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An LGBT-free zone (Polish: Strefa wolna od LGBT) is a region declared to be free of "LGBT ideology" as the result of an act by a Polish municipality powiat (county), or voivodeship (province).
While unenforceable and considered primarily symbolic, activists say the declared zones represent an attempt to stigmatize and exclude members of the LGBT community. As of August 2019, around 30 different LGBT-free zone declarations have been made in Poland, including four voivodeships in the south-east of the country: Podkarpackie, Świętokrzyskie, and Lubelskie.
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 sex education curricula. PiS politicians objected to the sex education program saying it would sexualize children. PiS party leader Jarosław Kaczyński responded to the declaration, calling LGBT rights "an import" that threatened Poland. The declaration "enraged and galvanized" conservative politicians and conservative media in Poland, according to The Daily Telegraph. The LGBT-free zone declarations are considered to be 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, 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 gays. 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-free zone motions are made by Polish 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, around 30 different LGBT-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.
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.
After Archbishop Jędraszewski made his speech calling "LGBT ideology" a "rainbow plague", the Polish minister for aid defended the comments.
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 and are illegal as they violate 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 LGBTI-free zones in Poland. Parliament demanded that "Polish authorities to condemn these acts and to revoke all resolutions attacking LGBTI rights". According to the EU Parliament the zones are part of "a broader context of attacks against the LGBTI 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 Friday".
- Atlas nienawiści (Atlas of Hate) - Map of anti-LGBT polish government resolutions
- "Polish towns advocate 'LGBT-free' zones while the ruling party cheers them on". The Washington Post. 21 July 2019. reprint at The Independent
- "Krakowski magistrat odpowiada na homofobiczny akt "Gazety Polskiej"" [The Krakow municipality responds to the homophobic act of "Gazeta Polska"]. Gazeta Wyborcza (in Polish). Krakow. 19 July 2019.
- "Gdzie w Polsce przyjęto uchwały przeciw "ideologii LGBT"?" [Where in Poland were the resolutions adopted against "LGBT ideology"?] (in Polish). ONET. 23 July 2019.
- Figlerowicz, Marta (August 9, 2019). "The New Threat to Poland's Sexual Minorities". ISSN 0015-7120. Retrieved August 19, 2019.
- "Outrage over 'LGBTQ-free zone' stickers distributed by Polish magazine". New York Daily News. 25 July 2019.
- "Anti-Gay Brutality in a Polish Town Blamed on Poisonous Propaganda". The New York Times. 27 July 2019.
- "Why 'LGBT-free zones' are on the rise in Poland". CBC. 27 July 2019.
- "Adam Bodnar: przygotowuję się do zaskarżenia uchwał w sprawie ideologii LGBT" [Adam Bodnar: I'm preparing to appeal against resolutions banning LGBT ideology]. TVN24 (in Polish). 22 July 2019.
- "Polish ruling party whips up LGBTQ hatred ahead of elections amid 'gay-free' zones and Pride march attacks". The Daily Telegraph. 9 August 2019.
- "Pride and prejudice: Poland at war over gay rights before vote". South China Morning Post. 9 August 2019. Retrieved 19 August 2019.
- Goclowski, Marcin; Wlodarczak-Semczuk, Anna (21 May 2019). "Polish towns go 'LGBT free' ahead of bitter European election campaign". Reuters.
- Roache, Madeline (July 3, 2019). "Poland Is Holding Massive Pride Parades. But How Far Have LGBTQ Rights Really Come?". Time. Retrieved August 19, 2019.
- "Konferencja prasowa na rzecz osób LGBT+" [Press release about LGBT+ people] (in Polish). Polish Society for Anti-Discrimination Law. 19 July 2019.
- Ciobanu, Claudia (26 June 2019). "'FOREIGN IDEOLOGY': POLAND'S POPULISTS TARGET LGBT RIGHTS". Balkan Insight.
- "LGBT Virgin Mary triggers Polish activist's detention". BBC News. 14 May 2019.
- "Poland's Catholic Church says country is under siege from a 'rainbow plague'". New York Post (August 2, 2019).
- "Poland's ruling party fuels anti-LGBT sentiment ahead of elections". Financial Times. 11 August 2019.
- "Activists warn Poland's LGBT community is 'under attack'". Euronews. 8 August 2019.
- Luxmoore, Jonathan (August 19, 2019). "Church in Poland continues confrontation with the LGBTQ community". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved August 19, 2019.
- "Drag queen "symulował zabójstwo" Jędraszewskiego. KEP i RPO komentują kontrowersyjny występ" [Drag queen "simulated the murder" of Jędraszewski: KEP and RPO comment on the controversial performance]. Rmf24.pl (in Polish). August 14, 2019. Retrieved August 20, 2019.
