Poland: LGBT-free zones and ban on Pride marches

Poland: LGBT-free zones and ban on Pride marches

Several regions in Poland have been declared ‘LGBT-free’, and LGBT marches have been banned or met with violence. These developments are supported by the nationalist Law and Justice party, which argues that the LGBT community is a threat to Poland. Besides politicians, the Catholic Church has gotten involved in the discussion as well, with the archbishop of Krakow stating that Poland is suffering from a “rainbow plague”.

There is little doubt that religion continues to be important in Poland, with 87% of inhabitants identifying themselves as Catholics.[1] In recent years, religion has played a key role in the country’s politics. In 2015, the nationalist Law and Justice party won a majority in the parliament by voicing anti-immigration opinions. But, as immigration slows, the party is now shifting to an anti-LGBT focus,[2] turning this subject into a political battleground.[3] The anti-LGBT views of the party can be seen in statements by the party president, Jarosław Kaczyński. For instance, in May 2019, he said that the LGBT community is “a threat to Polish identity, to our nation, to its existence and thus to the Polish state.”[4] Politicians are not the only ones voicing anti-LGBT opinions: the Catholic Church has gotten involved as well. For example, the archbishop of Krakow, Market Jedraszewski, said in a sermon that Poland is under attack by a “rainbow plague”.[5]

LGBT-free zones and banned marches
Most worrying, however, is the fact that the anti-LGBT opinions are clearly having an effect on the lives of LGBT people in Poland. Recently, over 80 Polish local authorities have declared their territories ‘LGBT free’.[6] As a response, Paweł Rabiej, openly gay deputy mayor of Warsaw, tweeted: “German fascists created Jew-free zones”,[7] [8] comparing Nazi anti-Semitic policies to the anti-LGBT opinions of the current Polish government.

The LGBT-free zones are not the only issue for members of the LGBT community in Poland. Pro-LGBT activists have faced increasing danger when protesting for their rights. In July 2019, human rights activist Elżbieta Podleśna was suspected of placing posters of Jesus and Mary, surrounded by rainbow halos, near a Catholic church that had held an anti-LGBT exposition during Easter. As a result, she was accused of offending religious beliefs, which is a crime in Poland.[9]

Finally, there are also several Polish laws that limit the rights of the LGBT community. For example, only a mother and father can be recognised as the parents of a child. Therefore, it is forbidden for both parents to be of the same sex. Because of this, the Polish government does also not recognise foreign civil status acts in which same-sex parents are registered.[10] Moreover, all same-sex marriages are forbidden in the country. Meanwhile, peaceful protests have been stopped, with LGBT marches being banned or condemned across Poland, and when they do take place, they are met with violence.[11] For example, members of an LGBT march in Białystok in July 2019 were attacked with bricks, stones, fireworks, eggs, and rotten vegetables.[12] [13]

Changing attitudes
Whereas some politicians are voicing their anti-LGBT opinions louder and louder, the attitude of the public shows a different trend. In 2001, 41% of Poles said that being gay should not be tolerated, but this number had dropped to 24% by 2017. The issue, therefore, is not that the entire Polish society is homophobic or anti-LGBT. However, homophobic views and actions are more intense when they occur. This is illustrated by the fact that, despite the lack of reliable government records on the number of hate crimes against the LGBT community, Polish rights groups state that the number of homophobic attacks have increased.[14] The involvement of the Church in this issue can be argued to be especially worrying.

Anne Clerx

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[1] Religious affiliation in central and eastern Europe | Pew Research Center
[2] Why ‘LGBT-free zones’ are on the rise in Poland
[3] Family, faith, flag: the religious right and the battle for Poland’s soul
[4] Kaczynski calls LGBT rights a ‘threat’ to Poland
[5] Liberals fear unrest as Poland Catholic Church doubles down on anti-gay rhetoric
[6] Poolse ‘LGBT-vrije zones’ schokken Europa
[7] Poland court bans ‘LGBT-free zone’ sticker from sale
[8] Anti-Gay Brutality in a Polish Town Blamed on Poisonous Propaganda
[9] Polish Activist Arrested Over Image Of Mary And Jesus With Rainbow Halos
[10]High court: two women cannot be registered as parents under Polish law
[11] Family, faith, flag: the religious right and the battle for Poland’s soul
[12] Anti-Gay Brutality in a Polish Town Blamed on Poisonous Propaganda
[13]The struggle for LGBT equality: Pride meets prejudice in Poland
[14]Polish cities and provinces declare ‘LGBT-free zones’