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CEDAW Reviews: Bulgaria

17 Jul

As noted in previous blog posts, this year marks the 30th anniversary of the Committee of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).  But, as Mr. Stephan Tafrov, Ambassador to the Permanent Mission of Bulgaria to the UN, noted in his introductory remarks to the Committee, it also marks the 30th anniversary since Bulgaria ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (hereafter “Convention”).

Bulgaria briefed the Committee on the status of the Convention’s implementation in the country, noting that according to its national constitution, international treaties entered into by Bulgaria, and that are promulgated in accordance with the necessary procedures, become part of domestic law and prevail when a conflict of laws exists. In general, Bulgaria has made many efforts to implement the Convention since its last report in 1998 and has established many structures to ensure the protection of gender rights. Laws have been enacted to protect against discrimination, to promote equal treatment and equality for all, and to prevent domestic violence and trafficking in persons. Special measures have also been taken to protect the rights of Roma women, including a national strategy plan specifically on the elimination of discrimination against this minority group

The discussion with Committee members focused on a wide range of issues, but particularly noteworthy was the discussion on the status of the Convention, use of stereotypes, and women’s participation in diplomacy.  Regarding status of the Convention, the Committee recommended that while the original 1979 text of the Convention, is important, the general recommendations that have been enacted throughout the years are also significant.

The traditional role of women in Bulgarian society and the issue of stereotypes, in particular women as familial caretakers, were discussed.  The Committee focused on the need to address the root causes of discrimination that frame such stereotypes. Bulgaria has undertaken efforts to survey stereotypes in education programs, reviewing textbooks and teaching materials to ensure that advancements on gender equality are highlighted in such educational materials.  

Lastly, on women’s participation in diplomacy, the Committee examined the need to ensure that any obstacles faced by women in accessing such diplomatic posts, as well as obstacles in ensuring equal access and opportunities, be identified and addressed. Bulgaria noted women’s representation in the current Parliament and ruling party. Nevertheless, the Bulgarian delegation also acknowledged the need for improvement in increasing women’s role in diplomacy.      

Overall, Committee members, especially those from Romania, Slovenia, and Croatia, were particularly vocal on these issues. It was particularly interesting to see the insistence on pursuing these issues, especially as responses were not necessarily always on the points raised. Nevertheless, the Bulgarian case study shows once more the determination of the Committee to get answers to its questions as well as to highlight areas where more progress is needed, not only as it pertains to enacted legislation but also to its implementation.   

–          Melina Lito