Country information: Bulgaria (Bulgarian: България, tr. Bǎlgarija), officially the Republic of Bulgaria (Bulgarian: Република България, tr. Republika Bǎlgarija), is a country in southeastern Europe.
Human rights 2015: An overview by Amnesty International.
Number of sex workers: 11 000 as of 2014, according to a national mapping conducted by outreach teams for the Program Prevention and Control of HIV/AIDS.
HIV/AIDS rates: The general number of registered people living with HIV in the country as of 25 July 2015 is 2 169 persons. More data can be found HERE.
HIV rates among sex workers: 1.76% (2012) according Country Progress Report for UNAIDS 2014.
Legal situation around sex work: Sex work in Bulgaria is neither legal, nor criminal, it is not regulated by any law. Still, sex workers can be fined
- for “gaining money in an immoral way” under the Criminal Code,
- for lack of personal documents and being too noisy under the Law for violating public order,
- for standing on the street / road / ring road under the Traffic law.
The Penalty Code punishes the following crimes:
- Organization of paid sexual services: the organizers of sex industry and people providing venues for sex work are viewed as criminal subjects. As a result of this, not just managers but also indoor sex workers who work collectively may be punishable under the law.
- Coercion of underage prostitution.
- Trafficking of human beings, which is often mixed with sexual exploitation and prostitution (mentioned also in the Law against trafficking of human beings).
Neither buying sex, nor offering sexual services via the Internet are regulated.
Services for sex workers: About 80% of the territory of the country is covered by 9 NGOs working in the biggest cities providing mainly outreach services with focus on HIV prevention in the frames of Program for prevention and control of HIV/AIDS 2004 - 2015, administered by the Ministry of health and funded by GFATM. Additionally there are small projects (some with human rights protection focus) funded by the European commission.GFATM left the country after December 2015 and the services are still not guaranteed by the national and local authorities.
Sex workers’ movement: Due to heavy stigmatization of all marginalized groups in Bulgaria, stigma around sex work and negative attitude of media that often mix sex work and trafficking, sex workers hide and fear being “outed” and raise their own voices.There is no self-organization of sex workers in Bulgaria.
Detailed information can be found HERE.
The Sex Workers’ Rights Advocacy Network (SWAN) have organized a 3 days long Community Mobilization and Media training for sex workers that took place on December 5-8, 2015 in Budapest, Hungary. There were 10 sex workers at the training, who came from the countries of SWAN region, majority of which do not have formal or informal groups of sex workers yet.
A joint campaign by Bulgarian NGOs is warning that by the end of 2015, Bulgaria will completely lose its HIV prevention services.
Sex workers, sex workers’ rights activists, groups and allies celebrated May 1 with various actions. SWAN members also joined the celebration, you can read more about actions that took place in Turkey, BiH, Bulgaria and Macedonia on May 1, 2015 below.
By Petra Timmermans, ICRSE Coordinator and Rayna Dimitrova, HESED
Recently in Bulgaria sex workers have taken the first tentative steps to mobilising for their rights.
On 29 August plans were put into place for a demonstration in response to recent police activity that has focused on arresting and detaining sex workers working along the main ring road around Sofia. Charges related to immoral behavior and/or causing traffic accidents are being used in what could be described as an attempt to rid Sofia of prostitutes. However, the demonstration did not take place as planned. Although around 20 sex workers showed up there were so many journalists taking photographs that most of the women became nervous and left.
"Godesses of Love" protest in Sofia.
Legalization of prostitution in the country. This was announced by a dozen prostitutes who gathered this afternoon on spontaneous protest in Sofia. They insist on a special law on prostitution, as they say in most Western countries. "
SOFIA, August 31, 2011 - Sex worker in Sofia protest current situation with sex work and police attitudes. Below is the news report from the Ring Road (in Bulgaria).
Translation of text coverage at http://tv7.bg/bodilnik/news/900052.html :
HESED initiated a number of activities to mark December 17th, starting with a meeting with local institutions and organisations to introduce them to the day and to sensitized them to ways of speaking about sex workers in order to reduce stigma against sex work and vulnerable groups. This is the second meeting on this issue organized by HESED, the first was on 17th December 2009 and it has now become a “tradition”.
