Gender Equality Policy
Gender Equality represents an important element of democracy and prerequisite for complete exercising of human rights. Equality is of key importance for attainment of social justice and drawing closer together, sustainable, intelligent, and affiliated economic growth. It touches upon all fields of life, thus the integration of the gender equality principle in all policies is a requisite condition and guarantee for good management and progress of society.
Republic of Bulgaria carries out a consistent policy of gender equality, coordinated in line with the national specifics and undertakings assumed under international agreements, in which Bulgaria is a party, including in the capacity as EU Member State.
The strategic objective of the policy pertains to the promotion of gender equality, prevention and elimination of gender based discrimination. The policy of gender equality is based on the principles of equal opportunities of women and men in all spheres of public, economic, and political life; equal access for women and men to resources; equal treatment of women and men and disallowing of gender based discrimination and violence; balanced representation of women and men in decision making bodies.
The legal guarantees for equality and equal treatment of women and men are contained in the currently effective Bulgarian legislation – the Constitution of Republic of Bulgaria, the Labour Code, the Social Security Code, the Discrimination Protection Act, the Social Assistance Act, the Employment Stimulation Act, the Domestic Violence Protection Act, the State Employee Act, and a number of other special and sector laws.
The gender equality policy is horizontal and unites the actions of the executive at all levels. This policy is conducted via combined implementation of integrated (mainstreaming) approach and temporary stimulation (targeted) measures, requiring an effective national institutional mechanism.
Since the year 2000 the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy (MLSP) organizes and coordinates at national level the implementation of the state policy of the Republic of Bulgaria in the field of gender equality (CMD No 155 dated 2000, promulgated SG, Issue 65 dated 2000), in cooperation with a number of institutions and organizations. Since the year 2004 a specialized unit was set up in the MLSP. Currently this is the “Equal Opportunities, Antidiscrimination and Social Assistance Benefits” Department(EOASAB) with the Directorate “Policy for Persons with Disabilities, Equal Opportunities, and Social Assistance Benefits” (PPDEOSAB). The Department is also the Secretariat of the National Gender Equality Council with the Council of Ministers.
In 2004 the foundations were laid of the national coordination structure at the highest level of the executive by the creation of the National Council on Gender Equality with the Council of Ministers (CMD No 313 dated 17.11.2004, promulgated SG, Issue 104 dated 26.11.2004). The Council is a permanently acting body for implementation of consultations and coordination between the bodies of the executive authority and the NGOs during the development and conduction of the national policy on gender equality. The Minister of labour and social policy chairs the Council. The Council’s members include deputy-ministers from all ministries, agency heads, Commission for Protection against Discrimination, Council for Electronic Media, National Statistical Institute, National Social Security Institute, and associated members – social partners, scientific community, National Association of Municipalities in Republic of Bulgaria, NGOs, and workers in this field. The Ombudsman possesses observer status. Experts are invited at the Council’s sessions in line with the deliberated topics. During the years of its functioning, the National Council won recognition as a stable model of cooperation between institutions, social partners, and civil society. In 2014 the Regulations on the Council’s structure and organization of work were amended (CMD No 108 dated 10.05.2014, promulgated SG, Issue 42 dated 20.05.2014) in view of further development and consolidation of the national institutional mechanism on gender equality.
The coordinators on equality of women and men are part of this mechanism. Currently exerts are selected and trained in all institutions and organizations responsible for coordination of the policy for equality of women and men in the respective sector, keeping contact with the Secretariat of the National Council.
The efficient functioning of the national institutional mechanism represents a guarantee for the successful implementation of the integrated approach (i.e. similar respect of problems, needs, and opinions of women and men) during the development and conduction of all sector, regional, and local policies and execution of analysis and impact assessment prior to the adoption of resolutions. The integrated approach (i.e. gender mainstreaming) and application of temporary stimulation measures are mutually supporting strategies, leading to factual equality of women and men during the conduction of the uniform policy.
The national strategy for promotion of gender equality for the period 2009-2015 (adopted by the Council of Ministers on 10.12.2008) represents the principal strategic document of the conducted uniform policy for equality of women and men. The policy is directed towards provision of equal opportunities of women and men for complete and active participation in all fields of life and the disallowing of gender based discrimination. The national strategy corresponds to the similar European strategic documents.
The strategy is executed via the implementation of annual National action plans for stimulation of equality of women and men, adopted on part of the Council of Ministers. The annual planning marked its commencement in 2005. The plans contain specific measures of the competency of various institution and organizations in priority directions: state policy on gender equality; equal degree of economic independence; improved combination of professional, personal, and family life; stimulation of equal participation of women and men in the decision making process; dignity, sanctity of the individual, and prevention of gender based violence; elimination of gender based stereotypes and counteraction of multiple discrimination; popularization and application of good European practices. The results are presented in an annual Report on gender equality, recording the performance of specified measures and the progress of the conducted policy. The MLSP prepares the Report, summarizing the information provided on part of the involved institutions. The Council of Ministers approves the report.
A process of execution is also under way for an inter-institutional Action plan for implementation of concluding recommendations towards Bulgaria, directed on part of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), adopted by the Council of Ministers in 2013 (CMD No 438 dated 25.07.2013). The concluding recommendations dated July 27th, 2012 towards Republic of Bulgaria are in connection with the review of the consolidated IV-VII periodic report on Bulgaria (CEDAW/C/BGR/4-7), held on July 12th, 2012 in New York pertaining to the performance of obligations of Republic of Bulgaria on the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (in force for Bulgaria since 10.03.1982, promulgated SG, Issue 17 dated 02.03.2010). The recommendations are connected to the observation of rights of women and gender equality in various fields – education, employment, healthcare, economic and social support, participation in political and social life, violence, people trafficking, stereotype discrimination practices, temporary special measures, disadvantaged women, legal framework for equality, appeals submittal mechanism, national mechanism for attainment of progress by women, marriage and family relations, etc.
Involvement in the gender equality policy on the European level
The experts from the specialized unit of the MLSP provide standpoints during the process of development of correlative normative and strategic documents at the EU level – directives, strategies, conclusions of the Council, and provide information, replies to questionnaires, etc. They participate in the work of key topical bodies and structures (councils, committees, expert groups) in the field of equality of women and men, with the European Commission and the Council of Europe. This provides the possibility for popularization of the national policy on gender equality, current exchange of good practices and participation in the formulation of the policy on the European level.
Execution of topical projects
The national gender equality policy is also assisted by the implementation of projects, financed by the state budget, European and other sources. The MLSP, via Directorate PPDEOSAB, represents the contact point in the directions „Gender equality” and „Antidiscrimination” of the „Program for employment and social solidarity PROGRESS” 2007-2013 and with the objective „stimulation of equality between women and men and gender mainstreaming“ of the Program „Rights, equality, and citizenship” 2014-2020 of the European Commission.