Human Rights Watch, an international non-governmental organization (NGO) dedicated to defending and protecting human rights, has sent a letter to the Bulgarian minister of justice, Diana Kovacheva, urging her to publicly denounce the statements inciting hatred and violence against LGBT people made by a parochial priest.
Father Evgeni Yanakiev from the town of Sliven said in an interview for the Bulgarian ‘Standard’ on 6 June: “Our whole society must in every possible way oppose the gay parade that is being planned. For this reason today, I appeal to all those who consider themselves Christians and Bulgarians-throwing stones at gays is an appropriate way.” A week later the priest repeated his words in an interview on the Bulgarian National Radio (BNR).
The international NGO expressed concern in the letter that ‘the call to stone gay people is incitement to hatred and violence’. The letter added: ‘therefore, it should be condemned by you in the clearest terms and in the most public way possible’.
Furthermore, the document contained information about the two previous editions of the gay parade in Sofia which took place in 2008 and 2011. The organisation recapped that in 2008 right-wing extremist groups and football hooligans violently attacked participants in the first LGBT pride parade in Bulgaria, while in 2011, three volunteers from the parade in Sofia were attacked and beaten.
The human rights defender also reminded the justice minister that Bulgaria, as a member state of the Council of Europe, was subject to Recommendation CM/Rec (2010) 5 of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, advocating member states to combat discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. Moreover, the letter revealed that article 4.1 of the Bulgarian Act for protection against discrimination prohibited all direct or indirect discrimination on many grounds, including sexual orientation. In addition, the NGO stated the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, to which Bulgaria is a party, prohibited explicitly in its article 21 discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Human Rights Watch urged the Bulgarian minister of justice to ‘publicly disavow this call for violence and to investigate if Father Yanakiev’s statements can be prosecuted under Bulgaria’s Penal Code’.
It seems that Bulgarian society is not ready to accept the LGBT ostentation yet. It has stimulated a lot of discussions, butit has fueled even more protests and negative reactions. The debate remains fierce, but the only difference is that LGBT ostentation is more and more supported by people of high standing in the country, like former foreign ambassadors for example.