For many years V.K. was subjected to emotional, economic, psychological and physical violence by her husband. Following an incident where her husband had taken her son from her and denied her access to him for more than two months, V.K. filed an application for and was granted an interim protection order from the District Court. However, the Court later rejected her application for a permanent protection order, finding insufficient evidence of danger to her life and that of her children. She filed a communication with the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women alleging that Bulgaria had failed to provide her with effective protection against domestic violence in violation of the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
The Committee held that Bulgaria had violated the author’s rights under the Convention. It held that by failing to issue a permanent protective order, the domestic courts had applied overly strict definitions of domestic violence that were inconsistent with the definition required by the Convention and also reflected stereotyped, preconceived and thus discriminatory notions of what constitutes domestic violence in violation of the Convention. The Committee outlined that domestic violence does not necessarily always involve a direct and immediate threat to the life or health of the victim. It is not limited to acts that inflict physical harm, but also includes threats and acts that inflict mental or sexual harm or coercion or deprivation of liberty. The Committee also considered that the unavailability of shelters where V.K. could stay with her children constituted a violation.
The Committee recommended that the State should: amend its law to remove time limits on applications for protection orders, eradicate undue administrative and legal burdens on applicants, and ease the burden of proof in favor of victims; take measures to ensure that a sufficient number of State-funded shelters were available and provide support to relevant NGOs; and institute mandatory training for judges, lawyers and law enforcement personnel on domestic violence and gender stereotypes.