Thousands of Bulgarians took to the streets to demand justice and protection for women who face violence from their partners, relatives or strangers.
The protests were sparked by a shocking case of an 18-year-old woman who was brutally assaulted by her ex-boyfriend in Stara Zagora. The woman suffered severe injuries that required 400 stitches, but the court ruled that the attacker was only guilty of inflicting a minor injury and released him. The case caused public outrage and raised questions about the effectiveness and impartiality of the judicial system and the social attitudes towards violence against women in Bulgaria.
According to the protesters, violence against women is a widespread and systemic problem in the country, which has one of the highest rates of femicide in Europe. According to the European Institute for Gender Equality, 30% of Bulgarian women have experienced physical or sexual violence from their partners or non-partners since the age of 15. However, only 14% of them reported it to the police, and only 1% received any kind of support. The protesters also pointed out that Bulgaria is one of the few EU countries that has not ratified the Istanbul Convention, a treaty that aims to prevent and combat violence against women and domestic violence.
The protesters demanded that the authorities take immediate and concrete actions to ensure the safety and dignity of women in Bulgaria. They called for a revision of the verdict in the Stara Zagora case, a reform of the judicial system, a change in the legislation to criminalize all forms of violence against women, and an increase in the funding and availability of shelters, hotlines and counseling services for victims. They also urged the society to change its mindset and culture of oppression and discrimination against women, and to show solidarity and support for those who suffer from violence.
The protests were organized by various civil society groups, feminist organizations and human rights activists, who vowed to continue their struggle until their demands are met. They also received messages of solidarity from other countries, such as Romania, Serbia, Greece and Turkey, where similar protests have taken place in recent years. The Bulgarian government has not yet responded to the protests or announced any measures to address the issue of violence against women.