Meet Denitsa Lyubenova from Bulgaria

When activism meets law
Denitsa Lyubenova

Denitsa Lyubenova is a human rights lawyer and LGBTI activist who helps people live normal lives and enjoy equal rights.

Fremale Forward: Meet Denitsa Lyubenova

The lawyers we see in movies are usually strong and confident but not always concerned with protecting innocent people or noble causes — they just do their job. However, Denitsa Lyubenova is not a stereotypical lawyer — her mission for many years is to achieve justice and equal human rights for people from different communities.

Denitsa decided to become a lawyer because she was inspired by an uncle who was one.  However, she has gone on a path she created herself - she helped establish the LGBTI organisation Deystvie (meaning “action”) and now, as its legal expert, helps it change the lives and protect the rights of all groups in society.

Among the issues the lawyer works on is family recognition. The latest case she is working on involves two women, a Bulgarian and a UK citizen. They got married in Spain and their child was born there. However, the child has no citizenship because the English mother cannot give the child UK citizenship and the child cannot get Spanish citizenship because neither parent is Spanish. “The only way to get any citizenship for the child is for the Bulgarian mother to come back to Bulgaria and to register the birth certificate here”, Denitsa explains.

Denitsa Lyubenova quote

The parents came to Sofia and the Bulgarian mother was asked to provide evidence that she is indeed the birth mother of the child. Denitsa explains that was not right, it was pure discrimination because no heterosexual couple who comes back to the country to register their child is asked for DNA tests. “The Sofia municipality refused our request for the child’s citizenship. We appealed that and the Administrative court decided to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union. Our hearing will be on February 9, 2021”, the lawyer says. The latter court analyses the EU legislation and decides whether Bulgarian laws contradict EU ones. “This case will be important not only for Bulgarian couples and their children, but for all rainbow families and couples around Europe and their rights regarding their children. This problem does not exist only in Bulgaria, it exists in all countries that disregard the rights of EU citizens”, Denitsa says. Another exciting project Deystvie has worked on was training police officers how to address hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity. They have trained over 200 investigative officers from around the country.

Lately, Bulgaria has suffered from an intolerant atmosphere and propaganda wars.  “I wanted to change the system and inequalities in society and I believed that in order to change whatever the system lacks, you need to know the legislation, the system and how it works”, she says.


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