Legislative and policy framework
The principle of equality is enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria adopted in 1991. Article 6(2) of the Constitution states that ‘All citizens are equal before the law. No restrictions on rights or privileges based on race, nationality, ethnicity, sex, origin, religion, education, beliefs, political affiliation, personal or social status or property are allowed’.
The Law on Equality between Women and Men (Закон за равнопоставеност на жените и мъжете) adopted in 2016 is the main legal document on gender equality. It includes a legal obligation to implement gender mainstreaming under Article 4(1) which sets out that the state’s policy on equality between women and men shall be implemented through ‘integrating the principle of equality between women and men in legislation and all national, regional and local policies, strategies programmes and plans’. However, there are no provisions regarding enforcement or sanctions. In addition, since January 2004, the Law on Protection from Discrimination (Закон за защита от дискриминацията) prohibits discrimination on a broad range of grounds, including sex (Article 3).
The National Strategy for Promoting the Equality of Women and Men 2021-2030 (Национална стратегия за насърчаване на равнопоставеността на жените и мъжете 2021-2030 г.) is the key policy document in the field of gender equality and gender mainstreaming. This initiative builds on the strategy of the same name, in place from 2016-2020, and with reviews of progress achieved being conducted by an inter-departmental working group.
The strategy is implemented through annual national plans for promoting gender equality. The current action plan in place is the Action Plan for the Promotion of Equality Between Women and Men 2021-2022 (Национален план за действие за насърчаване на равнопоставеността на жените и мъжете за периода 2021 - 2022 г.). The action plan does not have targets but has detailed quantitative indicators for monitoring change and designated agencies responsible for collecting data.
The Strategy and Action Plan Priority Areas
- Equality of women and men in the labour market and ensuring an equal level of economic independence
- Reducing the gender pay gap and reducing disparities in income
- Promoting equality between women and men in decision-making processes
- Combating violence against women and supporting victims
- Overcoming gender stereotypes based on sex in different areas of public life and combating sexism
The budget is partly costed. The plans are assessed annually, with the yearly ‘Report on Equality between Women and Men in Bulgaria’ (Доклад за равнопоставеността на жените и мъжете в България). These reports include a focus on sex-disaggregated data.
Government equality bodies
The governmental equality body is the Equal Opportunities, Anti-discrimination and Social Assistance Department (the department) within the Disability Policy, Equal Opportunities and Social Assistance Policy Directorate, within the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy (MLSP). Since 2000, the MLSP has developed and coordinated gender equality policy, according to the Decree of the Council of Ministers No. 155 of 2000, prom. 65 of 2000. The department has held this responsibility since 2004.
The Minister’s mandate is set out under Article 7 of the Law on Equality between Women and Men, which is implemented through the department. It states that ‘the Minister of Labour and Social Policy manages, coordinates and controls the implementation of state policy on equality between women and men.'
The Minister of Labour and Social Policy Functions
- Develops and participates in discussions and proposes the adoption and/or amendment of legislation and strategic documents relevant to equality between women and men
- Organises and manages the activities of the National Council on Equality between women and men
- Coordinates the development, implementation and reporting of national strategies and plans for their implementation
- Creates and maintains a system for monitoring gender equality and coordinates the preparation of a report on equality between women and men
- Provides assistance to the executive authorities to conduct state policy on equality between women and men
- Represents the State to international organisations and programmes in the field of equality between women and men
- Manages and coordinates participation in national and international programmes and projects for equality between women and men, including cooperation with other state authorities and organisations
- Maintains contacts with similar specialised state bodies in other countries and with international organisations active in the field of equality between women and men’.
The Minister of Labour and Social Policy organises monitoring of the implementation of the national policies regarding gender equality and produces an annual monitoring report, but it is presented to the government through the Council of Ministers, not parliament. The personnel resources of the department are three people who work 50-75 % of the time on gender equality specifically.
The National Council on Gender Equality under the Council of Ministers is the coordination structure for gender mainstreaming within the government. Founded in 2004, the department is the secretariat of the National Council on Gender Equality with the Minister of Labour and Social Policy acting as chair. It is a permanent, coordinating and advisory body that assists the Council of Ministers in the development and implementation of state policy on equality between women and men, as well as a body for consultation, cooperation and coordination between central and territorial executive bodies, social partners and civil society. There are 68 members of the Council on Gender Equality, including deputy members, the chair and secretariat members. The Council provides opinions on draft strategic documents and draft legislation containing provisions related to gender equality before they are put forward to the Council of Ministers. It also participates in developing the National Strategy on Gender Equality, proposes measures for promoting the state’s policy on gender equality, and participates in devising quantitative and qualitative indicators needed for the monitoring system.
