Taking stock: the struggle continues!

The protest against the violence against women in Bulgaria will take place in less than five days, at Sofia’s Orlov Bridge and Varna’s Independence Square, on November 26th 2018, at 6pm. The result of dVERSIA and LevFem’s campaign in support of the protest so far, can be summarised as follows:

After the publication of our International Call for Solidarity, we received countless letters from all over the world, expressing their unequivocal support for the struggle of women in Bulgaria. Parallel protests at Bulgarian Embassies in other cities such as Bucharest, Prague, Berlin, Canterbury and London have also been organised. In the past few days we published eight articles to dVERSIA’s website (in Bulgarian language), expressing support for the protest and articulating various reasons for this. As has become increasingly evident, the issue is complex and concerns almost every aspect of our everyday lives, from outright violence, through widespread, largely unchallenged gender inequality, to the subtle, yet unbearable social pressure which women are continuously subjected to. Further publications in Bulgarian are currently being planned. Such in English are most certainly welcomed, so please send us your texts and solidarity messages at levfembg(@)gmail.com.

After the recent parliamentary debate on the proposed changes to the Penal Code we remain firmly convinced that it is the streets we need to take our struggle to. Struggle against violence, structural and direct, that anchors us to the limited social roles allocated to women by the patriarchal society – roles that are still somehow considered natural, and given a biological justification.

We are aware that our fight will not end on November 26th, but will continue to inform everything we say or do. That said, on Monday we will have the unique opportunity to show unity and our collective resolve to fight back against the social and physical violence against women, and the fascist political climate enforced by our political ‘elites’ that enables and amplifies it.

We stand behind the demands formulated by the Bulgarian Fund for Women, but would also like to add that we want the removal of private interests from any of the social services that we, as a society, depend on. That is to say, we are against their subordination to market logic and economic ‘profitability’.

 

  1. We demand an increase in social aid in support of maternity, parenthood, child care and pensions. The latter is particularly relevant to women, as they are the ones disproportionately reaching and living through retirement age; therefore any pension cuts affect their social position negatively.

 

  1. We demand a withdrawal of the proposal by the Bulgarian Industrial Association to curtail annual leave accumulation during periods of maternity leave.

 

  1. We demand a stop to the demonisation of the Roma community, which condemns them to a social and economic exclusion. This affects Roma women in particular, via, for example, the unscrupulous discourse of and defamatory speculation with the notion of the ‘young Roma mother and her many children’, systematically used to not only incite ethnic hatred, but also in support of the reduction of social aid for everyone. The impact of this on women of any ethnicity can be devastating, as their maternity benefits are cut by using such racist arguments. Cuts in social spending are in the interest only of the business, which doesn’t want to assume any social responsibility and thus fuels and produces intra-ethnic hatred through its political representatives.

 

  1. We demand an end to the malpractice by many employers of not paying social security contributions as calculated on the basis of real wages, and exercising all kinds of pressure on their workers. This affects all working and non-working people in Bulgaria, depriving them of the very principle of solidarity enshrined in our social system. At the same time, these abuses have a double impact on women and their families, as the amount of maternity and pension benefits is directly influenced by the base salary the worker is insured on.

 

  1. We demand a decent pay for women in every labour sector. This is particularly important for the sectors where most workers are women, which have traditionally been underpaid.

 

  1. We demand access to more hospitals throughout the country, to schools, to municipal nurseries, kindergartens and children’s kitchens, which would have to go hand in hand with an increase in the state subsidies for these institutions. They must be of high-quality, well publicised and accessible to absolutely everyone.

 

  1. We demand that the definition of paternal care is expanded beyond simple gender divisions to reframe the responsibility for childcare as one of society as a whole, and not just of women.

 

  1. We demand a reduction of VAT on baby food, basic medicines and other essential necessities. This should lead to a re-examination of our whole system of taxation, which has produced the high level of inequality from which women suffer the most.

 

All of the above are integral contributors to the economic violence against women and indirectly – to physical violence. A woman who is economically subordinated is more dependent on her partner; in cases of domestic violence it makes it much more difficult for her to leave, for fear of not being able to provide for her subsistence. A weakened social system also means less funds for shelters and support centres for women who have been subjected to domestic violence. The list could, of course, go on forever, and no amount of tedious jabber about ‘traditional family values’ or incitement of racism would make the scale of the problem any less glaring. And yet, the international support we received, as well as the multiple angry, eloquent voices from inside Bulgaria that united in solidarity with the feminist movement, make us confident that we can prevail over fear and violence, here and now.

Solidarity with all women in Bulgaria and across the world in their fights for social justice and equality!

 

Related English language publications:

#YouAreNotAlone: Call for international solidarity with Bulgarian women

Solidarity messages sent to ~levfem