LGBT ideology-free zone
An LGBT ideology-free zone (Polish: Strefa wolna od ideologii LGBT) also referred to as LGBT free zone (Polish: Strefa wolna od LGBT) refers to the certain areas of Poland which have declared themselves unwelcoming of so-called "LGBT ideology". As of April 2020[update], some 100 municipalities (including five voivodships), encompassing about a third of the country, declared themselves "LGBT-free zones".
In February 2019, Warsaw's liberal mayor Rafał Trzaskowski signed a declaration supporting LGBTQ rights and announced his intention to follow World Health Organization guidelines and integrate LGBT issues into the Warsaw school system sex education curricula. PiS politicians objected to the program saying, it would sexualize children. PiS party leader Jarosław Kaczyński responded to the declaration, calling LGBT rights "an import" that threatens Poland. According to The Daily Telegraph, the declaration "enraged and galvanized" conservative politicians and conservative media in Poland. The "LGBT ideology-free zone" declarations have been seen as a reaction to the Warsaw declaration.
According to The Daily Telegraph, the conservative establishment is fearful of a liberal transition that may erode the power of the Catholic Church in Poland in a manner similar to the transition around the Irish Church. Decreasing Church attendance, rising secularization, and sexual abuse scandals have put pressure on the conservative position. In May 2019, Polish police arrested civil-rights activist Elżbieta Podleśna for putting up posters of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa with the halo painted rainbow colors for the charge of offending religious sentiment, which is illegal in Poland. Also in May, two weeks prior to the 2019 European Parliament election, a documentary on child sex abuse in the Church, was released online. The documentary was expected to hurt the Church-aligned PiS electorally, which led PiS leader Kaczyński to speak heatedly of the Polish nation and children as being under attack by deviant foreign ideas, which led conservative voters to rally around PiS. According to feminist scholar Agnieszka Graff, "The attack on LGBT was triggered by the [Warsaw] Declaration, but that was just a welcome excuse", as PiS sought to woo the rural-traditional demographic and needed a scapegoat to replace migrants.
In August 2019, the Archbishop of Kraków Marek Jędraszewski said "LGBT ideology" were like a "rainbow plague" in a sermon commemorating the Warsaw uprising. Not long after, a drag queen simulated his murder on stage.
As of 2019[update], being openly gay in Poland's small towns and rural areas "[takes] increasing physical and mental fortitude" due to the efforts of Polish authorities and the Catholic Church, according to The Telegraph. Public perceptions, however, have been becoming more tolerant of gay people. In 2001, 41 percent of Poles surveyed stated that "being gay wasn’t normal and shouldn’t be tolerated" whereas 24 percent said so in 2017. 5 percent said "being gay was normal" in 2001 while 16 percent said so in 2017.
LGBT ideology-free zone motions are made by Polish gminas (municipalities), powiats (counties), and voivodeships (provinces) who declare the regions under their control as free of "LGBT ideology" in reaction to the declaration. While unenforceable, activists say the declared zones represent attempts to exclude the LGBT community. Activist Olga Kaczorek called the declarations "a statement saying that a specific kind of people is not welcome there."
As of August 2019[update], around 30 different LGBT ideology-free zones have been declared in Poland, including four voivodeships in the south-east of the country: Lesser Poland, Podkarpackie, Świętokrzyskie, and Lublin. The four Voivodeships form the "historically conservative" part of Poland.
Powiats adopting such measures include: Białystok County, Jarosław County, Lesko County, Lubaczów County, Mielec County, Puławy County, Ryki County, Świdnik County, Tarnów County, and Zamość County.
As of February 2020[update], local governments controlling a third of Poland officially declared themselves as LGBT-free zones, pledging to refrain from encouraging tolerance or funding NGOs working for LGBT rights.
Law and Justice party
Ahead of the 2015 Polish parliamentary election, the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party took an anti-migrant stance. With migration slowing significantly, in the run-up to the 2019 Polish parliamentary election the party has focused on countering Western "LGBT ideology". PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński labelled migrants as carrying "parasites and protozoa" in 2015, while in 2019 he rebuked the Warsaw mayor's pro-LGBTQ declaration as "an attack on the family and children" and stated that LGBTQ was an "imported" ideology.
