Single People and Solo Living

In document Policy contexts and responses to changes in intimate life (Page 112-122)

1. Bulgaria (Mariya Stoilova)

1.9. Single People and Solo Living

1.9.1. Is there any public/ policy debate about the rise in solo living?


It is very difficult to translate the phrases ‘single people’ and ‘solo living’ into Bulgarian, without loosing the original meaning. ‘Single’ as a civil status category is referred to as ‘not married’ [неженен/а], and in the cases when it relates to relationship status the word that is used is ‘сам’, ‘самотен’ that corresponds to ‘lonely’ in English. In this second sense, ‘lonely [single] people’ is very often used to describe old people or single parents, not the young single people who are ‘not married’ but not ‘lonely’. There is another word that could be used for the translation of single – ‘необвързан’ but its direct translation into English is ‘uncommitted’ or ‘unattached’.

Following from the meaning of the terms described above, there are two types of debates– the rise in the number of people who do not get married and the rise in the proportion of old people who are single. There are policy initiatives targeting both groups. Single young people are encouraged to have children mostly through benefits, such as those described in the section on Parenting and Reproduction. Single parenting is another topic of public attention here. The policy initiatives targeted at old single people include: the National Program for Personal Assistant where people in need of care can have a personal assistant; Social Refectories providing warm meals for the so-called ‘groups in unequal position’, like old people, single mothers, the disabled, and the homeless. Another initiative is the registering of old people who are single or in poor health done by the National Fire Brigade aimed at increasing the efficiency of the service in events of fire (Standart, 23.10.2003).

Solo living in the sense of people who decide to live alone is rarely discussed. In spite of this data from the Census shows that there is rise in solo living (one-person households) but a decline in the proportion of non-married people.

Information about single-person households is not divided into gender, age, occupation and therefore it is difficult to say to what extent these changes are due to the increase of the elderly as proportion of the population and/ or younger people living alone.

1.9.2. Is there any social/ public housing provision for single people? Are there any social security benefits for single/ solo living people?

Housing provision does not depend on relationship status but on the housing conditions under which a person lives. Single people can have priority for state housing if they have lived ‘under hard living conditions for longer’ than other people in similar situation. However, according to the Regulations on the Implementation of the Law on Municipal Property families with two or more children or parents with underage children have priority for state housing.

There are numerous social security benefits that are available to single/ solo living people, and some of them are targeted at such individuals (for example, the elderly, disabled, orphans or single parents) but there are no benefits that are specifically aimed at single people or solo livers as such. Those entitled to social benefits are: individuals, families, or cohabiting Bulgarian citizens who are not able to take care of themselves alone or with the help of people obliged by law to care for them for the following reasons: health, age, social reasons, other reasons that do not depend on the individual (Regulations for the Implementation of the Social Security Law).

There are monthly social benefits for very poor people and one of the requirements is that the residence of the solo living person is not bigger than 1 room (kitchens are not counted as rooms, but living rooms are), or that the person did not travel abroad at their own expenses during the last 12 months unless for health treatment or bereavement (Sofia Social Security Office, no date).

There are sole-purpose benefits for heating/ electricity and for paying rent available to people with lower incomes. The benefit for paying rent is available only for people living in state housing, who are solo living (‘lonely’) and older than 70 years; orphans not older than 25 years; single (‘lonely’) parents; solo living (‘lonely’) people with 1st or 2nd group disability (Sofia Social Security Office).

1.10. (Trans)gender Recognition

1.10.1. What is the legal situation regarding trans people? Is there provision to register a person’s “new gender”, for instance, by changing birth certificates and passports? What is required (i.e. surgery?) to achieve recognition of “new gender”?

The circumstance of trans people are not legally defined in Bulgaria, which also means that it has never been illegal. The first sex-reassignment surgery was done in 1993 to a 28-year old male-to-female trans person (Show, 01.06.2006). There were no legal

obstacles to the operation and the court procedures for change of name, Personal Number and Birth Certificate followed the surgery. This is one of the possible ways; the second one is to go through a court procedure first, and than to have an operation.

The legal regulation of registering someone’s ‘new gender’ is based on the provisions of the Civil Registration Code (SG 67/27.07.1999, last amendment SG 96/29.10.2004), which are not purposefully implemented to regulate transgender cases, but are broad enough to include these cases. According to the Code the conditions for changing one’s name are: ‘if the name is mocking, disgraceful or socially unacceptable, or in the cases when important circumstances require this’ (Art.19). The important circumstances are not legally defined but the practice shows that transgender status is considered an important circumstance by the court. There are no legal obstacles to changing one’s name as recognition of the ‘new’ gender, but the fact that the procedure is not explicitly mentioned makes the process unclear. At the same time the Law for Bulgarian Identification Documents (SG 93/11.08.1998, last amendment SG 29/06.04.2007) explicitly mentions the case of a person changing his/her sex: the person has to apply for new ID within 30 days (Art. 9). The procedure for changing a name includes a court case on the basis of a written request from the interested person.

