Bulgaria is the only country in the EU that bans people
The reform of the interdiction system is a matter of life and (civil) death for over 7,000 people. However, it has been running since 2012.
Milena spent the first 18 years of her life in a Home for Children with Mental Retardation. After reaching the age of majority, she is automatically placed under guardianship, ie. she is deprived of all rights without being able to make elementary decisions about her life. After a long court battle, however, the St. Nicholas the Wonderworker Foundation in Dobrich managed to free her from the shackles – today the young woman has managed to make her dream come true and works as a hairdresser at home.
Elitsa is from the same home – her diagnosis as a child was wrong, but in order to stay in the institution, she was also labeled as “mentally retarded” – respectively, after 18 years she was forbidden to work, shop, etc. Again, contrary to the system, the foundation proved in court that the girl can take care of herself – today she works in the social enterprise “Wonderful Garden”. The NGO also managed to save Stanka. Also Sanya and Boryana – they already pay taxes to the state, which has harmed them for years.
Across Bulgaria, the “lucky ones” in question are exactly 7 out of 7,000 people placed under guardianship in our country, and all of them are a precedent for our judicial system. 6 of them have an interdiction thanks to “St. Nicholas the Wonderworker”. Its chairman, Maria Metodieva, along with a number of other organizations, have been fighting for nine years to repeal the 1949 retrograde law for individuals and families, which defines all people suffering from dementia or mental illness as “incapacitated.”
Bulgaria is the only country in the EU where people with mental health problems and intellectual disabilities are placed under interdiction / ban. About 8,000 people are crossed out people in our country who cannot work, get married, decide where and with whom to live, have money, be informed about their treatment, go to the hospital on their own, even choose what to eat or dress (for those accommodated in an institution). Their entire life, property and finances are managed by a guardian appointed by the municipality. Many of the people placed under guardianship are housed in homes – they are sent there by relatives who dispose of their property and money, with almost no opportunity to initiate a process so that they can ever leave.
The problem also affects many parents who take care of their children at home and also place them under guardianship – with great reluctance and pain. The reason is that they feel compelled to do this to protect them, at a time when they will no longer be in this world. “Contrary to expectations, however, the interdiction dooms daughters and sons with intellectual disabilities or mental disorders to civil death. Because the interrogation deprives the disabled person of the right to express his will and desires. Prohibition erases the personality. There is no other alternative “, say the Bulgarian Center for Non-Profit Law (BCNS), which together with the Bulgarian Association for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities organized the” Born Ready “campaign in May this year. It represented 27 of the 150 people. in our country, received support for projects of civil society organizations, which showed that all people are born “born ready” to live their lives as they are.
9 years in violation
Since 2012, the Bulgarian state continues to violate the provisions of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which provides for the abolition of all forms of interdiction and which Bulgaria has ratified by a law adopted by the 41st National Assembly in 2012, ie. its provisions should have been adopted in our country a long time ago. Alas, the Law on Persons and the Family, regulating the interdiction, has not been able to be replaced by appropriate new legislation for 9 years now. Neither the two cases in which Bulgaria was sentenced (to 30,000 euros) by the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg for persons under guardianship, nor the decision of the Constitutional Court that the National Assembly must synchronize its legislation with the Convention, nor the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities our country to replace the interdiction with appropriate support, nor the dozens of discussions, round tables and actions of parents fighting every day for a dignified life for their children.
The vicissitudes around the non / introduction of the changes date back to 2012 and are worthy of all work. Even then, a working group set out to develop a Concept for changes in national legislation. After its adoption by the parliament, another group with the participation of parent organizations within the official cabinet in 2013 prepared a bill, which it failed to complete. After 2 years, however, it is developing a comprehensive draft of the Law on Individuals and support measures. It went through 3 public consultations and all conciliation procedures, and in the summer of 2016 it was approved by all parties and adopted at first reading in plenary. However, the resignation of Borissov’s cabinet also thwarted this attempt. “Not only the political turbulence had a negative effect on the beginning of the reform in the field of capacity. In the period 2012-2020, three governments and three members of the National Assembly were replaced, with a majority of the same political party, but unfortunately continuity was not guaranteed. of the policy regarding the rights of people with disabilities and the implementation of real reform in accordance with the convention “, says Nadia Shabani from BCNS.
In 2018, the parent organizations initiated the National Citizens’ Initiative “7000” for the abolition of the interdiction and the introduction of supported decision-making as an alternative, which for 3 months submitted to the parliament over 12,000 signatures in support of the request. Instead of continuing the debate from where it came from, however, the judiciary is returning the law to organize an impact assessment. “A long process of data collection by the ministry followed, but apart from the total number of those placed under interdiction, no more serious analysis was reached,” Shabani said. A series of opinions and consultations in support of change also do not help to “unlock” the process. “In practice, it turned out that, regardless of the political programs of previous cabinets, the team of the Ministry of Justice from 2018 unilaterally stopped the process of paradigm shift,” Shabani concluded.
“They can now talk about their dreams”
The alternative to the interdiction is the so-called “supported decision-making” enshrined in the draft law on individuals. It provides for a person to make decisions for himself, but supported by one or more court-appointed persons whom he trusts. The bill introduces an entirely new perspective on the personality of a person with a disability and provides legal instruments to ensure his equality before the law. It provides for comprehensive measures to support and protect persons who have hitherto been under guardianship, to help them become relatively autonomous and, if necessary, to have a trusted person to advise them (for example, when buying and selling property). , opening an account, choosing a job, etc.) and be responsible.
The most impressive thing about it is that the concrete measures are based on the experience of the pilot programs of 7 organizations for supported decision-making, which have been successfully tested by them for years. Over the years, the model has been presented in the United Nations, Canada, Ireland, the Czech Republic and many other countries and is already used in other parts of the world – for example in Israel. “However, we are still standing by,” said Maria Metodieva of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker.
“It is insulting for a law from the year 49 to call our children mentally retarded. Seeing that he would cripple them, we united around the desire to change the situation and provide them with a dignified life, “says Kremena Stoyanova of the Parallel World Association, Plovdiv. for which they appeal. “We have seen things improve for the better. For the first time, we started asking our children, “Do you want to? Do you agree?” And they started to change before our eyes, “says Stoyanova. Despite the bitterness of the failed attempts, she acknowledges that the best thing about the years of struggle is that people with disabilities themselves have become advocates for themselves. “They can now talk about their dreams on their own,” she said.