Sofia Pride Celebrates Its 17th Year

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Sofia Pride Celebrates Its 17th Year

Thousands Gather for 17th Annual Sofia Pride March

On Saturday evening, the 17th annual Sofia Pride march took place, drawing thousands of participants. Held each summer, this event advocates for the rights of the LGBT community in Bulgaria. This year’s theme, “Bulgaria is Our Home Too,” focused on patriotism and national belonging within the LGBT context. The march began at 7:30 PM from “Knyaz Alexandre I” square, a change from previous years when it started at the Prince’s Garden in front of the Soviet Army Monument, which was closed off this summer following its dismantling in December.

Enhanced Security and Performances

The police presence around the march was significantly increased. The event kicked off with a concert at 4 PM featuring many popular artists, including Irina Florin, metal band Overhook, pop-folk singer Lidia, and Ukrainian artist Orfi, who was the victim of a homophobic attack in Varna earlier this year. “I would describe Pride as a celebration of freedom and acceptance. It’s an opportunity and an invitation to be ourselves, to not judge, not hate, and to love a little more,” said host Karina Okolie at the concert’s opening.

Sofia Pride is organized by the GLAS Foundation in collaboration with the Bilitis Foundation, LGBTI Action, and the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee.

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Counter-Protest: “March for the Family”

Earlier in the day, a “March for the Family” took place in Sofia. This event, which claims to protect traditional family values, called on the state to adopt specific policies to address Bulgaria’s demographic crisis. Christian Shkvarek, president of the “Conservative Society” foundation and co-organizer of the event, emphasized that the march was apolitical and presented as an “alternative to Pride.”

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Prominent figures such as GERB MP Daniel Mitov, pro-Russian “Vazrazhdane” party leader Kostadin Kostadinov, and MECH party leader Radostin Vasilev attended the march.

Ongoing Challenges for the LGBT Community

The LGBT community in Bulgaria continues to face frequent homophobic attacks. In 2019, a woman was assaulted on the street in Sofia, called derogatory names. In 2020, children were injured in a homophobic incident in Plovdiv, organized by teenagers on social media. Late in 2021, nationalists attacked an LGBT space and beat a young girl. In 2023, supporters of the nationalist pro-Russian “Vazrazhdane” party disrupted two film screenings at the Sofia Pride Film Fest.

That same year, Parliament passed amendments to the Penal Code, imposing harsher penalties for crimes motivated by homophobia.

Legal Recognition and Rights

Despite these changes, many LGBT rights remain unaddressed by Bulgarian legislation. Earlier this year, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) mandated Bulgaria to recognize same-sex relationships. In 2023, the Supreme Court of Cassation (SCC) ruled against allowing trans individuals to legally change their gender.

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