А protest action, part of the “Childhood without Bars” campaign, demanded an immediate reform of child justice and full respect for children’s rights in Bulgaria.
During the event, which took place in front of the National Theater “Ivan Vazov” in Sofia, was presented an art installation with a teddy bear behind bars. The authors of the provocative installation are the creative team “Disctructive Creation”.
“In Bulgaria every year about 10,000 children are affected by the Law on Combating Antisocial behaviour of Minors and Juveniles which was adopted in 1958 and is based entirely on repressive and punitive measures, ” said Georgi Bogdanov, executive director of the National Network for Children at the opening of the action.
This law punishes children who have committed misconduct such as escaping from home, wandering, begging, stealing food, etc. Such behavior usually signals problems in child care and requires adequate response and support. Children who fall under the Law are usually extremely vulnerable. Many have been mistreated or neglected, and their families often live in extreme poverty without access to adequate services and support.
While the commitments made by the state in recent years have been a positive experience of changing the child justice system, there is still no comprehensive approach to children in conflict with the law. The reform requires not only changes in the judiciary, but also in the education, health and social care systems as well as in the police system.
The “Childhood without Bars” initiative is a joint campaign of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, the National Network for Children and the Institute for Social Activities and Practices. It was launched in 2015 as a result of repeated criticisms and signals from various international and national organizations about the inadequate justice system in Bulgaria.
The three organizations insist on:
• Adopting a new law on juvenile justice.
• Closure of the correctional boarding schools and the social-pedagogic boarding schools in which the children are detained for correction, but in fact there are many signals for mistreat and bad conditions.
• Establishment of specialized children’s courts, ensuring a fair trial, accessible and quality legal aid for children.
• Specialization of professionals working with children – policemen, investigators, judges, prosecutors, social workers and others.
• Development of new services and measures, alternative to boarding schools – programs and services for the prevention, support and reintegration of children and young people.
Along with the campaign, there is an online petition in which citizens can express their support for the requested changes.
The special site of the campaign is deca.bg.