Convicted trafficker leaves Bulgaria’s Celebrity Big Brother after protests

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Rapper Ivan Glavchev departs show for personal reasons, amid complaints over his jail term for coercing women and a child into prostitution

A Bulgarian rapper who was convicted of trafficking multiple women and a child into prostitution has announced his sudden departure from Bulgarias Celebrity Big Brother following protests from womens rights campaigners.

The sight of a convicted human trafficker on one of Bulgarias biggest reality TV shows has generated little media attention. Yet in recent days public apathy has been punctured by complaints from viewers and campaigners across the country about the inclusion of Ivan Glavchev, AKA Vanko 1, who was jailed in 2003 for using narcotics to coerce 10 women and one minor into prostitution and then trafficking them to countries across Europe.

Celebrity Big Brother is one of Bulgarias biggest TV shows, pulling in millions of viewers each week. In 2016 it was estimated that 30% of Bulgarian viewers were following the show.

In a statement to the Guardian, Swedish media company Modern Times Group the owner of Bulgarian broadcaster Nova TV, which airs VIP Big Brother said in a statement that Vanko 1 had left the house for personal reasons, but that Nova TV is to change its selection strategy for the programme.

In light of the complaints received, our local company is revisiting the selection criteria used for contestants on such shows, as a criminal conviction for such offences is extremely serious and the company would not include anyone with such a conviction in future shows, it said.

Glavchev was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2003 but had his sentence shortened to just three following controversial amendments to the penal code introduced after his conviction, which critics linked to corruption and manipulation of the judicial system.

Glavchevs withdrawal from the TV show comes after womens group Ne Si Sama (You Are Not Alone) published an open letter criticising the decision to invite him. Glavchev is also known for his controversial statements about women. During his stay in the Big Brother house he told housemates, I see nothing shameful about the woman standing lower than men.

Glavchev is understood to have health issues, but his departure has been welcomed by campaigners.

As a sex trafficking survivor, I feel personally affected, Galina Lacheva, a member of Ne Si Sama, said. But Im also hopeful that the news that Vanko 1 has left the VIP Big Brother house is to do with our open letter.

Lacheva said that the situation reflected broader attitudes to violence.

Its high time western society in general recognises men like Vanko 1 as symptoms rather than root causes. The amount of TV prime time given to victims and survivors of violence compared with that given to proponents of misogyny, homophobia, racism and so on speaks for itself.

Betina Zhoteva, a member of the Council for Electronic Media, an industry watchdog, said the controversy reflected declining media standards in Bulgaria, rather than attitudes towards women.

The problem is the whole of Bulgarian society, families and children, watching the show, the general idea of inviting such a person who committed notorious crimes, Zhoteva said. While he has a human right to appear, I find it very bad taste. It has become a trend to invite criminals on TV because Bulgarian journalists consider it a huge achievement.

Bulgaria is one of the primary source countries of human trafficking in the EU, according to the US state department. In its annual Trafficking In Persons report, Bulgarias judicial system was criticised for handing out suspended sentences to people convicted of human trafficking and not doing enough to protect potential victims.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/sep/26/convicted-trafficker-leaves-bulgaria-celebrity-big-brother-after-protests-ivan-glavchev-vanko-1

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