Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Poland’s ‘LGBT-free zones’ are a grim reminder that, even in Europe, the fight for human rights is far from over

They have already been around for a year now, the so-called ‘LGBT-free zones’ in Poland. Some 90 municipalities, primarily in south-eastern Poland, have officially declared war on what they deem ‘gay propaganda’.

In February 2019, the municipality of Warsaw created a manifesto aimed at achieving equal rights for the queer community, and providing better information on gender and sexual orientation. But what they achieved was the absolute opposite: Jarosław Kaczyński, leader of the ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, labelled the manifesto both anti-Polish and a threat to Christian family values.

His statements were met with resounding support from the electorate. He had clearly found a scapegoat for his campaign for the European elections, which he overwhelmingly won. After that, the Archbishop of Kraków took things up a notch by talking about a “rainbow plague” that would infest Poland. 

Then, the far-right news magazine Gazeta Polska started their ‘LGBT-free zone’ sticker campaign. And, finally, local authorities in Lublin created an antimanifesto, the first resolution to make a Polish municipality ‘LGBT-free’. Today, almost one-third of Poland has followed this example. 

In opinion of Bartosz, a prominent queer activist and documentary-maker from Warsaw, although it’s basically gesture politics, LGBT people has a huge problem because homophobia has become a political instrument. There is no political consensus such as “We don’t want you here”, but it’s a license to utilise violence. 

Nevertheless, he thinks there is reason for optimism from the new generation. Because we are living in a time of social media, young people are not falling for the lies spun by the Church or TV any more, and Polish queers have never been as united and organised as they are now, and Pride marches are spreading across the whole country.

Poland map of LGBT-free zones

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