2. The applicants were represented by Mr S.S. Marinov, manager of Civil Association Regional Future, Vidin. The Italian Government were represented initially by their Co-Agent, Mr N. Lettieri, and subsequently by their Co-Agent, Ms P. Accardo. The Bulgarian Government were represented initially by their Agent, Ms N. Nikolova, and subsequently by their Agent, Ms M. Dimova.
3. The applicants alleged, in particular, that there had been a violation of Article 3 in respect of the lack of adequate steps to prevent the first applicant’s ill-treatment by a Serbian family by securing her swift release and the lack of an effective investigation into that alleged ill-treatment.
The Team of the Gender Alternatives Foundation (www.genderalternatives.org) works on pro-active research, education, legal and psycho-social counseling, campaigning and lobbying for legislative changes in the field of gender equality and women's rights. Violence against women and socio-economic rights of women make the main focus of its activities. Given the focus of its work and following its mission to achieve a balanced civil society in the Republic of Bulgaria, ensuring equal chances and equal representation of women and men and of different ethnic groups, in the public and private spheres, the Team prepared a Shadow report for the 52nd CEDAW Committee session in July 2012. The Team aims at using the report as a tool for holding the Government accountable for the implementation of the CEDAW as well as a tool for advancing women‟s human rights in the country.
The report covers six of the areas of concern outlined in the CEDAW Committee List of Issues and Questions1, namely: 1. Legal status of the Convention and legislative and institutional framework; 2. Traditional stereotypes; 3. Violence against women; 4. Education; 5. Health; 6. Disadvantaged groups of women. The report also provides a list of recommendations to be taken into account by the CEDAW Committee for the Concluding observations.
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.
The author of the complaint, VK, alleged that she had been a persistent victim of domestic abuse at the hands of her husband, and petitioned the Bulgarian courts to issue a protection order against him. VK was issued an interim order, but at the full hearing, the court refused to make a permanent order in accordance with its interpretation of national law on the basis that no domestic violence had taken place in the month prior to the initial hearing. The ruling was upheld on appeal. VK specifically alleged that the State had neglected its positive obligation under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women to protect her from domestic violence, and that it had not acted to ensure the necessary protection to avoid irreparable damage to her and her two children.
In 2011, the Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women considered V.P.P v. Bulgaria (C/53/D/31/2011). V.P.P., a minor, was sexually assaulted by B.G., an adult man who lived in a neighbouring apartment building. Bulgarian authorities waited two years before indicting B.G. for “sexual molestation of a minor”. The District Court approved a plea bargain agreement that B.G. receive a three-year suspended sentence for pleading guilty. B.G. continued to live next door to V.P.P. following the assault and no action was taken to ensure the ongoing safety of V.P.P.
The District Court rejected a request to file a civil claim for moral damages and a separate successful tort suit for 15,000 euros could not be executed with the mechanisms available under Bulgarian law.
S.V.P. submitted a communication under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Optional Protocol) on behalf of her daughter claiming that Bulgaria had violated articles 1, 2(a)-2(c), 2(e)-2(g), 3, 5, 12 and 15 of CEDAW. She claimed that Bulgaria had failed to:
act with due diligence to protect V.P.P. against sexual assault;
provide an effective remedy and address the health, rehabilitative and other needs of V.P.P.;
provide V.P.P. ongoing protection from B.G.; and
introduce specific legal and policy measures and health services to address violence against women and girls.
S.V.P. also claimed that Bulgaria’s response to her daughter’s assault reflected gender stereotypes related to violence against women and girls.