- Cienski, Jan (2015-10-14). "Migrants carry 'parasites and protozoa,' warns Polish opposition leader". POLITICO. Retrieved 2019-10-16.
- "Polish newspaper to issue 'LGBT-free zone' stickers". BBC News. 18 July 2019.
- "Conservative Polish magazine issues 'LGBT-free zone' stickers". Reuters. 24 July 2019.
- "Polish Court Rebukes "LGBT-Free Zone" Stickers". HRW. 1 August 2019.
- "Polish magazine dismisses court ruling on 'LGBT-free zone' stickers". Politico. 26 July 2019.
- CARNEGIE HALL CONCERT LINKED TO ANTI-LGBT MAGAZINE CANCELED, Newsweek, Jake Maher, 26 August 2019
- Group connected to 'LGBT-Free Zone' newspaper cancels Carnegie Hall event, NBC, Tim Fitzsimons, 26 August 2019
- "Polish city holds first LGBTQ pride parade despite far-right violence". CNN. 21 July 2019.
- "Right-wing Polish magazine slammed for anti-LGBT stickers". San Francisco Chronicle. Associated Press. 24 July 2019.
- Dzwonnik, Maciej (23 July 2019). ""Każdy równy, wszyscy różni". W Gdańsku odbył się protest przeciwko nienawiści" ["Everyone is equal, everyone is different": A protest against hatred took place in Gdansk]. Gazeta Wyborcza (in Polish). Tricity.
- ""Strefa wolna od stref" - manifestacja przeciwko nienawiści, w geście solidarności z LGBT w Gdańsku" ["Zone free of zones" – a manifestation against hatred, in a gesture of solidarity with LGBT in Gdansk]. Dziennik Baltycki (in Polish). 23 July 2019.
- "Solidarni z Białymstokiem. Marsze, zbiórki i #TęczowaŚroda" [Solidarity with Bialystok: Marches, rebounds and #TęczowaŚroda]. Polityka (in Polish). 23 July 2019.
- "Szczecin - strefa wolna od nienawiści! W odpowiedzi na tę furię, ten rynsztok" [Szczecin – a zone free from hatred! In response to this fury, this gutter]. Gazeta Wyborcza (in Polish). 26 July 2019.
- "Łódź razem z Białymstokiem. Rozdano wlepki "strefa wolna od nienawiści", będzie pikieta" [Łódź together with Białystok: "Hate Free Zone" stickers were distributed, there will be a picket]. Gazeta Wyborcza (in Polish). 23 July 2019.
- "Polnisches Magazin verteilt Aufkleber "LGBT-freie Zone"" [Polish magazine distributed "LGBT-free zone" stickers]. Queer.de (in German). 18 July 2019.
- Fitzsimons, Tim (19 July 2019). "Polish magazine criticized for planning 'LGBT-free zone' stickers". NBC News.
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.
- "Right-wing Polish magazine issues anti-LGBT stickers". Bangkok Post. 24 July 2019.
- "Samorządy przyjmują tak zwane uchwały anty-LGBT" [Local governments adopt anti-LGBT resolutions]. TVN24 (in Polish). 25 July 2019.
- "Ustawy regionów "wolnych od LGBT" są niezgodne z prawem" [The laws of "LGBT free" regions are unlawful]. Queer.pl (in Polish). 22 July 2019.
- "Polish newspaper is handing out 'LGBT-free zone' stickers". Gay Star News. 18 July 2019.
- ""Gazeta Polska" drukuje naklejki "Strefa wolna od LGBT". Czy ktoś w redakcji słyszał o nazistach?" ["Gazeta Polska" prints "LGBT free zone" stickers. Has anyone in the editorial heard about the Nazis?]. Gazeta.pl (in Polish). 17 July 2019.
- "Polonia, botte e insulti al gay-pride di Bialystok" [Poland, beatings and insults to the gay pride of Bialystok]. la Repubblica (in Italian). 21 July 2019.
- "RPO o "Strefie wolnej od LGBT": Polsce grozi dyskryminacja na rynku usług" [RPO on the "LGBT Free Zone": Poland is facing discrimination in the services market]. Rzeczpospolita (in Polish). 5 August 2019.
- Łucyan, Magda (19 July 2019). "Naklejki "Strefa wolna od LGBT". Komentarz ambasador i odpowiedź rządu" [Newspaper promotes stickers with the words "LGBT free zone": US ambassador "disappointed and worried"]. TVN24 (in Polish).
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