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Time limit between enacting and enforcing laws

The time between enacting and enforcing a new domestic violence law must be carefully calculated to allow for preparation for enforcement and so that amendments to other laws which are necessary to the enforcement of the new law may be quickly enacted and promulgated. (UN Handbook Ch. 3.2.7.)

For example, the Law of Albania states that the Council of Ministers must issue all the necessary secondary legislation to the implementation of the domestic violence law within 3 three months of its entry into force. Art. 25.

CASE STUDY: Bulgarian NGOs work to get funding for domestic violence law implementation

The Bulgarian Law on Protection against Domestic Violence (hereinafter “Bulgarian Law”) was passed in 2005. The Bulgarian Law provides that the State is responsible for ensuring the implementation of programs aimed at the prevention of and protection against domestic violence, as well as programs providing assistance to the victims. In 2006, the Bulgarian Council of Ministers adopted the Protection from Domestic Violence Programme. The Programme sought to address the problem of protection order enforceability, to toughen sanctions for repeat offenders, and to open a 24-hour telephone hotline and provide shelters for victims. In early 2007, domestic violence guidance for police officers was published, national and regional coordinators were chosen, and a database of cases was created. However, the services envisioned by the Programme continued to be provided only by non-governmental organizations, with no regular funding from the Bulgarian government.

The process of acquiring funding from the state of Bulgaria has been difficult: not only is the funding insufficient, but the disbursement process is complex.  National funding exists for the creation of domestic violence shelters, but none had been built as of 2007 from the scarce budget provided in the above-mentioned Programme, which was under a budget line for the local authorities. More funding was needed to create shelters, fund NGOs, and implement programs for both victims and perpetrators, as required under Article 5 of the Bulgarian Law. Because the government was not assisting women with shelter or counseling, NGOs stepped in. One of these, the Bulgarian Gender Research Foundation, (hereinafter “BGRF”) is an NGO which promotes community involvement with domestic violence, including through police and legal trainings.

BGRF began a campaign to achieve legally-mandated funding for domestic violence services so that the  Bulgarian Law could be implemented. BRGF and the working group on the Bulgarian Law lobbied extensively for an amendment which would explicitly provide for the financial sustainability of the law, and a fund for victims. The amendment provides for NGOs to help manage and disburse the funds which are allocated to implement the Bulgarian Law. BGRF also invited the NGOs which provide services for victims of domestic violence to form an Alliance for Protection against Domestic Violence (hereinafter the “Alliance”). In 2008, as they lobbied for the amendment to be passed, the Alliance conducted the 16-days campaign. During the campaign, representatives of the Ministry of Justice spoke about the necessity for a special fund for domestic violence victims. This in itself was a significant victory for the Alliance, as all of the process of amendments and the forming of the Alliance had begun in that same year.

The Alliance and working group continued to press for amendments on financial sustainability. They made multiple presentations to different Bulgarian Ministries and presented complicated information about budgets and timing. They hoped that the State budget could incorporate funds for domestic violence from the second half of 2009, instead of postponing the allocation of funds for another year.

Amendments to the Law went before the Council of Ministers in January of 2009, and the Council was to decide which Ministry will disburse the funds.  Genoveva Tisheva of BGRF, and the President of the Alliance, spoke to a parliamentary committee on human rights about the connection between the lack of a gender equality policy and the unwillingness of the Ministries to tackle the issue of domestic violence. Shortly after her speech, the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy asked to meet with her about the future implementation of the Bulgarian Law and to discuss a mechanism for financing the work of the NGOs against domestic violence. However, after consultation with NGOs and the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Justice took on the responsibility of being the coordinating body for the implementation of the LPADV.

On June 17, 2009, the Bulgarian Council of Ministers approved several draft amendments to the Bulgarian Law, including one that stated that beginning in January of 2010, a special line item in the budget of the Ministry of Justice would fund NGO programs for victim support and other activities such as training police and monitoring legislation. It was expected that the new government and new National Assembly, in place after the national elections on 5 July 2009, would support, approve, and adopt the changes.

From the first weeks of the mandate of the new government, the BGRF and the Alliance maintained their focused campaigning and lobbying for the adoption of the changes in the Bulgarian Law which would ensure the sustainability of services for victims. Thanks to this action and to the favorable attitude of the government and the new parliament, on 9 December 2009 the amendments were adopted. It is expected that from the beginning of 2010, funding for projects of NGOs working in the field of domestic violence will be in process, and will be funded by targeted budget allocations through the Ministry of Justice. The initial amount for such projects for 2010 is not high- about half a million levs- but it marks a good beginning for negotiations of the Alliance with the government on the issue. It was expected that work and negotiations on the budget allocations would continue in 2010.

Thus, sustainable funding for the work of the NGOs against domestic violence is imminent. The formation of the Alliance was a key step in this process, as it is the voice of many NGOs, and is trusted by the government.  BGRF and the Alliance will continue their work to achieve an action plan, implementation of the law, and budgetary guarantees to support victims.