The EU recently denied funding to 6 cities in Poland arguing that they declared themselves as “LGBT free-zones”. The current government led by the PiS – an extreme right-wing party – decided to go publicly after the EU and called the existence of these areas « fake news ». The former prime minister of Poland, Beata Szydło, also said on Twitter these declarations were “fake news”. As Joe Biden, candidate for the American presidential election, even stepped in this debate, do “LGBT fee-zones” really exist in Poland?
The matter mostly relies on a battle of words and semantics. A fringe of the Polish media declared that these “LGBT fee-zones” did not exist. They relied on the fact that the laws concerning the LGBTQ community do not strictly forbid the fact of being homosexual or lesbian, etc. They focus on so-called “LGBT propaganda”. This was developed by the “charters of family rights” that were adopted by several local governments from municipalities to voivodeships – the largest administrative county in Poland.
Some even declare that the whole issue was made up by Bart Staszewski, an LGBT activist who, according to some medias and local leaders of the PiS, took pictures in front of different villages with a sign saying, “LGBT free-zone”. He actually planted these signs himself in order to call the EU about the LGBTQ situation in Poland. Now, the activist is being sued by various cities in Poland which refuse to be called “LGBT free-zones”.
This debate about words is hiding a wider problem in Poland. A third of the country has declared itself “free of LGBT ideology”, meaning an area as large as Hungary. PiS argues that it is not discrimination because the party does not fight people as individuals, but a movement that represents a danger for the traditional Polish family. The current government is very conservative, as gay marriage is still not legal in Poland and the rights of the LGBT community are decreasing with the years. In texts regarding teaching in schools, they forbid “homopropaganda” that could lead to “deprivation of children”.
Other cities in Poland have been granted the European funds for the same program. These funds’ purpose is to twin cities from different countries around the EU. Helena Dalli, the commissioner in charge of it, publicly expressed her disagreement with the Polish politics regarding the LGBT rights.
The Polish right wing has made the LGBT fight an ideology that some compare with communism, like Tomasz Sakiewicz, a magazine editor. For them, actual laws are meant to be a form of restraint from promoting any alternative system to the “traditional Polish family”. In suppotrt of their argument they note that Poland decriminalized homosexuality in 1932, a very early time compared to the rest of Europe. They use this reference to show their absence of discrimination and more their fear of a new domination.
The main problem with this rhetoric, is that they deny LGBT associations the right to help sexual minorities, as they have forbidden the right to fund them. These laws also evolve in a greater context of an uprising extreme right wing ideology in Poland. They mostly remind to people from the LGBT communities that they do not belong to the classical scheme of the Polish family. We could focus on the smaller words and confirm that they are no explicit “LGBT free-zones” in Poland, but this would mean to deny a climate of tensions and insecurity felt by the LGBT communities throughout Poland.
Matthieu Bonhoure, Louis Borel