PES Women and Rainbow Rose: EU must act to stop discrimination in Poland

PES Women and Rainbow Rose: EU must act to stop discrimination in Poland

In a joint letter to the presidents of the European Commission, European Council and the Committee of the Regions, the women’s organisation and LGBTI network of the PES urge the EU institutions to hold the PiS-led government to account.

In 2019 dozens of local governments in Poland pledged to end tolerance of LGBTI people and withhold funding for civil society organisations advocating equal rights. Now, half a year later, not enough action has been taken to stop this discrimination.

Polish MEP and Polish presidential candidate Robert Biedron said:

“The current political narrative in Poland, which the ruling Law and Justice Party has been cultivating for months, has led to the stigmatisation of and generated attacks against LGBTI+ persons. Dozens of local governments have adopted resolutions creating LGBTI+ “free zones” and openly promote homophobia.  Although the European Community has already criticised those shameful developments, much more has to be done. Polish citizens, regardless of their sexual orientation, need to know that they are not alone. There must be zero tolerance for social segregation in Europe.”

Publicly sanctioned intolerance is unacceptable. “LGBTI-free zones” legitimise persecution and discrimination and are a threat to fundamental rights, which must be stopped immediately. As European Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli said in her speech to the European Parliament’s LGBTI Rights Intergroup on 4 February 2020: “These actions are clearly aiming to intimidate and spread fear with the aim to acquire cheap political gains at the costs of vulnerable minorities.” 

Rainbow Rose President Camila Garfias said:

“LGBTI people in Poland already suffered before we entered the COVID-19 pandemic. Whole municipalities legislated discrimination and hatred, Prides were violently attacked, and prominent politicians spewed hate speech.  For many, free movement was one of the few safe outlets to live their sexuality openly. Now, even that is off limits, and for the rainbow families that call Poland home, there is the risk that they may be separated at the border. We call on the Commission, the Council and the local authorities to ensure that so-called ‘LGBTI-free zones’ are abolished in Poland and that this hateful rhetoric not be allowed to grow as many are distracted by the pandemic.”

PES Women stands as an ally with women and the LGBTI community in Europe and beyond. Together with Rainbow Rose they stand in solidarity with the LGBTI members and activists in Poland, Europe and everywhere experiencing similar oppression. People who do not conform to heteronormative ideals or gender stereotypes have always been the first target for oppressive, conservative forces, as have women and minorities. Women in the LGBTI community are doubly exposed to patriarchal oppression, facing discrimination both on the grounds of gender and sexual orientation. Now due to the COVID-19 related lockdown and socio-economic consequences these disadvantages impose a tripled burden on their shoulders.

Sadly this oppression is not exclusive to Poland. In several EU member states, authorities have tried to ban inclusive sex education and gender studies, promote smear campaigns against the Istanbul Convention, and limit women’s right to safe and legal abortions and contraception.

PES Women President Zita Gurmai said:

“We are deeply concerned by the far-right backlash against the rights of LGBTI persons, as well as women and minorities across Europe. Discrimination, homophobia and sexism have no place in a democratic society, and these trends must be addressed at the EU as well as national and local levels. The Polish ‘LGBTI-free zones’ are one example of the horrifying trend of public authorities condoning intolerance and oppression. We all suffer when populism and patriarchy rear their ugly heads. We progressives will continue to fight against such hate and fear and push for action by national governments, EU institutions and civil society.”