organisation and it unified all women’s organisations existing prior to 1945; The Union ‘was completely redundant and helpless as an organisation of women operating in a totalitarian one-party regime’ (Todorova, 1994: 137). Existed until 1950.

1945 Vera Zlatanova became the first woman to be allowed to work as a lawyer as a result of the Decree on

equality (1944)

1945 Decree on Protection of the People’s Power (prosecution of ‘fascists’ and political purge, defeat of the resistance)

1945 Decree on Marriage: first involvement of the state in matters of marriage, divorce and family relations

(prior religious documents); separates religion from family relations and introduces a universal judicial regime for all Bulgarian citizens; equal rights to children within/outside marriage; a mixed system of divorce grounds: by mutual consent or adultery, threats against the other spouse’s life, criminal conviction, absence, illness and sexual impotence, infertility, and severe breach of matrimonial obligations and marriage breakdown; agreement on the matters relating to the children was obligatory and that agreement on the division of property was optional; children born within and outside wedlock gain equal rights.

1945 Supplementation to the Law on Support of the Victims of the Anti-Fascist and Anti-Capitalist Fight which allows the ‘illegitimate wives of people’s fighters’ to receive support

1946 Law on Labour Mobilisation of Idlers and In-vain-Wanderers: prostitutes and pimps are among the categories of people put away in institutions; according to some sources this law was used against gay people too.

1947 Constitution: changes after the Soviet model - one-party state, economy and industry sectors nationalised

1947 Women can be elected for Parliament

1948 Re-settlement of Turkish and Muslim population from the areas near the Southern border. State intervention in Turkish minority’s and Bulgarian Muslim’s religion and way of life resulting in a wave of emigration

1949 Persons and Family Act: ‘sexual impotence and infertility’ was dropped as grounds for divorce

1949 The General Assembly ratified Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others

1949 ILO Underground Work of Women Convention (1935) ratified


1950 Protests of women in North Bulgaria (area of Kozloduj) against the collectivisation of land

1950 At its national conference in September 1950 the Bulgarian Public’s Women’s Union made the

‘decision’ to become part of the Fatherland Front (Отечествен Фронт, ОФ) with the argument that there was no need for independent women’s movement. A Committee of the Democratic Bulgarian Women (Комитетнадемократичнитебългарскижени) was created (December, 1950) representing women’s interests. Within the next few months the leaders of all women’s organisations had to be replaced by party activists. The property and documents of the women’s organisations were confiscated and they were closed down.

1950 The Communist party decided to encourage emigration of Bulgarian Turks.

1951 Protests of peasant women in the North for the return of their agricultural property

1951 New minority policy for development and association to the building of socialist society

1951 Criminalisation of homosexual acts between women for the first time; increase of the punishment for

homosexuality to 3 years imprisonment; restriction of abortions;

1951 Bachelor Tax is introduced for not having children (Decree for Stimulation of Birth Rates)

1951 Law on People and Family: divorce on mutual consent was revoked; divorce procedures made more

difficult; conciliation session was introduced to the divorce procedures for the first time; divorce barred in cases where the breakdown was attributable solely to the behaviour of the petitioner and the other spouse wished to preserve the marriage; strong campaign against the irresponsible disruption of marriage with images of abandoned wives in the media

1951 Decision of the Communist party for improvement of the work among the Turkish population

1953 Revision of the Persons and Family Act dropped all grounds for divorce except one: marriage breakdown

1954 (until 1989) Todor Zhivkov at the lead of the Communist Party

1954 Bulgaria ratified the UN Convention on the Political Rights of Women (1953)

1956 New international events with influence in Bulgaria: the protests in Poland (June) and Hungary (October), the Bulgarian Communist Party decided to attack everything that contradict government policy.

1956 Penal Code: imprisonment for up to 6 months or fine up to 1000 BGN and public reprobation for a

husband who left his family and was living with another person. The same punishment was stipulated for the person with whom the spouse lives. In case of second offence - imprisonment for up to 3 years.