1.10.2. What body/ institution has the authority to deal with transgender issues?

The main institutions dealing with transgender issues are the Regional Court and the Civil Status Office of the municipality. The prosecutor’s office is informed of the case as well. A report of the LGBT Health Project (2006) presents a case study demonstrating all the stages of the procedure. According to that case, the plaintiff filed a statement of claim to the Regional court to be allowed to change his name and personal data. The petition was for recognition that in spite of being psychologically healthy, he had a disturbed sexual identity and gender identity belonging to the other sex and that the person would like the court to allow the necessary changes in his civil registration, sex and name.

This is a civil procedure and all types of evidence allowed by the civil procedure code can be presented. As evidence the plaintiff provided medical records with the diagnosis ‘transsexual status’, witness testimonies, and written evidence such as birth certificate, and a certificate showing no previous conviction. The court appoints sexual and

psychological experts. The first one is to certify if the plaintiff has a discrepancy between his gender identity and his sex, and the second – the determination, free will,

understanding of the sex-reassignment procedure, and if there are any symptoms of psychological disorder. The conclusions from the experts were that there are no

psychological disorders but there is isolated disturbance of the sexual identity only and that the person is able of understanding the meaning of the procedure and is responsible for his/her own actions. Based on these conclusions the court found the sex-reassignment surgery necessary and as a consequence of this allowed the change of the civil status and names of the plaintiff.

The procedure is complicated and because there is no regulation there have been different court decisions. For example, a female-to-male transgender person (who had not

undergone surgery) wanted the Sofia Regional Court to allow her to change her name and birth certificate, but did not get permission. There were no court proceedings because the court found the case unacceptable with the argument that prior to the surgery she would

still have the body of a woman and documents of a man and would be able to marry another woman who would be misled about her sex due to the male ID documents. According to the court the woman had to undergo surgery before making a claim statement for change of name and documents (‘Sega’, 27.09.2006).

Although there are no legal requirements, it seems that surgery can contribute to the positive outcome of the court case, and that the process is much more difficult if the person had not gone through sex-reassignment. Changes of name and ID number have become more difficult recently and there is more stigma attached to it, according to Daniela Mihajlova (2006), Legal Director of the Roma NGO ‘Romani Bach’. She argues that the Ministry of Interior has publicly announced its position against the court

decisions allowing such changes because they help conceal a criminal past from the Bulgarian and international authorities that cannot keep their records in order. Mihajlova argues further that the Ministry receives wide public support for this and as a result the Bulgarian judicial institution began to reject more of the claim statements.

There was a wide public debate on the issue in 2005 after Bojko Borissov, then General Secretary of Ministry of Interior and now Mayor of Sofia for second mandate, announced that there were 46 cases of people with a criminal past who have changed their names and ID numbers which makes their monitoring more difficult (Mediapol, 2005).


It is important to point out that the circumstances that create association of trans people with criminals in public opinion. The cases when names are changed due to sex

reassignment are rarely mentioned, and even if they are it is not clearly explained that the motives of trans people are different and far from criminal. Therefore the gaps in the functioning of the law effect the rights of trans people who have no other option but to go through the court procedure. This demonstrates the necessity for creating legislation and practice specific to the needs of trans people. This will make the procedure clearer, more transparent and accessible for people who want their ‘new’ gender to be recognised. There will be clear recognition that the motives of trans people are not criminal, and the outcomes of the court (or other) procedures will be more certain.

1.10.3. Is there anti-discrimination legislation regarding trans people?

The anti-discrimination legislation refers only to ‘sex’ and ‘sexual orientation’, there is no reference to ‘gender’, ‘gender identity’, ‘trans-sexuality’, ‘inter-sexuality’ or other terms that might be used to refer to the rights of trans or intersex people. The protection of their rights, therefore, can be seen only in the general provisions, or those referring to sex and sexuality, which may or may not be relevant/ useful.

