Gender-based violence is a problem invariably linked to the lack of equality between men and women, and most often to the economic dependency of partners in a relationship that can very often be the cause of violence and abuse. On April 26, 2016, Bulgaria adopted the Gender Equality Law, which aims to guarantee equal opportunities for both sexes. What did the country achieve 4 years later and what else is needed to achieve for a golden environment?

The easiest way to answer these questions is through the Gender Equality Index of the European Institute for Gender Equality. In 2015, before the adoption of the Law on Equality between Women and Men, Bulgaria is making progress and moving 4 positions ahead of the previous issue in 2012, with a result of 38.5%. For comparison, in 2019 the country is already registering a major improvement with an index of 58.8%. This result, although higher, still remains below the EU average score.

What does that mean?

One of the main priorities of the National Strategy for Promoting Equality between Women and Men in Bulgaria 2016-2020 is increasing the participation of women in the labor market and equal degree of economic independence. At the beginning of the period, women continued to make up a large proportion of the workforce in low-paid sectors and were poorly represented in decision-making positions.1

The employment rate for women aged 15 and over 15 is much lower than for men, and in 2018 the employment rate for women (46.9%) is 11.5 percentage points lower than the one for men (58.4% ).2

In the same year, about 61% of the employees in the first qualification group "Managers" were men, in the "Specialists" group women predominated - 65.4%.3 We can say that in recent years the tendency for this percentage difference is to decrease and more and more women occupy leading positions.

A key priority area of ​​the Strategy is to reduce gender pay and income gaps. Higher female unemployment leads to a number of other negative consequences - women are at increased risk of poverty because of their inability to find work, social exclusion, etc., which in turn increases the likelihood of gender based and domestic violence.4 However, in all economic sectors, except for "Construction" and "Administration and support activities", there are still higher average salaries for men than for women.

Why all this is so important?

Empowering women helps to reduce cases of violence, to boost confidence in women to signal and to seek support, protection and understanding when they need them. Does this happen in practice?

Although all institutions are working to overcome this problem, there are still not enough antiviolence centers in the country (13), and they themselves do not have sufficient capacity. That is why at the end of 2019 UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Dubravka Simonovic, expressed her concern about the situation in the country.5

According to her, we still observe a low proportion of signals of domestic violence, and Bulgaria is also one of the few EU countries that has not ratified the Istanbul Convention. The expert believes that this is due to the low sensitivity of society to violence against women.

However, there is a ray of hope - according to the Gender Equality Index of the European Institute for Gender Equality, the pay gap between women and men in Bulgaria is only 14%, but is increasing in sectors requiring lower education. The average monthly pay gap in the EU in 2019 is 20%.

This is positive news for all women who are anxious to leave a violent relationship because of their financial dependency. More and more employers are becoming more sensitive to the problems of women survivors of violence and are seeking to meet their needs. This is something that we strive to promote within the WEGO2 project, because only together with business we can achieve full economic independence for women leaving a violent relationship with the intimate partner.

2 - Report on Equality between Women and Men in Bulgaria 2018
3 - Report on Equality between Women and Men in Bulgaria 2018[4] NATIONAL STRATEGY FOR THE PROMOTION OF GENDER EQUALITY 2016-2020
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