This is the opinion of manager and founder of Centre Dinamika Association – Deana Dimova. She has a master's degree in psychology and a postgraduate qualification in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Social Management. She has been working in the social field for over 15 years - psychodiagnosis, training, psychosocial support and counseling for victims of domestic and gender-based violence. Here's what she told us according to her personal practice in the anti-violence center which she leads.
- What forms of honor related abuses are encountered in Bulgaria and what problems can occur as a result of this type of abuse?
Early marriage is a form of honor related crime and has the same social characteristics as an official one. It is characteristic of the Roma community and has serious social consequences, such as social exclusion, due to disconnection with the main family and friends, early school leaving, early pregnancy and childbirth. Later on, various forms of domestic violence, divorces and miscarriage also occur.
- Do you think that the legislation in this area is effective enough in Bulgaria, are the perpetrators of this type of crime punished and are the penalties effective enough so that such acts do not repeat, what does your experience indicate?
The Criminal Code (CC) is intended to protect the personality and rights of citizens and the overall legal order established in the country from criminal attacks. To accomplish this task, the Code defines which socially dangerous acts are crimes and what penalties are imposed on them and establishes the cases where measures for public influence and education can be imposed instead of punishment. The Criminal Code also regulates sanctions for forced marriage, the inclination of a female person to a forced marriage; sanctions against the actual cohabitation of minors under the age of 16 and for facilitating that cohabitation.
- Crimes in the name of honor are most commonly recognized in the form of child marriages in Roma communities. In some cases, however, these are not forced marriages as the children themselves consent to them, possibly due to lack of information. How do you react if there is a report of such abuse, is there any way to stop such a wedding and how?
Often when dealing with Roma communities we come across practices that are used to control behavior and exercise power within families to protect perceived cultural and religious beliefs. They are mainly used to assert male authority over women's autonomy. We have encountered cases of Roma girls with the desire and potential to continue their education, but were instead forced to marry under the pressure of their parents. In many cases, we have responded by reporting to the Child Welfare Department or using personal contacts with Roma leaders to prevent negative consequences for the children themselves.
There is a need to continue to work very actively to change the stereotypes among the Roma community that the Roma girl is not a commodity. To work towards the empowerment of Roma girls towards education, social responsibility and autonomy. Implement the developed policies on non-discrimination, equality and respect for human rights.
- As a psychologist, would you explain to us what traumas an individual's child marriage can cause and how it affects society as a whole?
Forced marriage is a form of abuse of human rights because it violates the principle of freedom and autonomy of the individual. Roma women do not feel that violence against them and their children is wrong. The model of the exercise of power through physical force has been accompanying them from an early age and has been passed down from generation to generation, insofar as it is considered a norm. This is one of the main reasons to seek help only after particularly severe beatings that endanger their lives. Even then, they have no sense of being systematically abused. The threshold of sensitivity is very low, and if some of the victims still dare to share their stories, then in them they define as violence only physical attacks on themselves, and in their worst forms.
Injuries to the child's psyche can seriously affect self-esteem, leading to severe depression, self-harm, suicidal intent and actions. The feeling of shame can affect relationships with other family members and friends and can lead to isolation and loneliness.
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This article was created with the financial support of the Active Citizens Fund Bulgaria under the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area. The responsibility for the content of the document lies with the Center for Sustainable Communities Development and under no circumstances can it be assumed that this document reflects the official opinion of the European Economic Area Financial Mechanism and the Operator of the Active Citizens Fund Bulgaria.