Independent equality body
The Commission for Protection against Discrimination (СPD) (Комисията за защита от дискриминация) is the independent equality body established in 2005 by the Law on Protection from Discrimination. The CPD is an independent semi-judicial body which aims to prevent discrimination and ensure equal opportunities.
The CPD receives and decides on cases of direct or indirect discrimination based on sex, race, ethnicity, the human genome, nationality, origin, religion or beliefs, education, political affiliation, personal or social status, disability, age, sexual orientation, family situation, property status and any other grounds established in laws or international treaties to which the Republic of Bulgaria is a party. It also conducts research on gender equality issues, integrates gender equality considerations into EU and international affairs, publishes and disseminates gender equality-related information, conducts training, and carries out gender-sensitive analysis of policies and legislation. The CPD publishes an annual report of its activities in accordance with the provision of Art. 40, para. 5 of the Law on Protection from Discrimination.
There are 89 members of staff within the CPD, who spend 25-50 % of their time on gender equality-related projects.
It is very rarely if ever, consulted by the departments or ministries about new or existing policies, laws, or programmes.
No parliamentary committee includes gender equality as a specific part of its activity. Different committees can receive or seek information on the progress of gender equality.
Employees in all regional administrations engage in the development and implementation of regional policy on gender equality and contribute to overall national policy. Article 8 of the Law on Equality between Women and Men provides that the central and territorial bodies of the executive power designate employees to coordinate measures regarding equality between women and men. According to Article 10 of the Law, state policy on equality between women and men is implemented by the regional governors and local self-government bodies, together with the territorial units of the ministries, state and executive agencies and other bodies established by law, representative organisations of employees and employers, NGOs working on gender issues and other organisations.
Consultation with civil society
The National Council on Equality between Women and Men is the permanent body for consultation and cooperation between institutions and civil society on the development of gender equality policy.
Methods and tools
Gender impact assessment
There is a legal obligation to undertake gender impact assessments when drafting laws, policies, plans and programmes under Article 14 of the Law on the Equality of Women and Men, which states that estimates are to be made on the impact of regulations and strategic documents on gender. The act also states that gender equality coordinators, appointed at the central and regional levels, should participate in this assessment. ‘Impact assessment on gender’ is defined in the act as ‘part of the social assessment [and] includes assessing the impact of regulations and strategic documents on the situation of women and men so that by applying these suggestions to ensure the neutralisation of the discriminatory effects and to promote equality.’ […so that by applying these suggestions discriminatory effects will be neutralised and gender equality promoted].
Gender budgeting is practically an unknown concept. Similarly, there is no training at the national level for government staff about gender equality or central initiatives to raise awareness among ministries.
There is no website or section of website devoted to gender statistics on the website of the National Statistical Institute (NSI). The NSI includes some sex-disaggregated data on demographic issues, mortality, migration, and education. The only way to find such data is by using a keyword search on the NSI’s website. The National Social Security Institute (NSSI) has also collated 20 indicators disaggregated by sex for 2012-2020, and these can be downloaded as a PDF.
There is no national legal obligation to collect statistics disaggregated by sex. The NSI issues publications (sporadically) on the development of the situation of women and men online, in brochures, in flyers and books, such as the statistical publication ‘Women and Men in the Republic of Bulgaria’ with the most recent edition published in 2018.
Indicators for monitoring progress on institutional mechanisms for the promotion of gender equality and gender mainstreaming in the EU, under Area H of the Beijing Platform for Action
This section analyses the scores achieved by Bulgaria for data collection in 2021 for the four officially agreed-on indicators on institutional mechanisms for the promotion of gender equality and gender mainstreaming to monitor progress on Area H of the Beijing Platform for Action. It also analyses scores under an expanded measurement framework which includes the role of independent gender equality bodies and assesses the effectiveness of efforts to disseminate statistics disaggregated by sex. Institutional mechanisms refer to national machineries that implement, monitor, evaluate, and mobilise support for policies that promote gender equality and gender mainstreaming. All indicators and sub-indicators are available on the Gender Statistics Database here, including metadata about how the scores are calculated.
For Indicator H1 on the status of commitment to the promotion of gender equality and considering only the governmental commitment in line with the officially adopted indicator, Bulgaria scored 7.2 out of a possible 12, below the EU average of 7.2. It scored 2.5 out of a maximum possible score of 5 on sub-indicator H1e on accountability of the governmental gender equality body, because it has a national action plan and strategy but no regular reporting by the governmental body to the parliament.
