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Legislation Impacting Anti-Discrimination and Anti-Radicalisation Efforts

Legislation Impacting Anti-Discrimination and Anti-Radicalisation Efforts

Bulgaria prohibits political and electoral campaigns in foreign languages, which can be regarded as discrimination of Turkish and Roma political activists, who cannot address their electorate in their native language. Bulgarian legislators believe that political topics must be discussed in the “language of legal categories”, which is supposedly impossible in any language, but Bulgarian.

In practice, this is a legalised form of discrimination against Turkish and Romani political activists, who cannot address their electorate in their native language. On November 14, 2013, Bulgarian government made amendments to the Law on Asylum and Refugees, according to which all asylum seekers will be placed in “closed facilities” – essentially, places of detention.

In a parliamentary vote on February 14, 2014, Bulgaria prohibited using foreign languages in election campaigns (even if conducted through an interpreter). 116 Bulgarian MPs voted in favour of the bill, 32 opposed and 61 abstained from voting.

On April 25, the Supreme Administrative Court ruled that “the law which has not been declared unconstitutional cannot therefore be discriminatory,” thus ruling out judicial protection from discrimination.

December 7, 2016, the Bulgarian Parliament passed a law banning clothes covering the face. The law defines that a "covered face" is a face concealed by clothing, with the mouth, nose or eyes covered. Violation of the prohibition is subject to a fine: 200 (€100) for the first offense; BGN 1,500 (€750) for each subsequent offense. For officials, the corresponding amounts are higher: 500 levs (€250) for the first offense; 2,000 levs (1,000 euro) for any subsequent offense. Persons who incite others to violate the ban, or who do not prevent them from violating the ban, risk the same fines.

Despite the neutral wording, the law was specifically designed to discriminate against Muslims. The radical ban targeted religious women and disproportionately affected them. The law's all-encompassing definition of "public place" means that Muslim women who wear religious clothing, clothing that partially or completely covers the face, will only be able to wear it in their homes or in mosques. The law leads to the social exclusion of Muslim women, for whom it will be subjectively impossible to leave the house without religious clothing because of their faith. The law was introduced by a coalition of two parties described by ECRI as "ultra-nationalist/fascist."

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