Human rights campaigners are calling for the Bulgarian government to take ‘urgent’ action over homophobic and transphobic hate crime.
Amnesty International claim attacks on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Bulgaria are not properly investigated by police and an overhaul of the eastern European country’s legal system is needed to bring the perpetrators to justice.
In a briefing published today (28 June), the group revealed how authorities have failed to address the issue of crimes against the LGBT community because of ‘widespread and deeply entrenched’ prejudice.
Emily Gray, Amnesty International’s expert on sexual orientation and gender identity, said: ‘Dozens of LGBT people have been beaten, raped and in one case murdered because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
‘Most of these crimes have not been properly investigated and have gone unpunished.
‘The Bulgarian authorities are not only failing in their duty to unmask the homophobic or transphobic motive on which these crimes are perpetrated, but they are failing to bring the perpetrators to justice.’
Gray added that because of the lack of hate crime legislation on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in Bulgaria, motives for crimes are rarely sought or uncovered.
‘It is important to unearth the motives if the police are to develop effective strategies to reduce and prevent these crimes,’ she said.
‘Urgent measures are needed to counter prejudiced attitudes and pervasive homophobia and transphobia.
‘Adopting and implementing legislation covering and defining attacks targeting people on the basis of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity as hate crimes is an important first step.
‘The Bulgarian authorities must clearly state that attacks against people who are or are perceived to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender will not be tolerated and that such attacks will be thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators prosecuted.
‘What is really needed is for children in schools to be taught about difference and that difference is okay – that it does not matter whether someone is gay or not gay.’”¨
Hristina Stoyanova, the mother of medical student Mihail Stoyanova, who was beaten to death in Sofia in 2008 for being perceived as LGBT, has joined Amnesty in calling for greater tolerance in the country.
She said: ‘What is really needed is for children in schools to be taught about difference and that difference is okay – that it does not matter whether someone is gay or not gay.’
Amnesty’s report follows calls by an Orthodox priest in Bulgaria to throw stones at marchers in Sofia during the capital’s gay pride parade on 30 June.
Last year, marchers in the Sofia pride parade were brutally attacked and beaten in the street when walking home after the Parade. The first pride in 2008 was firebombed with Molotov cocktails by skinheads and members of an extreme right wing party.
This year, campaigners fear a planned ‘concert’ in the capital organized by far-right extremists before the pride parade will spark similar violent attacks on marchers and the LGBT community.
Organizers of the event and activists have called on the church and the government to stop the threat of violence.
And online gay rights campaign group AllOut has launched an international campaign, calling on Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova to revoke the permit for the ‘concert’.
‘Stoning, fire bombs, public beatings – the story of pride in Sofia, Bulgaria sounds like it’s from the middle ages not the 21st century,’ said Andre Banks, executive director of global AllOut.org
‘Mayor Yordanka Fandakova has a responsibility to protect the pride participants when there is real danger that extremists will exact horrific violence on her citizens, simply because the want to live openly and be embraced for who they are.
‘Giving an official permit to violent, anti-gay extremists on the same morning as pride is a recipe for disaster.’