1956 Abortion on free will became available for the first time (up to 12 weeks gestation; if the woman had

not had an abortion within the prior six months)

1958 Start of assimilation policy tow. minoritised groups: Decree No.258 banned nomad life (similarly to

the Czech Republic, the USSR); actions towards improvement the social and housing conditions of Roma people; Turkish schools were combined with Bulgarian ones and the mother tongue was studied only as an additional discipline

1959 Local authorities responsible for ensuring full Romani employment

1959 ILO Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention (1948) ratified


1960 ILO Discrimination in Employment and Occupation Convention (1958) ratified

1962 First occasions of forceful changing of Turkish names to Bulgarian ones.

1965 (until 1980) Sonia Bakish became editor of ‘The Woman Today’

1967 Decisions for further actions of ‘inclusion’ of the Bulgarian Turks into the majority

1967 Discussion of the demographic ‘problems’ and of some pronatalist measures; projects for new Penal

and Family Codes, as well as for a new Constitution

1967 Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, General Assembly

1968 Agreement between Bulgaria and Turkey was signed for the emigration of the families of Bulgarian

Turks who left the country in 1952. Between March and November 115,000 Turks emigrated.

1968 Bulgaria took part in the events in Prague in support of the communist government

1968 Family Code: divorce by mutual consent became available again; matrimonial fault was dropped as a

general ground for divorce and could be considered only if this was raised by the petitioner; common ownership of matrimonial property replaced the earlier long-standing separation of spouses’ property.

1968 Bulgaria was one of the first Eastern European countries to decriminalise same-sex sexual acts; age of

consent was 18 years for same-sex and 14 years for opposite-sex

1968 Report on the declining birth rates; suggestions to stimulate birth of 2nd and 3rd child, benefits regardless of income

1968 Restrictions on abortion: available for women older than 45 years, or women with more than 3 children

(up to 10 weeks and no abortion within the last 6 months); prohibited for childless women; a special medical board had to approve abortions of women under the age of 16, or who have 1 or 2 children, and also for medical reasons and rape

1968 Committee of Bulgarian Women (Комитет на българските жени) was created as to ‘improve the

work among women’ and as some form of independence of organised women; however, the Committee was still part of the Fatherland front and dependent on state policy.

1969 BCP decided to take measures against the ‘threat from the cultural autonomy’ of the Bulgarian Turks;


1970s At the focus of the attention of organized women in the 1970s was the improvement of the conditions

for the combination of women’s family, employment and social duties. Various demands were made related to more favourable participation in the labour force (part-time jobs, requalification, etc.); better socialisation of childcare and domestic duties (provision of care, clothing, food, services, etc.); state support of people with children (more benefits); more equal partnership relations; and gender mainstreamning. Promotion of motherhood was at the centre of the actions of organised women.

1970 UN Convent on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966) and UN Convent on Civil and Political

Rights (1966) ratified

1971 Public discussions of the new Constitution. It is adopted after a Referendum with 99.66% of votes in

favour. The new totalitarian constitution limited personal/ private property; the expression ‘national minorities’ was replaced with ‘citizens of non-Bulgarian origin’.

1972 Another wave of forceful change of names of the Bulgarian Turks

1973 Further restrictions on abortion: prohibited for women with only 1 child; Exceptions: rape or incest; childless unmarried women under 18 years; women over 45 with at least one living child; medical reasons

1973 Legislative changes: : the period of paid and unpaid leave for looking after a child were extended; entitlements to sick leave were increased; the amount of maternity allowance and the financial support for raising a child were increased; scholarships for female students who have children were increased; the lump sum received at childbirth was also increased

1974 Some relaxation on abortion: all women could present their case in front of the commission, permissions were given more often

1974 Declaration on the Protection of Women and Children in Emergency and Armed Conflict

1974 The working week was reduced from six to five working days

1977 Encouragement of private production: Decree for ‘Self-satisfaction’ with production at the level of households trying to compensate food shortages - people from the cities were given land to produce food for their own needs; a shift towards ‘natural economy’

1977 Additional Agreement with Turkey to the one signed in 1968. The total number of emigrants since March 1969 reaches 114,356 people.

1979 Decisions of the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party to mobilise the women’s Committee in government attempts to block the growing economic difficulties in the country. The Committee of Bulgarian Women was transformed in an attempt to improve its efficiency, and its name was changed to the Movement of Bulgarian Women. A new approach was adopted: ‘not to ask for more funding but the use what is available in more reasonable way’ (CMBW, 1980, p 20).


1980- 1982

The celebrations to mark 1300 years since the establishment of Bulgaria (681) were a good occasion to intensify the promotion of motherhood. The Committee organised a two-year discussions ‘The Bulgarian Woman in the National Development’ (1980-2) (CMBW, 1980; 1984) including public lectures, round tables, conferences, exhibitions promoting ‘good’ motherhood.

