Note from the LeftEast editors: days after The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (a.k.a. The Istanbul Convention) was declared “unconstitutional” by the Bulgarian Constitutional Court, the witch-hunt against the so-called “gender ideology” took its first symbolic victim. A project on gender equality nominated in the first phase of UNESCO’s Participation Programme 2018-2019 was blocked by the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, and later by the Bulgarian Ministry of Education and Science (despite the fact that the Ministry had very little jurisdiction over it). We reprint from dVersia magazine the statement of the scholars whose project „Forum for gender balanced model at school: the Bulgarian case“, was stopped amidst the application process. In solidarity with the scholars, we demand that the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences revokes its decision, which presents a serious assault against the principles of academic freedom.
We, the authors of the project „Forum for gender balanced model at school: the Bulgarian case“, which was nominated in the first phase of UNESCO’s Participation Programme 2018-2019, hereby declare:
Over the last few days our project proposal and we personally as its authors became target of media campaign following the unlawful leakage of the project concept note. The goals of the project were misrepresented, the project accused of peddling “gender ideology”, of attempting to propagate a “third sex”, to “brainwash children” etc.
As social scientists and outstanding researchers in their field, we are compelled to reply to these accusations in good faith. The goal of our project is to research teacher competence and motivation to uphold and instill in their students the principle of gender equality. We were led by the conviction that knowledge of the everyday problems faced by educators is necessary when implementing working strategies in the spirit of UNESCO’s Gender Equality Action Plan 2014-2021 and its Major Programme 2 “Education”. These goals are in sync with Bulgaria’s National Strategy for Encouraging Equality between Men and Women 2016-2020 and the Law on Equality between Women and Men as published in the State Gazette, issue 33, 26.04.2016. It follows that they should also be in sync with the policies of the Bulgarian Ministry of Education and Sciences.
The slanderous media campaign has terminated our participation in the programme competition and the fact was declared a “success” by the authors of this shameful action.
Obviously, as on previous occasions, the term “gender” is the scarecrow meant to mobilize popular support. It is a globally accepted scientific term for everyone studying the relations between men and women. In the course of the past few months, the term was presented to Bulgarian society in a manipulative way. Does this all mean that from now on everyone who dares to research gender themes such as equality, discrimination, violence, unequal pay, etc., will be ostracized?
In our view this is a very serious case of censorship, where academic freedom is brutally suppressed. At a time when we speak of “Science and education for smart growth”, we were presented as a mortal threat to Bulgaria’s schools, as “gender agents” endangering Bulgarian children.
As members of the academic community we believe that we must defend our freedom to select research fields in compliance with academic standards, ethical norms and current legislation. We must resist being victimized and subjected to witch hunts. The attack on our project has provided a new opportunity to proclaim the scientists at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences as redundant and expendable. We wonder who it is that stands to benefit from all this.
Sofia, 3 August 2018
Miladina Monova, Ana Luleva, Albena Nakova, Shaban Darakchi