Deystvie was founded in 2012 by a group of young LGBT activists committed to social progress and legislative reforms for LGBTI people in Bulgaria. Since 2012, Deystvie has been organizing the Sofia Pride Film Festival. The festival aims at providing visibility and raising awareness on important questions related to the LGBTI- community. It also provides free access to the best of queer cinema from all over the world. In 2014, the organization established a Legal Defense and Advocacy Program. The program provides legal support in LGBTI-related cases as well as anti-discrimination training for members of the community.
Since 2015, Deystvie has been a co-organizer of Sofia Pride – the biggest event in support of human rights in Bulgaria. In March 2018, together with, GLAS and the Bilitis Foundation, Deystvie established the first LGBTI-community center in Sofia: the Rainbow Hub. Rainbow Hub is the home of various groups as well as hosting community meetings and events.
What are your most memorable moments in Deystvie’s recent history?
This year, we made a huge step forward regarding the rights of EU citizens and their spouses residing in Bulgaria. In a historic decision published on 29 June 2018, the Sofia City Administrative Court ruled in favor of a same-sex couple who fought for their right to reside as a married couple in Bulgaria. Deystvie’s Legal and Advocacy Programme assited Cristina and Mariama, an Australian-French couple, that got married on 1 June 2016 in France. Later that year, Cristina, an Australian citizen, was granted residency in Sofia, Bulgaria, based on the 2004/38/EC Directive on freedom of movement in the European Union.
According to this Directive, any EU citizen is entitled to family mobility within the EU countries, even if their spouse is not a European Union citizen – which was Cristina’s case. However, in 2017, the Ministry of Interior’s Migration Directorate denied her the right to reside in Bulgaria based on the argument that same-sex marriage is not allowed under the Bulgarian Constitution. The Court held that under EU law it is not permitted for any Member State to deny a third-country citizen married to a Member State citizen the right of residency only because its legislation does not recognize the marriage between people of the same sex. The Court held that under EU law it is not permitted for any Member State to deny a third-country citizen married to a Member State citizen the right of residency only because its legislation does not recognize the marriage between people of the same sex.
Can you tell us about your priorities, projects, topics, etc. you’ll be working on for the remainder of 2019?
Our focus in 2019 will continue to be intersectional work and building strong coalitions between activists working with oppressed communities. As a part of the Equality League project, we are working closely with the Roma and d/Deaf community. We will continue to take a strong stand for the rights of women. In March 2019, we were part of the Women’s March organization committee.
Furthermore, anti-discrimination policies and prevention of bias motivated hate-crimes will continue to be central to our work. We are planning to develop tools for civic participation in the formulation, implementation and monitoring of anti-discrimination policies in Bulgaria.
Since mental health is one of the most pressing issues, especially regarding LGBTI youth, this year we launched a mental health program that would provide free online resources. From September 2019 on, we will provide free access to support groups lead by an experienced psychologist.
What makes your organization unique?
Youth LGBT Organization Deystvie is focused on empowering the community and promoting the rule of law as a tool for preventing homophobia and transphobia from being a part of the everyday life of LGBTI people. We are very proud of our Legal and Advocacy Program – the only specialized legal program in Bulgaria that provides free legal expert support for LGBTI- related issues.
IGLYO has been empowering young people for 35 years. What is for you the potential of youth activism in the LGBTQI movement?
In Deystvie we believe LGBTI youth has always been the backbone of the movement. Therefore, we work for building and strengthening the capacity of young activists within the LGBTI community. As part of our Youth Program we have been working on engaging LGBTI youth community organizers not only in Soa but also around the country.