Monday, December 27, 2004

Meanwhile, in Bulgaria

Domestic abuse appears to be a problem that still has no name:

--When doctors began compiling paperwork to release Maia from a Sofia hospital after a week's stay this past May, the battered woman panicked over the knowledge that she had no money, nowhere to go and no idea how she would get her four children back from her abusive husband.
A concerned nurse told Maia of a women's shelter run by local aid organization Animus Association that, in Bulgaria's largely patriarchal society, might be her best shot at securing a better future.
"He was killing me," said the 37-year old, who refused to give her last name out of fear for possible retribution from her husband or his family. "Always searching for harder and harder things to hit me with. I had to try and get away. But honestly, I simply didn't know how."
For almost 50 years, as Bulgaria lived under the omnipresent shadow of the Soviet Union, divorce and battery of spouses were statistically absolute non-entities with reported cases of both well below 5 percent consistently. Now, with the fall of the Soviet Union and Bulgaria's independence in 1991, Bulgaria has begun to acknowledge and address the issue of domestic violence.

The Bulgarians I have met have indicated that the problems of misogyny run deep in their culture. Things are now changing, but the country has a long way to go:

While some police officers are sympathetic to women's plights, activists lament the lack of legal redress. Even the most determined law enforcement official can do no more than to hold an accused abuser for 24 hours and make the accused promise to change the abusive behavior. Should a woman wish to bring charges against her husband, there are simply no legal provisions for her to base a case on.

It's supposed to be handled quietly, within the family. No airing of dirty laundry in public. The same pattern as in other countries, isn't it? Luckily, the next stage usually is the very airing of the dirty linen, and then change comes into the laws as well. I wish the Bulgarians goddess speed with this.