V.K. v. Bulgaria
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
Communication No. 20/2008
15 October 2008
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
Art. 1: definition of discrimination against women
Art. 2: positive obligations of the State to eliminate discrimination
Art. 5: stereotyping
Art. 16: marriage and family relations
The author of the complaint, VK, alleged that she had been a persistent victim of domestic abuse at the hands of her husband, and petitioned the Bulgarian courts to issue a protection order against him. VK was issued an interim order, but at the full hearing, the court refused to make a permanent order in accordance with its interpretation of national law on the basis that no domestic violence had taken place in the month prior to the initial hearing. The ruling was upheld on appeal. VK specifically alleged that the State had neglected its positive obligation under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women to protect her from domestic violence, and that it had not acted to ensure the necessary protection to avoid irreparable damage to her and her two children.
The Committee found that the State had failed to provide VK with effective protection against domestic violence under articles 2(c)-(g) of the Convention, in particular citing the court’s failure to issue a permanent protection order against her husband and to provide sufficient shelters to protect her and her children. The Committee noted the “lack of gender sensitivity” in addressing domestic violence, and the failure to take account of a long history of domestic violence outside of immediate threats. The Committee also considered that the legal regulations that required VK, as an alleged victim of domestic violence, to prove beyond reasonable doubt that her husband had been violent to her placed an excessive legal burden upon her.
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