Bulgaria: The Term "Intimate Relationship" enters Legislation - Changes to the Law on Protection from Domestic Violence

Politics | August 7, 2023, Monday // 14:01|  views

With 144 votes "in favor", the Bulgarian parliament adopted the amendments to the Law on Protection from Domestic Violence in the first reading. With them, "intimate relationship" is equated to marital partnership and cohabitation without marriage, and victims receive the same opportunities for protection.

The bill was supported by three parliamentary groups - GERB-SDS, WCC-DB and DPS. 58 deputies from BSP, "Vazrazhdane" and the independent Radostin Vassilev voted "against", and 8 from "There Is Such a People" abstained.

The proposal of the former Minister of Justice and current deputy from WCC-DB Nadezhda Yordanova that the changes be voted on today in the second reading, led to a new wave of accusations from the opposition.

What does the term mean?

After the case of 18-year-old Debora from Stara Zagora, the deputies gathered in an extraordinary session to vote on changes to the Law on Protection from Domestic Violence and the Criminal Code. The proposal of GERB-SDS, PP-DB and DPS to include people who are in an intimate relationship within the scope of the Law on Protection from Domestic Violence caused wide debates, both during the meeting of the legal commission and during today's plenary session.

Both de facto cohabitation and intimate relationship are expected to be preserved in the second reading of the law on domestic violence. It will be added to the definition of an intimate relationship that it is a relationship lasting at least 60 days.

At first reading, the definition of an intimate relationship reads: "a voluntary relatively permanent union between two persons, which arises and exists as a de facto state, without the need for compliance with a legally regulated procedure and regardless of whether the persons share a household, the leading element of which is strictly personal in nature of their relationship".

According to Tsvetan Predov from TISP, the term intimate relationship should not be entered at all, because "it implies a lot of abuse, settling political and personal accounts, regardless of whether they are parental or the child-parent relationship".

Andrey Chorbanov from TISP asked for clarification of the definition of "intimate relationship".

"If a relationship is only sexual, is it intimate, or if it is only platonic, does it imply relative stability," Chorbanov asked.

Georgi Svilenski joined the people's representatives from TISP and asked the petitioners to explain what an intimate relationship is.

Nadezhda Yordanova from WCC-DB explained the motives of the petitioners who aim to expand the protection provided by the Law on Protection from Domestic Violence. She clarified that in the second reading the de facto conjugal cohabitation will be preserved and the intimate relationship will be added, the definition of which will be corrected as follows: "an intimate relationship is a set of voluntary and permanent personal, intimate and sexual relations between two persons, regardless of whether they share a household and the origin, content and termination of which are not subject to legal regulation by another law. Permanent, in the sense of the previous sentence, are relationships lasting at least 60 days".

The proposal for a new definition to be considered at second reading has also drawn criticism.

"It turns out that a minimum of 60 days will be accepted for what you consider to be a lasting intimate relationship. Firstly, who will count those days, and secondly, if 30 days have passed, what will these partners do? I don't think such legislation will be useful for the Bulgarian society", said Ivan Chenchev from BSP, expressing the opinion that attention should be paid to the educational system and the educational environment in the family, and Andrey Chorbanov TISP asked when the 60 days start - "from the first meeting or from the first sexual contact".

Nadezhda Yordanova clarified that the Civil Code is the law that offers protection and the changes in it will not change the Criminal Code.

"Colleagues, do not confuse the two laws. I understand that setting a time limit raises questions, but it is necessary, since the relative permanence was not accepted," said Yordanova.

The co-chairman of WCC-DB Kiril Petkov also commented on the changes, intervening in the case of Debora from Stara Zagora.

"Debora was in just such an intimate relationship. She was not married to the abuser, nor in a de facto relationship with him. When she received the first threats, if today's changes were a fact, she could have received protection. Today's debate shows how simplistic and limited this problem is being thought about in this room, because of this we will insist that there be no more," said Kiril Petkov.

However, the majority in the National Assembly decided to vote today and on the second reading of the adopted changes in the Law on Protection from Domestic Violence. 144 deputies voted in support, and 65 were against.

This time the opposition was united - "against" the proposal for a final vote on the draft law, but the 144 votes "for" of the governing non-coalition partners from GERB-SDS, WCC-DB and DPS, exceeded the 65 votes of the opposition from "Vazrazhdane", BSP and "There Is Such a People".

The opposition did not accept Nadezhda Yordanova's arguments for a second vote on the amendments to the Law on Protection from Domestic Violence in this meeting, which she formulated as follows:

"My arguments for this are as follows: First, I consider that there are exceptional circumstances - as required by Regulation 77, Paragraph 2, in view of the purpose of the law and the public relations which are regulated, and unfortunately, the data which point to rising cases of domestic violence".

The objections presented by Borislav Gutsanov from BSP:

"There is no urgency and you know it very well. Because the outrages you are doing something that really goes beyond all limits. The fact that you have the necessary 160 votes does not give you any right to rape the people's representative in the way you do it you do. And the sooner this intimate coalition ceases to exist, the better for the Bulgarian citizens".

Tensions escalated. His fellow party member Georgi Svilenski threatened to appeal to the Constitutional Court, and Kristian Vigenin explained why - because the rules are violated when there are proposals made in the text of the law before the second reading. He requested a recess and an urgent convening of the Law Commission of the National Assembly so that the law could be reviewed and a report submitted to the Commission.

The leader of "Vazrazhdane" Kostadin Kostadinov also said that the rules were violated, pointing out that parliamentary groups made a request to introduce proposals between the first and second reading and accused the rulers of taking away the floor of the opposition, suspending the Constitution and in practice - mini -coup d'état: "What you are doing right now is taking away the right to vote and legislative initiative".

BSP MPs occupied the parliamentary rostrum and did not allow the speeches to continue. Rositsa Kirova, chairing the meeting, adjourned.

"There Is Such a People" announced that they will make a separate legislative initiative for changes to the Law on Protection from Domestic Violence in September.

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Tags: intimate relationship, Law, BSP, Vazrazhdane


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