In 2012, the Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women considered Jallow v. Bulgaria (C/52/D/32/2011). Isatou Jallow moved from the Gambia to Bulgaria after marrying A.P., a Bulgarian national. Once in Bulgaria, A.P. allegedly became abusive toward Jallow and subjected her to physical and psychological violence, including sexual abuse, and attempted to force her to take part in pornographic films and photographs. Even after social workers and police became involved, authorities took no measures to protect Jallow from further domestic violence and sexual abuse. In March 2009, prosecutors—without interviewing Jallow—refused to continue investigating the alleged domestic violence due to insufficient evidence. An order granting A.P. custody of the couple’s daughter was issued solely on the basis of A.P.’s statement and the Court did not consider Jallow’s allegations of domestic violence. In November 2010, Jallow submitted a communication to the Committee on behalf of her daughter and herself claiming that Bulgarian authorities failed to provide adequate protection against domestic violence and that the state’s actions relative to her situation amounted to gender-based discrimination.
The Committee concluded that Bulgaria had violated Articles 2(b)-2(f), 5(a), 16(1)(c), 16(1)(d) and 16(1)(f) of CEDAW, read in conjunction with Articles 1 and 3, when it failed to investigate allegations that A.P. had committed domestic violence against Jallow and her daughter. In the Committee’s view, these actions, together with the State’s failure to inform Jallow properly about her daughter’s whereabouts and her condition, violated Articles 2(b) and 2(c). The Committee determined that Bulgaria had also failed to protect Jallow’s rights to equality within marriage and as a parent, and to treat her daughter’s interests as paramount, in violation of Articles 5(a), 16(1)(c), 16(1)(d) and 16(1)(f). The Committee explained that Bulgaria’s actions were based on stereotypes concerning the roles of women and men within marriage, according to which men are perceived to be superior to women. The authorities’ reliance on these stereotypes caused them to act on the statements and actions of A.P. and to disregard Jallow’s allegations of violence. It also meant that they ignored Jallow’s vulnerable position and disregarded evidence concerning the disproportionate impact of domestic violence on women. The Committee urged Bulgaria to compensate Jallow and her daughter for violating their rights under CEDAW.It also recommended that the State Party adopt measures to ensure that women victims/survivors of domestic violence, including migrant women, have effective access to justice and other services (e.g., translation services). It also called on Bulgaria to provide regular training on CEDAW and the Optional Protocol and to adopt legislative and other measures to ensure that domestic violence is taken into account in the determination of custody and visitation rights of children.