From December 13th to 15th, Sofia, Bulgaria was host to the 22nd meeting of the Board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM). Each year, the Global Fund holds a meeting away from its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, to offer delegates the opportunity to visit programs financed by the Global Fund. This was the first meeting held in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region.
On Saturday, May 29, 2010 the third and final generation of SWAN groups participated in a training on media sensitizations in Tirana, Albania. Genci and Enkelejda of Aksion Plus were gracious hosts in their beautiful city. Representative from sex work projects from Hungary, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Albania, Montenegro and Latvia participated in the one-day event which also brought together sex workers from Hungary, Albania and Bulgaria.
June 3, 2010
By Anna-Louise Crago
Over all the ethical breaches and problems surrounding media representation of sex workers echoed those of previous SWAN groups who did the media sensitization trainings. The fact that Hungary has a legalized system with tolerance zones contributed new dynamics and issues to think about.
Sex workers’ organizations across Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia used the opportunity of the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers to advocate SW’s rights. Below is a summary of the activities carried out be the organizations.
The meeting brought together 32 participants from 16 countries with the aim to exchange experience, share problems and find solutions, renew and strengthen the partnership ties and get to know new network members better.
To mark December 17, the International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers, the Sex Workers' Rights Advocacy Network (SWAN) of Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia is releasing its new report, Arrest the Violence: Human Rights Violations Against Sex Workers in 11 Countries in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The report is based on interviews with more than 200 male, female and transgender sex workers between 2007 and 2009 and chillingly documents widespread violence and discrimination against them, particularly by state actors.
According to Rebecca Schleifer of Human Rights Watch’s Health and Human Rights Division:
Arrest the Violence is the first piece of research done under the leadership of sex workers to document human rights violations they face across Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Sex workers throughout the region report that they face verbal and physical abuse, including beatings, kidnapping, and sexual violence, by police and private citizens. Sex workers also report that police confiscated condoms as “evidence” of sex work, and subjected them to mandatory HIV testing.
These are not isolated incidents. The physical, sexual, and verbal violations of sex workers’ rights are part of a pattern of abuse by police and in the community that is documented throughout the region.
It is my sincere hope that this report will serve as a catalyst to awaken the broader human rights community to the importance of documenting and denouncing human rights abuses against sex workers, and working with sex workers to end these abuses.
To access the report, please follow the links below.
Questions or comments may be directed to SWAN@TASZ.HU.
Coordinator Sex Workers’ Rights Advocacy Network (SWAN)
July 2009, Sofia – An in-depth analysis of prostitution in post-socialist Bulgaria is now available on the “Liberal Review” website. The author of the study, Tihomir Bezlov is a sociologist, an independent researcher of criminal processes in Bulgaria and the founder and leading specialist in the Democracy Research Center in Sofia, Bulgaria. This document is one of the rare and current research projects that treat sex work as a separate phenomenon, apart from trafficking. According to main participants in sex industry – ex-sex workers, sex workers, pimps and owners of “public houses” – women who are forced into sex work constitute not more than 10% of all sex workers
This reportage, called „Profession male prostitute” shows the work of male sex workers in a town called Veliko Turnovo, and was broadcasted on one of the most popular national TV in Bulgaria - TV NOVA. You can see this reportage in Bulgarian here.
Sex workers have their rights, and one of the basic human rights is freedom of violence – this was the message of the 2008 December 17 campaign in Bulgaria. In the second year of campaigning for rights of sex workers, SWAN member HESED focused its activities on sex workers, their clients, and national and international partner organizations.
The sixth annual national meeting of NGOs working with sex workers was held on December 5 - 7 in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. The aim of the meeting was to exchange information and work experiences.
In December 2008 HESED, SWAN member from Bulgaria, won a grant from the European Commission to take part in a multinational outreach project with indoor sex workers. The novelty approach this project brings are the Internet consultations with sex workers. Also in December, HESED was given a special award at the National AIDS Partnership Meeting for its pioneering work with sex workers.
Public discussion on legalization of prostitution has gained new strengths in the last few months in Bulgaria. Events that attracted public and political attention were two explosions and shooting in striptease bars in Sofia. More