On July 20th, a milestone for the Podlachia region, known for its conservatism and for being a stronghold of Polish nationalism, was completely disrupted. Białystok’s first-ever ‘Equality March’ was scheduled for 2:30pm on that day. Eggs, stones, glass bottles and dozens of firecrackers were aimed at LGBTQ supporters by football fans from the city’s local club. They expressed their hatred by broadcasting homophobic messages via megaphone. Meanwhile, many detractors rushed to the city’s many churches to pray for the ‘re-conversion’ of those taking part in the march. Around sixty counter-demonstrations were reported by the municipal police. Amongst their organizers: nationalists, ultra-Catholics, and ‘Walk for Families’ partisans.
For several months now, the Polish LGBTQ community has been at the center of an unprecedented campaign launched by Prawo i Sprawiedliwość, or PiS (Law and Justice), the party in government, and a myriad of pro-government media. What seems to have triggered this animosity wave was the signing by Warsaw’s center-right mayor, Rafał Trzaskowski, of an ‘LGBTQ charter’, aiming to implement anti-discrimination measures. Decency is being breached on a daily in violent and exceptionally polarized public debates, amplifying the magnitude of a cultural and religious battle. The ultra-conservative press tends to openly equate homosexuality with pedophilia, sex-education with indoctrination and drag queens with gender-less beings. This resulted in the creation of movement ‘Stop Pedophilia’. It has, up to this day, 265,395 signatures. The opposition believes in a desire to ‘sexualize young children’, and in the use of sex education (within the standards of the World Health Organisation), as a mere instrument to that matter. A very popular right-wing publicist goes as far as to write that one must ‘shoot the LGBTQ ideology’, without care for justice. Last week, newspaper Gazeta Polska had even advertised stickers with the inscription ‘This is an LGBT-free zone’. According to NGO Campaign Against Homophobia (KPH), about thirty Polish territorial entities (villages, regional assemblies,…) have self-declared as ‘LGBT-free zones’. Following the events, LGBTQ activists demand for homophobia acts be harshly repressed. But Hubert Sobecki, leader of organisation Miłość nie wyklucza (‘Love does not exclude’), wants to take a step further. ‘We want to amend the penal code so stickers like these are automatically banned’, he says. U.S. ambassador Georgette Mosbacher, friend to Donald Trump, felt compelled to react: ‘It is time for us to finally say that the lives of LGBT people in Poland are in danger’.
It is appalling to see that the hierarchy of the Polish Roman Catholic Church, who should call for love and respect, has been actively attacking minorities. And this is not only about the LGBT community and its partisans, but about human rights violation. Support for those that see their rights violated is a basic duty for every conscious citizen. Some might want to appeal to radical solutions: no march? No problem. But one of the fundamental values of democracy is the right to peaceful demonstrations. Becoming a democratic state in 1989 has been a great achievement for Poland. Today, the question boils down to redefining democracy in the country. Institutionalized hope can be seen in the existence and actions of the Committee for the Defence of Democracy. This NGO and civic organisation promoting European values, especially democracy, rule of law and human rights, was formed after PiS won parliamentary elections. The organisation is independent of any political parties but its many events are supported by the liberal opposition, and, naturally, condemned by the ruling party.
PiS is extremely close to the Church and is fiercely opposed to extending the rights of the homosexual community. At a rally in April, party leader Jarosław Kaczyński said that the ‘LGBT ideology’ was a ‘threat to the Polish identity and state as a whole’. After its anti-immigration speech, PiS’ hostility to homosexual communities has grown exponentially as the new marker of legislative elections to be held in October. This new cleavage has weakened the opposition party PO (Civic Platform). When in government, the liberal party was seen as being too superficial in questions regarding LGBTQ rights. MP Michał Szczerba admits that ‘the rights of the LGBT community have not been sufficiently taken into account’ and that they ‘do apologise for that’. New party Wiosna (Spring) is without doubt one to capture their voices. Its success in winning 6% of the vote in the last European elections exemplifies just this. Wiosna was born in the wake of January 2019 assassination of Gdańsk’s mayor, Paweł Adamowicz, pro-immigration and pro-LGBTQ. Led by Robert Biedron, an asserted homosexual, the party defends more radical positions than PO: abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy, same-sex marriage, reimbursement of in vitro fertilisation (recently suppressed by the Conservatives), and adoption rights for same-sex couples.
Poles are still very divided. According to a survey conducted in July by the polling agency CBOS, 41% of poles feel an ‘aversion’ for gays and lesbians, whilst 34% accept them. Only 28% of total respondents believe that same-sex couples should express their sexuality. If changing an older generations’ mouth-fed fundamental views seems impossible, the change resides in the influence the CDD and Spring can exercise.
Living in South America, the Middle East as well as in the E.U. has given me the opportunity to both develop my knowledge and experience, simultaneously enriching my personality and interests notably in photojournalism, politics and volunteering. I am currently a Correspondent for the Organisation for World Peace as well as a Latin America Correspondent for The London Globalist, an online international affairs newspaper.
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