A woman in Bulgaria is in a ‘stupor’ after homophobic attack where a man punched her in the face in the capital Sofia.
Galya Petkova was walking her dog on Sunday afternoon (10 February) and trying to enjoy the rare sunny day.
A man in his 40s approached her and called her a ‘dirty faggot’.
Petkova, 45, tried to ignore him and kept walking through the park. But she then heard the man coming up behind her and before she knew it, he had allegedly punched her in the face. The blow was so hard it knocked two of her teeth out and cracked a third.
‘I don’t want to see you in this area again,’ he told here.
Petkova owns two restaurants in Sofia, one of which is a bar for queer women. She told Gay Star News she has always been open about her sexuality and always felt safe in Sofia.
‘I was in stupor. I could not and still don’t believe it happened, in the 21st Century in the center of Sofia,’ she said.
Petkova said she had only experienced homophobia during Sofia Pride where members of ultranationalist, radical right movements descend on Pride to intimidate parade goers and threaten violence.
Despite her injuries Petkova said she believed the man who attacked her was more a victim than she was.
‘The truth is, I’m sorry for the man who attacked me,’ she said.
‘Violence generates violence. That’s how he was obviously raised.
‘I wish we were more able to accept others as they are. Without judging and with no prejudices.’
The restaurant owner took her attack as an opportunity to send a message to straight people. She urged them to raise their children with love so they don’t grow up hating people different to themselves.
‘I hope people will begin to understand that we all have a place on this planet,’ she said.
‘And if they can not accept us at least do not hurt us. I also hope that a moment will come when my rights will be the same as my sister’s and my brother’s rights.’
Recognize hate crimes
Petkova has reported the matter to police who are investigating the matter.
But Bulgarian LGBTI activists want amendments to the criminal law that would prosecute people for hate crimes. They also called for police and prosecutors to be better trained in investigating hate crimes.
‘We demand the participation of LGBTI and human rights organizations with their expertise in the discussions for drafting the law and the inclusion of investigating hate crimes and working with hate crimes victims in the mandatory specialized training of pre-trial authorities,’ the Sofia Pride organizing committed said in a statement.
Bulgaria ranked 34 out of 49 on ILGA’s (International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association) Rainbow Index. The Index ranks countries in Europe based on their treatment of LGBTI people socially and legally.
Last year, a Sofia court ruled in favor of a same-sex couple who wanted their marriage recognized in Bulgaria. The Sofia Court said in its ruling it must fall in line with the recent ruling of the European Court of Justice on a similar case in Romania.