Poland’s LGBT - Free Zones
Poland’s Constitution states “Equal in rights and obligations towards the common good” to their citizens. However, many are beginning to question Poland's desire to conform to their Constitution due to the impact of the LGBT - Free Zones.
Rafał Trzaskowski, a liberal mayor of Warsaw, adopted an “LGBT Charter” in February of 2019. This charter emphasized that people part of the LGBTQ+ Community that are facing discrimination would receive support. Furthermore, Trzaskowski made a statement that underlined that he would follow the guidelines of the World Health Organization, and would work to integrate LGBTQ+ issues in the curriculum of Warsaw School Systems. This statement was met with public outcry; conservatives, now energized, began calling LGBT rights an “import that threatens Poland.” As a result, several municipalities, or towns that have local governments, have declared themselves as LGBT - free zones.
LGBT-free zones are certain areas of Poland that have declared themselves to be unwelcome to the LGBTQ+ community. As of April 2020, over a third of Poland has been declared intolerant of the LGBTQ+ community. Politicians created these zones after the public disapproval faced by Trzaskowski’s plan to implement LGBT studies in the curriculum of Warsaw schools. The public believed it would sexualize children, and Jarosław Kaczyński, leader of the conservative Prawo i Sprawiedliwość party, turned public outcry into disapproval of the LGBT ideology.
In response to LGBTQ+ ideology, Kaczyński famously responded with “Hands off our children!” This statement implies that he believes LGBTQ+ ideology threatens young Polish children (he is known for using Christian principles to “protect the morality” of Poland). He, and the rest of his political party, states that they are not Anti-LGBT, rather they are pro-family. He believes that incorporating LGBT ideology into school curriculum will lead to “sexual depravity and indoctrination” of the children. He believes that the LGBTQ+ community is a purely western invention, oftentimes grouping sexual orientation with pornography and sexual deviance.
To enforce a “pro-family” lifestyle in Poland, 34 municipalities have adopted the “Municipal Charter of Family Rights,” a charter that serves to “protect” the heterosexual family, and stears clear of an references to LGBT ideology. This charter is meant to protect the family and respect the rights of the family rather than discriminating against anyone part of the LGBTQ+ community. The charter largely conforms to Christian ideals and protects the family by reinforcing the Christian values.
Opponents may argue that there is no legal way to enforce the LGBT-free zones. And they are correct, there is no enforceable way to make sure that people part of the LGBTQ+ community stay out of these zones. However, these zones make it clear to people part of the LGBTQ+ community that they are not welcome. The zones do not challenge the physical presence of the LGBTQ+ community, but it addresses the ideology and existence of the LGBTQ+ community. As a result, over seventy percent of LGBTQ+ people in Poland have experienced violence due to discrimination.
Bialystok, a Polish city, had been declared as an LGBT-free zone in 2019 due to homophobic and transphobic speeches made by the Catholic Church of Poland and Prawo i Sprawiedliwość. In retaliation, about 24 pride marches were scheduled to combat the inequality. The first march took place in Bialystok, where participants were faced with violence even before the march officially started. About 800 to 1,000 marchers were opposed by over 4,000 counter-protesters, who threw rocks, bottles, and even firecrackers at the marchers.
The extreme violence endured by protesters in the March drew in media attention to the situation in Poland. Soon the slogan "zone free-of-zones" and "hate-free zones" became popular. People even began passing out "hate-free zone" stickers to combat the “LGBT - free zone” stickers which were already in circulation. A week after the march, a second protest took place in Bialystok, addressing the violence that the first march was met with. The march increased awareness regarding the LGBTQ+ scene in Poland. Such battles for equal rights persist until today.
Author: Prinaka Drona