1.10.4. Does the health service provide gender reassignment surgery? Is it free? How is it accessed?

The National Health Insurance Fund 11 does not pay for gender reassignment surgeries. The Regulation N40/24.11.2004 for Defining the Main Package of Health Services Covered by the Budget of the National Health Insurance Fund provides a list of all

11 The National Health Insurance Fund [НационалнаЗдравноосигурителнаКаса] was founded in 1999 as

an independent public institution separated from the structure of the social healthcare system and has its own bodies of management. NHIF carries out the obligatory health insurance in the country.

( [accessed 19.02.2008]

procedures covered by the health insurance of the patients and none of the plastic reconstruction and aesthetic surgeries are included.

There is no fixed procedure of gender reassignment and no institution or helpdesk to provide information about how this service can be accessed. It depends on the individual to find a clinic carrying out such operations, relying on personal contacts, or by looking at websites of clinics, discussion forums, web pages of LGBT organisations. After doing the same I found that the possibilities are not many – there is only one state hospital and several private clinics offering gender reassignment surgery. There are quite a few plastic reconstruction and aesthetic surgery clinics that do not mention gender reassignment surgery on their websites but there is possibility that the procedure is available.

1.10.5. Is there a law regulating the act of naming? To what extent are names gendered? Are there restrictions to the names

accessible to transgender people based on gender specificities?

The Civil Registration Act (SG 67/ 27.07.1999, last amendment 2006) regulates naming. According to this the first name of every person is chosen and announced in writing by the parents before the civil servant when the Birth Certificate is issued. If there is no agreement between the parents the civil servant chooses the most appropriate one. According to the same law, Article 4, in the cases when the name is ‘mocking, disgraceful, socially unacceptable or inconsistent with the national dignity of the Bulgarian nation’ the official has the right to refuse to write the name on the Birth Certificate and may choose a name that is appropriate. Almost all first names are gendered, there are very few that can be used by both men and women. Although there are no legal requirements or restrictions on first names, besides those mentioned in Art.4, it is quite likely that the civil servant will refuse (and has the legal right to do so) to accept a female name to be given to a boy and the other way around, for example with the argument that this is socially unacceptable.

The second name formed from the name of the father with ending of –ov or –ev for boys and –ova or –eva for girls, unless the name of the father does not allow the use of the suffixes or if the family, ethnic or religious tradition of the person require something else (Article 13). The family name is formed according to the same principles, with one more option, to be formed from the name of the father’s father first name. If only the mother of the child is known the second and last name of the child is formed after the name of the mother, or her father (last name).

Changing name

Bulgarian names consist of 3 parts (Civil Registration Act, SG 67/ 27.07.1999, last amendment 2006):

• ‘Own name’: chosen by the parents of the baby; it usually consists of one name (for example, Anna, or Joan) but can sometimes consist of two or more (Anna- Maria or Joan-Asen)

• ‘Father’s name’: formed form the first name of the father with suffix

corresponding to the gender of the child. If the parents want the ‘father’s name’ can be formed after the ‘own name’ of the grandfather (father’s side). In the cases when the father is not known the ‘father’s name’ is formed from the ‘own name’ of the mother in the same way. If the parents are not married, the father has to register himself as the biological father of the baby. This process is called

‘recognition’ [припознаване] and only after it can the child be given the names of his/her father (‘father’s name’ and ‘family name’).

• ‘Family name’: this is usually the family name of the father. If the parents want the ‘family name’ can be formed after the ‘own name’ of the grandfather (father’s side). In the cases when the father is unknown, or has not ‘recognised’ the child if he is not married to the mother, the ‘family name’ is the mother’s last name. There are several occasions when names can be changed: marriage/divorce; adoption; when a person is widely known with a pseudonym; when the name is mocking or

disgraceful; in cases when important circumstances require changes in the names, for example trans people.

Upon marriage every spouse can choose to keep her/his family name, to start using the family name of the other spouse, or to add it. The spouses need to declare what name they will choose when they register for marriage. Heterosexual and same-sex couples,

however, do not have the opportunity to change their name and to use the family name of their partner.

The ‘own name’ of an adopted child can be changed by the court upon the request of the adopting parents. The ‘family name’ and the ‘father’s name’ are changed automatically to match these of the adopting parents and a new birth certificate is issued. In this way the child’s second and third names are formed from the ‘own’ and ‘family’ names of the adopter. When a person is widely know with a pseudonym she/he can add it to their name with the approval of the court. As it was mentioned earlier in the report, the change of personal, father, or family names of a trans person can be changed if the court decides that there are important circumstances requiring the change. This is the only possible form of legal recognition of ‘new’ gender.

In document Policy contexts and responses to changes in intimate life (Page 112-122)