1982 Bulgaria ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW, 1979)

1982 The Committee started working to ‘strengthen the relationship between the generations’, for the ‘education of young people in respect’ for the elderly, and the encouragement of ‘solidarity and mutual help’ (CMBW, 1983). Some of these activities included: helping old people living alone or in care institutions; assisting pensioners’ clubs, creating a register of old people who need help, and the

reintegration of active pensioners through work activities (CMBW, 1983).

1982 New approach to economic management – a move towards de-centralisation, competition and market


1982 New wave of pressure on the Bulgarian Turks known as the ‘Revival Process’ because it is claimed

that the Bulgarian Turks are ethnic Bulgarians who were forced to change their identity during the Turkish dependence. Ethnic Turks are banned from settlement and employment in certain areas, they are to be re-settled in the middle of the country.

1984 New wave of renaming of Bulgarian Turks

1985 End of the forceful re-naming of 850,000 ethnic Turks. Measures for further assimilation – the term

‘Turks’ was replaced by ‘citizens with restored names’; Bans on speaking Turkish language in public, circumcision, traditional clothing, Turkish music.

1985 Family Code: preserved mutual consent and breakdown of marriage as grounds for divorce, restored

fault; common ownership extended to spouses’ bank accounts based on presumption of joint contribution; property acquired prior to marriage is not affected

1985 Instruction No1 for the procedures for Medical Certificates for Entering into Matrimony

1986 Age of Consent equalised (14 years, regardless of the sex of the partners)

1987 AIDS is introduced to the list of diseases that can be an obstacle to marriage

1987 The Club of Women Inventors and Rationalisers (Клуб на жените изобретателки и

рационализаторки) was established (later became the National Association Women in Science, NAWS). It was one of the first organisations non-govermnet organisation of women towards the end of socialism.

1988 Todor Zhivkov announces the new ideas for the ‘Revival process’ – re-settlement of ethnic Turks

1989 Mass protests and hunger strikes of ethnic Turks against the assimilation policy and re-naming

1989 Speech of Todor Zhivkov blaming Turkey for provoking the protests and demands of people who want to leave Bulgaria to be let into Turkey; Mass emigration known as ‘The Big excursion’ starts. About 310,000 people leave Bulgaria between end of May and 22nd of August when Turkey closes its border with Bulgaria.

1989 Resolution of the European Parliament against the violation of human rights of ethnic Turks in Bulgaria.

1989 (9th of Nov.) Todor Zhivkov resigns and is replaced by Petar Mladenov.

1989 (18th of Nov.) First mass protest of the opposition


1990s Women’s activism during the first five to ten years after 1989 was mostly in the areas of environment,

education, human rights, and culture preservation and the number of organisations working on gender equality remained small. The women’s organisations at this stage were relatively weak due to overall lack of gender awareness, as well as experience in activism. The number of women's NGOs rose significantly in 1993 - 1995, and again in 1996 – 1997. After the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing (1995) the Bulgarian women’s movement entered into a more dynamic phase marked by a growth of local activism, a more professional self-organising, and a clearer focus on gender. The organisations often tried to represent all women and to address all problematic women’s issues.

1990 Democratic Union of Women (Демократичен съюз на жените) was established (improving the

remained, but there were some new demands relating to adoption, foster parenting, and ecology. For the first time the organisation also demanded new legislation on women and family issues that would correspond to the international standards.

1990 Bachelor Tax revoked

1990 Abortions on request for all women (up to 12 weeks gestation) became available

1990 The Great National Assembly decided that Bulgaria would apply for membership in the Council of Europe

1991 New Constitution: Bulgaria became a parliamentary republic; a broad range of freedoms was


1991 Bulgaria joined the Council of Europe

1991 The Bulgarian Association of Women in Law was founded and started playing an active role in the

drafting of bills on rights of women, children, and family; involved in attempts to improve the protection of women and children, and to harmonise the Bulgarian laws with international ones

1991 The Bulgarian Association of University Women (BAUW) was established and restored the pre-

communist organisation founded in 1924. The aims of this organisation are to support the professional, personal and social self-fulfilment of well-educated women

1992 Bulgarian Gay Organisation ‘Gemini’ was established for protection of the rights of same-sex couples

in Bulgaria

1992 Bulgarian Family Planning and Sexual Health Association (BFPAHA) was established and started

working on reproduction and sexual health issues.

1992 Todor Zhivkov was sentenced to seven years in prison for corruption (conviction overturned by the

In document Changing cultural discourses about intimate life: the demands and actions of women’s movements and other movements for gender and sexual equality and change (Page 112-124)