European network of legal experts in the non-discrimination field
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The information contained on this page represents the situation as of 1 January 2014 and is a summary of the country report produced by the country expert from the network. The summary can be downloaded here as well.

Margarita Ilieva

Country context

Discrimination is pervasive, frequently open and unsanctioned, and includes discrimination, both direct and indirect, provided for by legislation. While all commonly disadvantaged groups suffer it, some communities are particularly gravely affected, including Roma, people with disabilities, especially people with mental difficulties,LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual) people who face open hatred when expressing themselves openly, ethnic Macedonians whose existence as such in Bulgaria is simply denied, and racial minority immigrants who are brutalised and shunned.  

Main principles and definitions

The Act prohibits and defines direct and indirect discrimination, including explicitly discrimination by association and by presumption. The Protection Against Discrimination Act defines direct discrimination as treating a person on protected grounds less favourably than another person is treated, has been treated, or would be treated in comparable circumstances.

Enforcing the law

The Protection Against Discrimination Act provides for two alternative procedures for enforcement of anti-discrimination rights: judicial proceedings before the general civil courts and specialised quasi-judicial proceedings before the independent equality body, the Protection Against Discrimination Commission. A victim can choose between the two. 

Main legislation

The Protection Against Discrimination Act 2004 is the main anti-discrimination legislation, which was enacted in order to transpose the EC equality directives.[1] It is a single equality law universally banning discrimination on a range of grounds, explicitly including race/ethnicity, sex, religion/belief, sexual orientation, disability and age, and providing uniform standards of protection and remedies.

Material scope

The Protection Against Discrimination Act has a universal material scope, similar to that of Protocol 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights.

The ban on discrimination is explicitly said to apply to any field, implicitly including all fields under the Race Directive, as well as any field beyond. This universal ban applies to all protected grounds, including race/ethnicity, religion/belief, disability, sexual orientation, age, and sex. It applies to the private, as well as the public sector.

Equality bodies

The Protection Against Discrimination Commission is the national specialised equality body. It was set up under the Protection Against Discrimination Act as an independent collegiate authority with adjudicating powers. It started operating in 2005 even though the law required it do so as of the start of 2004; a year’s delay. The Protection Against Discrimination Commission deals with discrimination on all protected grounds.

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