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Bulgarian Orthodox Church opposes European women's rights initiative, saying it will cause 'moral decay'

The Bulgarian Orthodox Church on Monday announced its opposition to a treaty to reduce violence against women and promote gender equality, Reuters reports. The treaty, known as the Istanbul Convention, was drafted by the Council of Europe in 2010 and adopted in 2011. The council then introduced the document for EU-wide ratification in response to previous EU findings on the prevalence of gender-based violence in Europe.

In a statement, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church's governing organization proclaimed that "no man of Christ" supports violence against women, but warned that the treaty "raises anxiety about the future of European Christian civilization" and "opens the doors to moral decay." The treaty's ratification is currently being considered in Bulgaria's National Assembly.

A particular point of contention for the church is the Istanbul Convention's use of the word "gender." The church says the treaty imposes "an ideology that denies that man exists as a man or a woman." An English version of the convention's text contains no explicit mentions of any such ideology, but does encourage "gender-sensitive policies," legal measures to help domestic violence victims, and the promotion of "non-stereotyped gender roles." The church claims that these "unfamiliar" gender roles "are directed against God's marital union of husband and wife."

The church's concerns are being taken seriously in Bulgaria's National Assembly, as Reuters reports that a significant part of the country's legislative body is now trying to prevent the Istanbul Convention's ratification. Kelly O'Meara Morales

Editor's note: This post originally mischaracterized the origins of the Istanbul Convention. It has since been corrected. We regret the error.