Interview of Dimitrina Petrova of BOLD with Vidka Atanasova, Dnevnik. Source – Diary
The National Child Strategy regulates the protection of children at risk, but for about a year there has been a mass psychosis among parents due to false claims that this strategy aims at the opposite, as well as absurd claims that there exists organized trafficking of Bulgarian children to Norway, for which non-governmental organizations that practically protect children from domestic violence are to blame.
Dr. Dimitrina Petrova, initiator and representative of the Bulgarian Community for Liberal Democracy (BOLD), a new initiative of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, aims to increase public support for democracy and human rights and fundamental freedoms.
She will be one of the participants in tomorrow’s discussion “The family in a democratic society: Can the rights of the child be in conflict with the rights of their own family?” The event is organized by BOLD as part of a campaign on the protection of the child and the family. BOLD invites citizens, representatives of civil society organizations, initiatives, movements and interested media to attend the event.
How do you explain this hysteria among people? Is there an organized campaign to instill these fears? Who organizes it, and who is interested in the lack of social services that protect the child?
– The opponents of the National Child Strategy have benefited from several parallel processes and circumstances that are mutually reinforcing due to their simultaneity. First, their cause is part of the ongoing global campaign of cultural conservatism, which in turn is one aspect of the global offensive against liberal democratic values, including human rights and gender equality, an offensive that began a decade ago. In many countries, like in Bulgaria, this campaign is currently being waged by strong civic movements under the banner of protecting “family values”.
Second, the topic of the child and the family itself is an extremely convenient entry point for spread and affirmation of traditionalist attitudes, because it is easily communicable in the form of emotional stories whose messages are easier to understand than the slightly more abstract messages of human rights activists. What more disturbing message than the threat of losing your child? It arouses visceral response and people throw themselves headlong into such a cause without much thought.
Third, the global ideological processes on such a sensitive topic fall on the fertile historical ground of a deep patriarchal mentality characteristic of the Balkans, which is only superficially affected by communist and later liberal transformation.
Finally, fourth, but most important – in the case of the protests against the National Child Strategy, the main factor is their good communication strategy, competent organization and successful channeling of civic energy. The question of who is behind all this has no simple answer. But I took the trouble to trace some of the direct borrowings of ideas and even texts and came to certain sources, such as the global network of organizations for the protection of the family and family values, in which some of the strongest ideological actors are from Russia and the United States.
Is it related to the campaign against the Istanbul Convention, which tried to introduce measures against domestic violence against women?
– Yes. Both campaigns, to which we must now add the campaign to repeal the Social Services Act, which has not yet entered into force, are manifestations of cultural conservatism and touch on typical themes of the modern global culture wars. In Bulgaria, the spectrum of participants in these movements is complex.
At one end are conscious adherents of anti-liberal ideologies such as the Russian Orthodox-Eurasian conservatism of the Izborsk Club (also known as the Institute for Dynamic Conservatism, founded by Russian conservative politicians, scholars, publicists, and clergy) and some Western religious-conservative movements. At the other end are ordinary people, especially parents, who have been manipulated into believing that children’s rights and women’s rights run counter to family values.
Should the state play a more definite role in reassuring the population, with an explanatory information campaign, for example?
– Yes. In all cases of sharp attack on women’s and children’s rights and on democratic civil society organizations over the past decade, the GERB government and its partners have remained silent, but at the same time taken regressive action to satisfy the demands of ultra-conservative movements. This is what happened with the Istanbul Convention, the National Child Strategy, and the Law on Social Services.
The state has an obligation to respect, protect and realize human rights, including the rights of the child. As the main duty bearer for the realization of the rights of the child, the state must also ensure that education on child rights and human rights is provided. As someone who has returned to Bulgaria after more than 20 years abroad, I am shocked by the incredibly profound mass ignorance of human rights and by the inaction of the state in this area. I have worked in many countries around the world, but I have rarely encountered such a degree of ignorance of basic human rights principles. For example, the belief that the child should not be a subject of rights. Appalling!
Are the social services that currently monitor the rights of the child in the family important? Are they doing their job? Is there a need for NGOs in the sector?
– Of course, social services are important. They do their job as best they can, sometimes not very well, but it is not so much these services that are at fault; rather, to blame is the desperate lack of political attention to them. Social workers are almost at the bottom of the social pyramid and the turnover among them is very high. Yes, there is a need for NGOs in the social services sector. Without them, we would return to the madness of communist central planning without any adjustments from civil society, based on initiative, innovation, and flexibility in meeting needs.
People who want to oust NGOs from the social services sector do not notice that they are both afraid of the state (because only state protection bodies can remove children from their families, never NGOs), and want all services to be in the hands of the state. Should we again begin to explain the role of civil society as a guarantor against state abuses? What year is it now?
Is there a need for legislative changes and in what direction?
– Yes. They are in the Social Services Act. I hope that reason wins and the law comes into force.
Source – https://www.dnevnik.bg/intervju/2020/01/30/4022993_dimitrina_petrova_shokirashto_e_nevejestvoto_po