The conservative Gazeta Polska newspaper issued "LGBT-free zone" stickers to readers. The Polish opposition and diplomats, including US ambassador to Poland Georgette Mosbacher, condemned the stickers. Gazeta editor in chief Tomasz Sakiewicz replied to the criticism with: "what is happening is the best evidence that LGBT is a totalitarian ideology".
The Warsaw district court ordered that distribution of the stickers should halt pending the resolution of a court case. However Gazeta's editor dismissed the ruling saying it was "fake news" and censorship, and that the paper would continue distributing the stickers. Gazeta continued distribution of the stickers, but modified the decal to read "LGBT Ideology-Free Zone".
In July Polish media chain Empik, the country's largest, refused to stock Gazeta Polska after it issued the stickers. In August 2019, a show organized by the Gazeta Polska Community of America scheduled for October 24 in Carnegie Hall in New York was cancelled after complaints of anti-LGBT ties led to artists pulling out of the show.
In Rzeszów, after LGBT activists submitted a request to hold a pride march, PiS councilors drafted a resolution to make Rzeszów an LGBT-free zone as well as outlaw the event itself. Some 29 requests for counter-demonstrations reached city hall, which led mayor Tadeusz Ferenc, of the opposition Democratic Left Alliance, to ban the march due to security concerns. The ban was then overturned by a court ruling. PiS councilors put forward a resolution outlawing "LGBT ideology", which was defeated by two votes.
Following the violent events in the first Białystok equality march and the Gazeta Polska stickers a demonstration for tolerance was held in Gdańsk on 23 July 2019, with the slogan "zone free of zones" (Polish: Strefa wolna od stref). In Szczecin a demonstration under the slogan of "hate-free zone" (Polish: Strefa wolna od nienawiści) took place, and in Łódź left-wing politicians handed out "hate-free zone" stickers.
Support for declarations
The national PiS party has encouraged the local declarations, with a PiS official handing out medals in Lublin to local politicians who supported the declarations.
Criticism of declarations
In July 2019, Polish Ombudsman Adam Bodnar stated that "the government is increasing homophobic sentiments" with remarks "on the margins of hate speech". Bodnar said he is preparing an appeal to the administrative court against the declarations, as according to Bodnar they are not only political but also have a normative character that affects the lives of people in the declared region.
In July 2019, Warsaw city Councillor Marek Szolc and the Polish Society for Anti-Discrimination Law (PTPA) released a legal opinion stating that LGBT-free zone declarations stigmatize and exclude people, reminding of article 32 of the Constitution of Poland which guarantees equality and lack of discrimination.
In August 2019, multiple LGBT community members stated that they feel unsafe in Poland.
Liberal politicians and media and human rights activists have compared the declarations to Nazi-era declarations of areas being judenfrei (free of Jews). Left-leaning Italian newspaper la Repubblica called it "a concept that evokes the term 'Judenfrei'". Campaign Against Homophobia director Slava Melnyk compared the declarations to "1933, when there were also free zones from a specific group of people." Warsaw's deputy president Paweł Rabiej tweeted, "The German fascists created zones free of Jews. Apartheid, of blacks."
On the 18th of December 2019, the European Parliament voted (463 to 107) in favor of condemning the more than 80 LGBT-free zones in Poland. Parliament demanded that "Polish authorities to condemn these acts and to revoke all resolutions attacking LGBT rights". According to the EU Parliament the zones are part of "a broader context of attacks against the LGBT community in Poland, which include growing hate speech by public and elected officials and public media, as well as attacks and bans on Pride marches and actions such as 'Rainbow Fridays'.".
During the COVID-19 pandemic within April 2020, many within the LGBT community, couples and several activists began handing out rainbow facemasks and other P.P.E. - as a direct protest of the "LGBT-free zoning", within certain local government areas of Poland.
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Declaration No. 1/19 of the Lesser Poland Regional Assembly of 29 April 2019 on opposition to the introduction of the "LGBT" ideology in local government communities
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While conservative social media users cheered the move on Twitter and on Facebook, many liberal Poles connected the effort to create "LGBT-free" zones to Nazi efforts to create zones free of Jews.
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