OPEN LETTER: Bulgarian Fund for Women Demands the Resignation оf Vezhdi Rashidov as an MP
On August 7, 2023, the team of Bulgarian Fund for Women (BFW) was monitoring yet another, this time extraordinary, meeting in the Plenary Hall regarding the necessary and long-awaited changes to the Law on Protection from Domestic Violence (LPDV). Namely – the expansion of the Protection Against Domestic Violence Act to include protection for people who have been or are in an intimate relationship. At this point, we are almost used to these sessions turning into a political circus, an arena for hate speech and attacks on civil society organizations, and a contest of sloppiness, during which the focus is shifted from the necessary changes in legislation and the ailing and deep-rooted issues in our society regarding domestic and gender-based violence. These meetings also become a platform from which extremely regressive parties loudly express their own political messages without an ounce of concern for the 13 women that were killed since the beginning of the year and the remaining 1 million Bulgarian women who suffer violence every day. Instead, they are an insult to the victims of domestic violence and violence against women in our country.
But just when we thought that the level of “debate” in the National Assembly could not get any lower, the MPs went on a break, during which the Member of Parliment, former Minister of Culture, and former Chairperson of Parliament, Vezhdi Rashidov went to the Vice-Chairpersons and not realising that the microphones were still on, said something extremely unacceptible, cynical, and sexist:
“There are laws now. Why are we scratching our tongues? All the wh*res woke up after 15 years to remember they were raped. Just like that American director that they made a monkey out of.”
These remarks symbolize the attitude of most political parties, institutions, and MPs towards women in Bulgaria, domestic violence, and the misunderstanding of this problem. These lines are symbolic of the institutional violence during an anti-violence debate.
Mr. Rashidov, yesterday, after realizing that your words did not go unnoticed, you apologized. As an organization with 20 years of experience in fighting violence, we do not forgive you for what you said, and we want you to resign as a Member of Parliament. You have no place in the Bulgarian Parliament! And your apology has no value, especially when it was followed by your claim that your words were taken out of context. Explain to us, Mr. Rashidov, what context turns a raped woman into a wh*re?
As a matter of fact, women often do not talk about their assault immediately after it happens for a number of reasons – shame, fear, stigma, mistrust in institutions, and suspicions that the abuser will go unpunished despite everything (it is not like this never happened, right?). But believe us that they not only remember the crime(s) committed against them 15 years ago, but most probably hardly a day goes by without them returning to the horrific memories of the assault. We would have forgiven your ignorance if you had not called raped women wh*res. From the highest position in the state. And if vital changes in the legislation did not depend on you.
THAT IS WHY WE INSIST THAT YOU IMMEDIATELY SUBMIT YOUR RESIGNATION FOR YOUR POSITION AS MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT! PEOPLE WITH YOUR VIEWS HAVE NO PLACE IN THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY!
It is not enough for GERB to demand your resignation from the two commission posts you occupy – this will not silence your words, and we doubt that it will change your opinion about raped women, which you share with such confidence and conviction with your colleagues. We do not even want to imagine what else you say in the hall where the people have sent you to “represent” them. We cannot expect adequate changes in the legislation while they are being voted on by people like you!
WE CALL ON THE MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT FROM ALL PARTIES TO DEMAND AND VOTE FOR THE RESIGNATION OF VEZHDI RASHIDOV!
File a report with the Commission for Prevention and Counteraction of Corruption of the National Assembly! Remove Mr. Rashidov from meetings! And then remove him as an MP altogether. To wash away the shame of his words and restore the dignity of victims of gender-based violence.
We urge you to continue working for better and more effective changes to the Protection Against Domestic Violence Act and the Criminal Code! You owe this to Bulgarian women.
RESIGNATION OF VEZHDI RASHIDOV FROM THE POST OF MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT!
With disrespect to Mr. Rashidov,
The Bulgarian Fund for Women