Poland became prominent in the papers when a number of regions across the country declared themselves “LGBTQ+ ideology free zones.”
From June 2020 around 100 municipalities making up around a third of the country have adopted resolutions that have led to them being called “LGBTQ+ free zones.” While unenforceable and solely symbolic these declarations are extremely damaging and represent an attempt to stigmatise LGBTQ+ people.
Since July 2020, the European Union has denied funding from the Structural Funds and Cohesion Fund to municipalities that have adopted “LGBTQ+-free” declarations, which are in violation of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
Poland is the only member state to have an opt-out from the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which it had signed upon its accession to the EU in 2004.
Additionally, several European sister cities have frozen their partnerships with the Polish municipalities in question.
These zones demonise LGBTQ+ people and exclude them from society. The LGBTQ+ community in Poland faces increased discrimination, homophobia and violence making these places unsafe to live.
A number of UK towns and cities are partner cities of towns in an, “LGBTQ+ zone”. With Edinburgh renewing its city partnership to Krakow last year.
But amid reports of homophobic LGBTQ+ free zones across Poland The Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Frank Ross wrote to the Mayor of Krakow earlier this year asking him to clarify the Polish city’s stance on homophobia and LGBTQ+ oppression.
Krakow’s Mayor, Jacek Majchrowski, has publicly denounced homophobia and in July this year posted a letter to citizens on social media, saying: “Dear LGBT people, you are not alone.”
“We are with you; we support you and we will do everything to make you feel at home in Krakow – because here is your home.”
According to ILGA-Europe’s 2020 report, Poland has the worst state of LGBTQ+ rights among European Union countries.
Although attitudes are changing. A study by state pollster CBOS found 41 per cent of Poles said in a 2001 survey that being gay should not be tolerated and was not normal, that number had dropped to 24 per cent by 2017.
The anti-LGBT+ propaganda has been fuelled mostly by the country’s Law and Justice Party (known by its Polish acronym, PiS) who are a conservative party that came to power back in 2015 using anti-migrant rhetoric to gain votes.
With support from the Roman Catholic Church, PiS ran a persistent campaign presenting gay people as a threat to the family, especially children.
“Just as Marxism was an ideology, LGBT is now an ideology of this kind,” Kazimierz Smoliński, one of the party’s MPs, told the public television broadcaster TVP in July.
Protests were held outside the Polish Consulate in Edinburgh against increasing homophobia in Poland on August 10.
To get involved you can sign the petitions below, write your local MSP and keep up to date with the situation online.