Bulgaria Scraps Plan to Ratify Women's Violence Convention
On the eve of International Women's day, Bulgaria's government on Wednesday voted to withdraw its January 3 decision to send the Council of Europe's convention on preventing and combating violence against women, known as the Istanbul Convention, to parliament for ratification.
Bulgaria signed the international treaty back in April 2016. However, an uproar began in December 2017 and January this year over claims that it would open the way to legal gay marriage and a so-called "third gender".
An open letter signed by 30 religious and civil organisations first attacked the document, which later also drew fire from across the political and social spectrum.
The small nationalist VMRO party of Defence Minister Krasimir Karakachanov, a minor coalition partner, accused it of "introducing school programs for studying homosexuality and transvestism and creating opportunities for enforcing same-sex marriages".
The main opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, BSP, quickly joined the chorus against the convention, to the surprise of its European party club, the Party of European Socialists, PES.
BSP leader Kornelia Ninova called for popular referendum on the issue in parliament, but lost the vote the same day when the government withdrew the proposal for ratification.
Other opponents of the Istanbul Convention have included the right-wing Union of Democratic Forces, SDS, the Catholic Church and the Grand Mufti.
The Bulgarian Orthodox Church called for daily prayers in churches against the ratification of the treaty, despite having backed the convention in January 2015.
Prime Minister Boyko Borissov signalled that he was losing the will to continue the battle back in February.
"Enough of this Convention! We will withdraw it...