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Victory for the LGBTI+ people in Bulgaria

Victory for the LGBTI+ people in Bulgaria

At today’s sitting, 28 July 2023, the Parliament passed a law amending the Penal Code, which provides for heavier penalties for crimes committed with the motive of the victim’s sexual orientation.

Among the crimes that will be more severely punished are:

  1. Murder (art. 116, para. 1, item 11)
  2. Bodily injury (art. 131, para. 1, item 12)
  3. Kidnapping (art. 142, para. 2, item 9)
  4. Unlawful deprivation of liberty (Art. 142a(3)(3))
  5. Preaching or incitement to discrimination, violence or hatred through the mass media (Art. 162(1))
  6. Use of violence against another or damage to his property (art. 162, para. 2)
  7. Participation in a mob assembled to attack groups of the population, individual citizens or their property (art. 163, para. 1)
  8. Knowingly preventing someone from entering employment or forcing someone to leave employment (art. 172, para. 1)
  9. Unlawful destruction of another’s movable or immovable property (art. 216, para. 5, item 4)
  10. Apparent incitement to commit a crime by preaching to a multitude of people through dissemination of printed works or in any similar manner (art. 320, para. 3).

This is the first significant legislative change in flavor of LGBTI+ people in Bulgaria since the adoption of the Protection from Discrimination Act in 2004. Apart from this, since the fall of the communist regime, virtually the only other changes have been the equalization of the age of consent in 2002 and the addition of ‘sex change‘ to the protected characteristics in the LGBTI Act in 2015.

The addition of sexual orientation as a protected characteristic in the Criminal Code became possible after many years of work and public pressure from LGBTI organizations in Bulgaria, international and European institutions and many activists and public figures. Sofia Pride has been pushing for this change since its first edition in 2008 – the year in which the student Mihail Stoyanov was murdered in Borisova Gradina Park with openly homophobic motives. This is the most tragic case of a hate crime based on alleged sexual orientation. Its investigation and sentencing would have been different under the changes adopted today. There would have been a more effective investigation into the beating of Galya Petkova in Sofia in 2019, the attack and destruction of property at Rainbow Hub in 2011, and the attack and disruption of screenings of the film Closer in Sofia and Varna.

For the first time, there was a proposal in the previous parliament this year for heavier penalties for murder and grievous bodily harm motivated by sexual orientation. Back then, the Ministry of Justice, as well as a group of PP and DB MPs, were the proposers, but time and political will were not enough to pass them. In contrast, today’s amendments include many more crimes and were adopted with the votes of PP-DB, GERB and DPS. This was made possible after the intensive work and numerous meetings that the organizations GLAS, BHC, Deystvie and Bilitis held with the representatives of these political parties. The work with them will continue in order to implement the other strategic goals of the LGBTI movement in Bulgaria.

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