Disability Watchdog – the Bulgarian Family Code and its restrictions

Are disabled people discriminated against by the Bulgarian Family Code?

In 2010 Peter Kichashki, who was to go on to become ENIL’s South Regional Coordinator, submitted a complaint to the Bulgarian Committee for Protection Against Discrimination. His protest concerned a clause in the Bulgarian Family Code that had the potential to prevent people born disabled from getting married. The text stated that if there was the possibility that the marriage would produce disabled children, then it could legally be annulled by a public prosecutor. The idea behind this clause was to “prevent” births of children with impairments. In addition, the Code also made it clear that all couples wanting to marry have to run a lot of medical tests in order to “prove” that as potential future parents there is no possibility of passing on any genetically inherited impairment. The case began with a lot of media coverage and public debate. The wording of the clause was  very uncertain  and could be interpreted in numerous different ways – some said it did not present any legal  obstacle to marriage so long as the couple were fully aware of the possible risks of having disabled children, but other famous professors and legal authorities were of the opinion that even if the potential future parents were aware, it is still  a case of “national security” to prevent the birth of children with impairments  in order to keep the nation “healthy”. Owing to the debate surrounding the clause, the only way to prove which theory was correct was to have it discussed in a legal atmosphere. Kichashki’s official complaint filed with the Bulgarian Committee for Protection Against Discrimination was a way of finding out the true implications of the clause. The question at stake was whether the law made it impossible to marry someone with a congenital disability who carried the possibility of passing on an inherited impairment to future progeny.

After 2 years of careful legal study into this question, the Bulgarian Committee of Protection Against Discrimination published their findings on 4th of May 2012. The Committee found that the clause presents no discrimination because it does not outlaw marriage even where there is the possibility of passing on an impairment to a future generation so long as both partners are aware of the situation. This case was so complicated that the Committee expanded the number of staff working on it from 3 Commissioners up to 5. After two years of judicial struggle we inBulgariaare finally sure that no one can stop disabled people from getting married so long as couples are aware of the possibility of genetic impairment for future children. Now no public attorney can destroy a marriage just on the suspicion that a marriage could produce disabled children.

1 Comment

Nicolo DELLA-PUPA

August 2, 2012, 9:27 am

I am a 49 year old man cerebral pallsy sufferer and wheelchair user from Bucharest Romania.I have been happilly married for almost two years with another person with disabilities.It is logical that when and if wr will want to have children we will take all the necessary measures and precautions not to give birth to a child with disabilities,because we are both conscious of our sufffering and we want to pass it on to an inocent child .I am very glad of the victory obtained by our Bulgarian friend because nobpdy shoukd ever be able to prevent a marriage beetween two people with disabilites if this marriage is based on love and respect.

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