Under an expanded measurement framework which includes sub-indicator H1f on the mandate and functions of the independent gender equality body, Bulgaria scored an additional 2.0 points, out of a possible 3. It lost 1.0 point because the mandate of the independent gender equality body is gender equality combined with other non-discrimination areas, rather than exclusively focused on gender equality. The overall score of the expanded H1 indicator was 9.5 out of a possible 15, slightly above the EU average of 9.1.
Indicator H2 analyses the personnel resources of the national gender equality bodies. For sub-indicator H2a, regarding the governmental body, Bulgaria scored 0.0, out of the 2 points available, which was lower than the EU average of 1.0, because there are 0-5 people employed in the governmental body working on gender equality. For sub-indicator H2b, regarding the independent body, Bulgaria’s score was 1.5, out of 2 points available, against the EU average of 0.7, because it was better resourced with 25-100 people employed working on gender equality. For both sub-indicators, the maximum 2 points was awarded where the number of employees was over 100 as an indication of the body being sufficiently resourced.
Indicator H3 relates to gender mainstreaming. Here, Bulgaria scored 6.0 out of a maximum possible 12, which was above the EU average of 5.1. Bulgaria scored 1.0 points, out of the maximum possible score of 6, on sub-indicator H3c on the commitment to and use of methods and tools for gender mainstreaming because there is a legal obligation to undertake ex-ante gender impact assessment.
Under an expanded measurement framework which includes sub-indicator H3d on consultation of the independent equality body, Bulgaria scored 6.0 points out of a maximum possible score of 14, which was also higher than the EU average of 5.4. Under this sub-indicator, Bulgaria lost both available points because the independent gender equality body is only consulted by departments or ministries on the gender impact of new or existing policies, laws or programmes in a few cases.
For Indicator H4 on the production and dissemination of statistics disaggregated by sex, Bulgaria scored 0.0 points, below the EU average of 3.4, because it does not commit to collecting data disaggregated by sex and does not have a relevant website dedicated to gender statistics to facilitate dissemination.
 Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria, promulgated in State Gazette. No. 56/1991 https://www.parliament.bg/en/const
 Law on equality of women and men, promulgated in State Gazette No. 33 of 26 April 2016 https://www.lex.bg/bg/laws/ldoc/2136803101
 Law on equality of women and men (2016)
 Law on Protection from Discrimination, promulgated in State Gazette No. 86/2003, in force since 1 January 2004 https://www.mlsp.government.bg/uploads/1/blgarsko-zakonodatelstvo/zakon-za-zasita-ot-diskriminaciq-zagl-izm-dv-br-68-ot-2006-g.pdf
 National strategy for promoting the equality of women and men for the period 2021-2030 https://www.strategy.bg/StrategicDocuments/View.aspx?lang=bg-BG&Id=1343
 According to the National Strategy for Promoting the Equality of Women and Men 2021-2030, the plans for its implementation include information on financial resources that will ensure the implementation of the set measures. The state, municipal budgets, European programmes, and other international sources primarily fund the activities of the strategy.
 The annual reports “Equality between Women and Men in Bulgaria” are available here: https://www.mlsp.government.bg/blgarsko-zakonodatelstvo
 Minister of Labour and Social Policy (n.d.) Department for Equal Opportunities, Anti-Discrimination and Social Assistance https://www.mlsp.government.bg/koi-sme-nie
 No information is available on financial resources.
 Founded under CMD No. 313 of 17.11.2004, promulgated is State Gazette, No.104 of 26 November 2004.
 Minister of Labour and Social Policy (n.d.) Institutional Mechanism https://www.mlsp.government.bg/institutsionalen-mekhanizm
 Commission for the protection against discrimination (n.d.) https://www.kzd-nondiscrimination.com/layout/
 Commission for the protection against discrimination (n.d.) https://kzd-nondiscrimination.com/layout/index.php/za-nas
 National Statistical Institute (n.d.) Statistical Data https://nsi.bg/en/content/766/statistical-data
 National Statistical Institute (n.d.) Keyword search ‘sex’ https://nsi.bg/en/search/node?keys=sex
 National Social Security Institute (n.d.) Social indicators by gender 2012-2020 https://www.noi.bg/images/en/statistics/Table_Pol_pokazateli-2012-2020_EN.pdf
 National Statistical Institute (2018) Women and Men in the Republic of Bulgaria https://www.nsi.bg/en/content/16817/%D0%BF%D1%83%D0%B1%D0%BB%D0%B8%D0%BA%D0%B0%D1%86%D0%B8%D1%8F/women-and-men-republic-bulgaria-2018
For more general information, please see: National Statistical Institute (n.d.) Keyword search ‘women’ https://www.nsi.bg/en/search/node?keys=women