Local municipalities across a third of Poland have adopted resolutions “against LGBT propaganda” or “pro-family.” Creating what rights groups describe as hostile spaces for anyone who does not commit to the “natural family.” This article intends to explain what we can do, as Americans, to curb it.
Poland, home to some 38 million people, is one of Europe’s most Catholic countries. About 86% of the population identifying as Roman Catholic. It ranks 27 out of 28 European Union states when it comes to equality and non-discrimination, according to Rainbow Europe.
Same-sex marriage, still illegal in Poland, is legal in 27 EU countries. Not considered a hate crime by law are anti-gay attacks. In 2016, parliament rejected a bill that would have included gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, and age as potential grounds for a “hate crime.” Kucharczyk from the Institute of Public Affairs says there’s a “refusal to recognize that LGBTQ people need to be protected. Hate crimes against sexual minorities are not reported because police aren’t required to report it.”
According to the Campaign Against Homophobia, 12% of people who don’t identify as heterosexual are victims of physical violence in Poland, while around ninety percent of incidents go unreported.
Opposition to LGBTQ rights became a cornerstone of populists’ campaign after Warsaw Mayor Trzaskowski signed a declaration in February. This declaration promised an LGBTQ community center, a local crisis intervention system, and access to sex education in schools.
Shortly after the mayor signed the declaration, PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski responded, calling LGBTQ rights an “import.” A number of town councilors announced their decision to make their municipalities “LGBT free,” calling Warsaw’s declaration “against good moral values.” Mirosława Makuchowska, from the Campaign Against Homophobia, says while such announcements are not legally binding, they send a “disturbing message” to the population.
What is an “LGBT-Free Zone?”
“Although these anti-LGBTI resolutions adopted by nearly 100 municipalities in Poland have no legal value, they have great symbolic value. It’s a signal sent to LGBTI people to let them know that local authorities see no place for them in their own cities or towns.”Cecylia Jakubczak: Campaign Against Homophobia (KPH).
After Warsaw’s mayor Rafał Trzaskowski of the opposition, center-right Civic Platform (PO) party, signed a declaration to support LGBTI people in February 2019, several towns reacted by declaring “LGBT-free zones.” These zones essentially declared themselves unwelcoming of an alleged “LGBT ideology.” They equate this ideology to, as Rafal Ziemkiewicz, tweeted “not people of goodwill or defenders of anybody’s rights, [the movement is] a new mutation of Bolsheviks and Nazis.”
Why is it dangerous?
“The developments in Poland do not stand alone.
Europe saw a rise in divisive and hateful rhetoric in election campaigns and public discourse, with minorities scapegoated. And this is translating into real hate in the streets, not only homophobic and transphobic hate but on all grounds.
One minority targeted leads to another community targeted, and then another one, and so on down a slippery slope of eroding fundamental rights.”
Poland’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community faces widespread and ingrained discrimination. While there no official statistics exist, the KPA recorded at least 120 homophobic or transphobic hate crimes in 2014 alone.
Targeted By Hatred, Forgotten By Law shows how the system falls dangerously short when it comes to protecting LGBT people. Excluded from hate crime legislation, are whole communities, including homeless persons, people with disabilities, and LGBT people.
Every year, hundreds of people in Poland suffer beatings, harassment, and other crimes simply because of their identity. Hate crimes have a long-lasting impact on victims and communities and require a thorough response from policymakers.
Therefore, allowing this ideology to rise, will only increase hate crimes around the country and further put people in danger.
What can I do?
The towns from funding for a program that connects local communities across Europe intended to have a deeper symbolic resonance. “E.U. fundamental rights must be respected by the Member States and state authorities,” Helena Dalli, the European Union commissioner for equality, wrote. The Polish authorities that adopted “L.G.B.T.-free zones” or “family rights” resolutions failed to protect those rights, she wrote and rejected their funding applications.
But what can we do to support our siblings in Poland?
We can do much more than sign petitions. We must fight for rights here as well. That is through providing adequate sexual education, as well as being an adequate ally as described in Abby Miller’s article. Through preventing hate here, we can prevent hate from spreading throughout the world.