In 2018, there was a heated campaign across Bulgaria’s public sphere against the ratification of the Council of Europe Convention for Prevention and Combating of Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (known as the Istanbul Convention). The campaign involved parliamentary political parties such as the nationalist United Patriots from the ruling coalition and opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party. Policy advisors, non-governmental organizations, religious and ultra-conservative groups, as well as media outlets further fuelled the agitation against the Convention.
This resulted in a dominant public opinion against the adoption of the document. Public debates were furious and based on widespread disinformation on the meaning of the word “gender”, a term that does not have an established equivalent in Bulgarian language. In the core of the agitation was a potent negative discourse towards gender and sexual minorities’ rights. Misogynist, homophobic and transphobic messages turned mainstream. Finally, the Bulgarian Constitutional Court ruled that the concepts “gender” and “gender identity” are irrelevant for the Bulgarian legal system and that the Convention is not compatible with the Constitution.
The internet played a key role in the stormy anti-gender backlash. Gender-phobic hate speech was largely generated on social media, mostly on Facebook, as well as on some popular news sites. This has had a double negative effect. First, it crucially amplified negative public attitudes against gender rights. And second, the proliferation of hateful rhetoric produced gender-based violence online in itself.
To read more on the article titled “After the Storm: How to restore policy dialogue and supportive discourse against gender-based violence online in Bulgaria” click here.