Bulgarians rally against violence on women, demanding better protection

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Thousands of Bulgarians took to the streets on Monday to protest violence against women after a harrowing case of a teen cut hundreds of times shocked the Balkan nation.

Some 5,000 people demonstrated in Sofia, while protests also took place in other cities across the country, where rallies against violence against women are rare.

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In the case, the 18-year-old was attacked a month ago. She said her ex-boyfriend cut her hundreds of times, broke her nose and shaved off her hair.

A court in the central city of Stara Zagora, hearing the case, qualified the injuries as “light” and did not order the 26-year-old detained.

Under pressure, authorities have since detained the man, who denies attacking the woman, over sending threatening text messages to her.

Protesters on Monday called for a judicial overhaul and better protection for women, carrying posters that read “Not a single woman more”.

“How is it possible that such sadism is labeled as ‘mild bodily injury’... The reaction of the court is shocking,” Emilia Stoyanova, 39, who works in human resources, told AFP.

“The traditional tolerance of domestic violence, the dysfunction of institutions must change. It has started to change, but society needs to get involved,” said another protester, a 33-year-old painter, who only gave his name as Ivan.

Eighteen women were killed, suspectedly by men they knew, in the first three months of this year, according to police statistics, but activists estimate there are many more victims.

They have been fighting for legislative amendments to better protect women from abusive partners or ex-partners.

Bulgaria has so far refused to ratify the Istanbul Convention, a key international text aimed at protecting women from violence.

In June, the European Union joined the convention in a move that extends some obligations to member states that refuse to ratify it.

Bulgaria, an EU member since 2007, and others who have not ratified it object to the use of the word “gender” in the Istanbul Convention.

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