4 min.

Domestic violence can be prevented without conventions

Antonia Kyumyurdjieva |

Domestic violence can be prevented without conventions

Our Constitutional Court’s decision showed our ‘bosses’ in Europe that we got a spine, says prof. Plamen Kirov

Former Constitutional Court (CC) judge Plamen Kirov is a professor of constitutional law, a long-time lecturer and head of the constitutional-law science department with the Law Faculty of Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski. Currently, he is a member of the Commission for the Protection of Competition (CPC). He worked on many projects, participated in the working group that was created to prepare a new draft Bulgarian constitution.

Mr. Kirov, were you surprised by the CC declaration that the Istanbul Convention contradicts Bulgaria's Constitution?

From the early stages of this debate that was initiated back in January, I appealed to make all possible to put it into a framework, to avoid passionate discussion. Because I think that the debate, in most cases, was rather emotional than having rational intensity. First, we had to ask the CC and see if there are texts in the Convention that contradict our Constitution. By declaring its stand, the CC would have laid the way for all politicians to behave properly. The decision would have been subject to comments but would have had compulsory force. And if the CC accepted that there was in inconsistency with the Constitution, it would have bene obvious that the Convention could not be ratified, which did not happen anyway...

So, after the decision of the CC, the National Assembly is barred from ratifying the Convention, unless it decides to amend the Constitution itself?

The only thing parliament could do is to not ratify the Convention, unless it wishes to amend the Constitution. However, I believe that the 44th National Assembly does not have such brave members that would have the desire to change our basic law. So, there comes the other option – we do not ratify the Istanbul Convention.

This of course applies to parliament? But what about the issue with violence against women? How do we solve this problem?

Yes, CC's decision concerns parliament. Meanwhile, we must avoid creating the impression that we do not want to prevent domestic violence and accept it as something usual that must be accepted. It is not like this. We just need not turn it into a drama. The reasons for this can be sought, can be analysed but since we cannot ratify the Convention. This does not mean that we cannot accept and introduce its standards to achieve its goals. And we can manage it by introducing Convention principles in our domestic legislation. It can be achieved with politics that our government will enact. With our judiciary that will propose the respective legislation that will protect us against domestic violence... So, nothing dramatic has happened.
What are the most important arguments of the CC against the Istanbul Convention?

The key argument is the Istanbul Convention goes out of the definition of a biological sex and introduces the 'gender' term which is subject to contradicting definitions, and which, according to the Bulgarian translation should have been called a 'social sex'. Article 4, Paragraph 3 talks about the so-called gender identity. These two formulations contradict the definitions, stated in our Constitution, and not only the current one but also all the previous three constitutions that Bulgaria had...

Science does not have contradicting opinions on this matter. And our Constitution, our legislation and our entire legal system stand on this understanding that biologically and medically there two sexes. If another understanding is accepted by society, we first need to amend the Constitution...

Recently, justice minister Tsetska Tsacheva said that the ratification of the Istanbul convention is closely tied to our membership agreement with the European Union. Why is this document a key priority for some representatives of the European political elite?

The Council of Europe, although related to the European Union, is not EU itself. The Council of Europe is the first integration point in Europe that precedes the EU. And yes, all the issues that the Istanbul Convention deals with, are in the very foundation of human rights and freedoms. But we must not think that this endangers our position as a member of the EU. Often, when we want to force something on our community, we justify it with orders from our EU 'bosses'. But in this case, we showed we got spine and like other European states we declared that our constitutional identity comes first. The EU is a union of equal nation states and its structures must have this identity in mind...

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