Today
Thu 29 July 2021

Reports that Poland plans to introduce a law banning ‘LGBT propaganda’ have been denied by ministers – but the assault against LGBTIQ rights in Europe continues

As Pride month comes to an end, Poland’s Deputy Justice Minister Michał Woś has indicated that the country’s far-right Government may be seeking to introduce a law banning LGBT “propaganda” in schools, although this has been denied by his colleague Michał Wójcik.

If it was introduced, it would follow Hungary’s ban on the depiction of gay people in school materials. It would also echo Russia’s 2013 ‘gay propaganda’ law, which Human Rights Watch calls “a classic example of political homophobia”. 

The belief that ‘LGBT dogma’ and ‘trans indoctrination’ is happening in school classrooms is a key rallying point of the religious right, including in the UK.

This was evidenced in the Batley and Spen by-election campaign last week when hard-left populist candidate George Galloway gave a speech spreading disinformation that LGBTIQ-inclusive sex and relationships (SRE) education teaches children about anal sex and encourages them to masturbate. 


Attacks on LGBTIQ Rights in Poland

Speaking to Polish media channel TVN 24, Woś said that Wójcik “is working on a ban related to promotional and propaganda activities of LGBT groups”, before adding “you really need to ask minister Wójcik himself about the details”.

Wójcik has contradicted the claims made by Woś and said that he is not working on a ban similar to that imposed by Hungary.

Wójcik was also asked about a “ban on gender change”. Last year, Hungary banned the legal recognition of transgender people. Wójcik said “I do not anticipate any changes”.

Currently, Polish law demands that people who want to legally change their gender must receive a medical diagnosis, overcome various legal obstacles, and undergo surgery.

Wójcik did however tweet that the ban on same-sex couples adopting, which he co-drafted, was “just a prelude” and that “Poland must remain an island of normality”. 

This suggests that more anti-LGBTIQ laws are planned. 

It would also appear that a bill banning gender-neutral language in public life is underway, with Wójcik explaining that “the work is in progress, but the issue of gender-neutral language still requires discussion”. He provided the example of replacing “mom” and “dad” with “parent number one” and “parent number two” – saying that “nobody will convince me that this is normal”.

His initiative reflects the agenda of Poland’s powerful religious-right organisation Ordo Iuris, which is pushing against the rights of rainbow families and petitioning the EU to “stop redefining parenthood”. It has criticised the idea that the term “family” should include same-sex couples who adopt children. 

Around one-third of Poland’s towns and regions have passed resolutions declaring themselves “LGBT-free zones”, creating an increasingly hostile environment for the community. 

Last year’s Presidential Election campaign by winning candidate Andrezj Duda used homophobic tropes to drum-up right-wing, conservative support, including by claiming that LGBT “ideology” is “worse than communism”. The Archbishop of Krakow, Marek Jedraszewski, has also condemned LGBT rights as a “rainbow plague” that is “worse than Bolshevism”.


The Backlash Beyond Poland

Arguably, the UK led the way in bans on so-called LGBT ‘propaganda’ in schools with the 1988 Section 28 Law, which banned the promotion of homosexuality and “pretended family relationships”. It was repealed in 2003 but, 10 years later, Russia enacted a similar ban, followed by Hungary this month.

The assault against LGBTIQ-inclusive education is one of the leading battles of the religious and far-right across Europe. In Spain, far-right party Vox has campaigned for a “parental pin”, arguing that inclusive RSE usurps parents’ rights and that parents should have to give permission for their children to take part in lessons. 

Vox’s allies at CitizenGO have campaigned against the Matic Report – a non-binding report adopted by the European Union guaranteeing sexual and reproductive rights, branding it “LGBT indoctrination”.

In Germany, the organisation Demo Fur Alle has rallied against inclusive RSE, calling it “brainwashing”, with the blessing of the far-right party AfD. Demo Fur Alle has denied allegations of support from far-right extremists.  

Meanwhile, in Italy, plans to introduce a law protecting LGBTIQ people from hate crime are being derailed by far-right and religious-right opposition. The far-right politician Matteo Salvini has opposed attempts to improve protections for the community, calling it a “gagging law” that risks putting in jail “those who think a mom is a mom and a dad is a dad”. His Lega Party controls the Senate Justice Committee and has refused to set a date to debate the law – instead putting forward an alternative, weaker bill. 

Even in the UK, there is support for Hungary and Russian-style laws against ‘LGBT dogma’ and ‘gender indoctrination’ in schools. This came to prominence in the 2019 Birmingham protests against an inclusive RSE curriculum, with protest leader Shakeel Afsar travelling to Batley last week to attack Labour candidate Kim Leadbeater, asking her if she would “support Muslim parents” against “LGBT indoctrination”. His rhetoric was echoed by candidate George Galloway the following day, as he spread religious-right disinformation about the content of RSE lessons. 

While the UK has robust legal protections for LGBTIQ people, decisions to scrap funding for anti-LGBTIQ bullying schemes in schools, delays and prevarications over a ban on conversion therapy, and the disbanding of the Government’s LGBT advisory group mean that threats to equality remain. 

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