The 8th annual Sofia Pride march in support of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people will take place on 27 June 2015. The organisers have not yet coordinated the starting point of the event with the local authorities.
Sofia Pride is the biggest annual event dedicated to the equality and human rights of all citizens and the biggest event increasing the visibility of LGBTI people in the country.
The focus of this year’s Pride is the discrimination against LGBTI people in educational institutions. According to the organisers, almost all non-heterosexual and transgender people have faced discrimination in education, yet the problem continues to be unrecognised, invisible and unaddressed by parents and teachers, as well as experts, including in higher education establishments.
The Pride organisers cite data from the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), which in 2012 published the results of a survey among LGBT people in Bulgaria. From the 1034 people surveyed, 71% responded that they “always” or “often” had to hide the fact that they were non-heterosexual or transgender in school. 72% had experienced negative attitudes or comments for being LGBT, while 95% had witnessed negative attitudes or comments towards another LGBT person.
“Schools and universities are places where young people actively socialise and spend a large part of their time”, said Monika Pisankaneva from Resource Centre Bilitis, one of the event organisers. “For this reason it is very important that these spaces are safe and inclusive and that people feel comfortable and not odd and unwelcomed. People who do not feel accepted cannot interact positively with their peers and teachers. This undermines the possibilities to realise their potential and can lead to disruption in the education process and later on – to poorer performance in life.”
“This situation is of grave concern but this is not only a problem in Bulgaria”, says Radosav Stoyanov from the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, another one of the organisers. “What is different in other EU member states, however, is the recognition, analysis, prevention and public debate about this issue. Unfortunately Bulgarian teachers and experts from the helping professions and social sciences do not have the necessary training for working with marginalised groups and the specific needs and problems of the LGBT
group are completely alien for them.” According to Stoyanov, higher education institutions in Bulgaria do not include in their curriculum sufficient material about marginalised communities, which deprives civil society organisations and state institutions of the human resources necessary to work on these issues.
Marko Markov from the youth LGBT association “Deystvie” says that over the years many young people have shared with the organisation their stories of pain and discrimination. “Non-heterosexual and transgender youth often have to hide who they are even from their family and friends, or are subjected to verbal, psychological and even physical abuse, including at home. The worst thing is when they are blamed for their own rejection”.
Simeon Vassilev from the newly founded organisation GLAS is nevertheless an optimist. “We are highly motivated to address these issues. We plan to focus on the hostility in the family environment but also in other spheres of social life. The public debates and awareness of these issues provide invaluable help. Adults have to be more aware of their children’s problems and to know how to respond adequately. Otherwise the price may be too high.”
Sofia Pride 2015 will be preceded by the traditional Sofia Pride film fest and Sofia Pride art week.
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