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Is Eastern Europe really as progressive as we once thought?

If we take a closer look at the world’s changing attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community, many would-be confident enough to make the assumption that the Western world has become far more progressive. What about if we were to examine even closer? We could then see how countries like Poland and other areas in Eastern Europe are falling behind when it comes to changing their views and ideals.

In Poland, there has recently been a presidential election, in which Andrzej Duda has managed to hold his seat as president for another presidential round. The election as a whole started a debate about whether Poland was as progressive as people had previously believed. As part of the campaign to become president again, Duda used the tactic of pledging to ‘protect children from LGBT ideology’, a statement that caused a lot of controversy among Polish citizens and international citizens. Second in the lead to win the presidential election was Rafał Trzaskowski, who was marginally behind Duda by 0.1%. In contrast, it was quite obvious that Trzraskowski was progressive in his views and ideals. He proved this by participating in Warsaw’s very own Parada Równości and he even introduced a basic form of LGBT+ education in the schools of his ‘constituency.’ Many argue that the voting in of Duda for yet another presidential round is a sign that Poland is still falling behind in terms of how progressive its values are, for we can ask ourselves - is voting in a president with openly homophobic attitudes a reflection of Polish communities as a whole?

However, we can also pose the question as to whether Polish people have the right to vote for whoever they feel represents their views best? Can we assume Poland is a homophobic country due to the fact they voted for someone who possesses ‘extreme’ views? Catholicism is the official religion of Poland. The majority of people who are against the LGBT+ community claim it is because of a clash of values. In the Bible, there have been many passages that can be perceived as being against the LGBT+ community and for Catholics the bible is their holy book, meaning a lot of people claim that following what it says is the will of God. If we examine the religious institutions of Poland, the archbishop of Kraków has even expressed the idea that Poland is undergoing a stage of ‘rainbow plague.’ Furthermore, there are some members of Polish communities which express somewhat harmful ideas regarding how we should treat LGBT+ communities. For example, a young member of a religious group in Poland, Matuesz Marzoch, has claimed that the LGBTQ+ free zones that have been introduced in Poland are a ‘good step forward in fighting against LGBT ideology.’ He further goes onto say that next, we should be banning propaganda promoting LGBT+ communities, as ‘it is not okay, it is not how we were created’ according to ‘faith, nature and traditions.’ Although, religion is meant to promote tolerance and acceptance, so this also makes us consider whether religion should be used as a shield to hide behind when promoting harmful ideals. 

We can even further extend this investigation by also looking at other parts of Europe, ILGA-Europe found "growing official hate speech" from government officials in other European countries such as: Albania, Andorra, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Finland, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Kosovo, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Turkey. Specifically, adults in the EU’s Central and Eastern European states tend to be less likely than those in the EU countries of Western Europe are less likely to ‘favour same-sex marriage.’ Additionally, at the same time, Central and Eastern European countries are more likely than the Western European countries to view Christianity as an important component of their identity. 

I believe it is necessary for people to be educated on what is going on in Eastern Europe and I truly believe that now, more than ever, activism is needed and appreciated.

Author: Eleanor

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