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Tytuł artykułu: „Poles Apart – It’s not easy to be gay in Poland”
Autor: Andrew Gilliver
On face value it seems to be fairly progressive for a former Eastern Block country, homosexual acts have been legal in Poland since 1932. Gays are allowed to serve in the military, single gay people may adopt and the country bans some anti-gay discrimination.
However Poland has received international attention in recent years following official bans, and attacks by right wing politic groups, against public LGBT events. Politicians and the Catholic Church have been vocal against LGBT people and their rights.
„We’ve all become extremely worried in the European Parliament in aprticulae about the increasing hate-speak from senior politicians in Poland”. Michale Casham, British MEP
Civil partnerships are not recognised and Polish gay rights groups claim that thousands of Polish gays have emigrated. Indeed most of the Polish gays who have emigrated to the UK did not do so for purely economic reasons but because of being persecuted in Poland.
In recent years I have had the great pleasure to meet many gay people who have come to places like Manchester to escape the barriers to acceptance in everyday life which has taught me that we should never take our rights for granted and that we should help support other LGBT people to fight for the freedoms that we enjoy in the UK.
Many Polish people are deeply attached to their faith and the Catholic Church’s opposition to homosexuality sometimes reinforces homophobic attitudes. With 95% of the population officially Roman Catholic it is quite clear to see that the Catholic Church and The State are intrinsically linked. Many people think it will be years before full progress will be made.
Poland’s governing centre-Right party enjoyed an easy victory in the recent European elections
The country’s mainstream politicians, such as President Lech Kaczynski, and Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, from the centre-right Law and Justice Party, have pledged to act against discrimination against gays. But in an interview after his appointment last September, Mr Marcinkiewicz called homosexuality „unnatural”.
British and Polish opposition parties have gathered enough support to create a new Euro sceptic grouping in the European Parliament that aims to fight further EU integration, Poland’s opposition leader has said.
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, head of Poland’s main opposition Law and Justice Party (PiS) recently discussed the plans in Warsaw with British Conservative leader David Cameron who has come under fire for joining up with populist parties such as PiS, which has spoken out against homosexuality.
Nine out of ten Polish people homophobic?
An opinion poll conducted in late 2006 at the request of the European Commission indicated Polish public opinion was generally opposed to same-sex marriage and to adoption by gay couples.
The Euro barometer 66 poll found that 74% and 89% of Poles respectively were opposed to same-sex marriage and adoption by gay couples. Of the EU member states surveyed, only Latvia and Greece had higher levels of opposition.
The social situation concerning homophobia and discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation in Poland:
LGBT Discrimination monitoring in Poland:
But Ambassador You are Helping Us
In the last week the British ambassador to Poland has been accused by Catholic groups of „representing the ‚homosexual lobby'” and told by the country’s civil rights ombudsman he was „exceeding his authority” by promoting the gay Pride march which took place in Warsaw recently.
Ambassador Ric Todd gave Polish gay rights leaders a UK Guide to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People and Their Rights, translated into Polish. He has flown a rainbow flag next to the Union Flag in front of the British embassy to celebrate Pride. He said: „The UK remains committed to promoting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people overseas.’This small gesture is a symbol of the British embassy’s commitment to equality and acceptance for all.”
I would suggest that really what Rainbow Ric (as he is affectionately know) is doing is doing his job promoting human rights regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Showing support for Pride events, where people seek to assert their rights and highlight the challenges they face, is part of this work.
In 2010 Warsaw is the host of EUROPRIDE
At this months Warsaw Pride campaigners protested against injustice. Next year the first Eastern Europe Europride will take place in Poland’s capital.
As Warsaw’s annual gay rights march got under way outside the Polish parliament a music system blared out its anthem: „Homophobia, the worst disease, you can’t love who you want to love in times like these.” The „Equality Parade” organisers wore T-shirts which read „Europe = Tolerance”. Police with riot shields ensured there was no contact between the several thousand marchers and a nearby small counter demonstration of young Polish men who waved banners reading, „Ban paedophiles”.
„We’ve all become extremely worried in the European Parliament in particular about the increasing hate-speak from senior politicians here in Poland.’ Michael Cashman, British MEP.
„Poland has joined the club of the European Union. The same rules apply throughout those 25 countries and part of that is respect for minorities and we’re not seeing that at the moment,” he told the BBC.
Robert BiedroÅ„, the president of the Polish Campaign against Homophobia society, one of the march organisers, said the government is fuelling hostility towards gays and lesbians.”They’re calling for hate crimes. The hate that is all around is so terrifying. He cited attempts by the Warsaw city authorities to ban the pride parade twice in the past, and plans to withdraw school textbooks which promote tolerance towards gay people.”
From Warsaw to Manchester
Waldemar Zboralski and his partner Krzysztof Nowak moved to the UK from Poland in 2007.
They are currently living together in Greater Manchester, and they were one of the first Polish couples to have a civil partnership ceremony in Britain. Waldemar has recently returned to Poland for Warsaw Pride and has said that he and Krysztof are being treated like VIPs in the gay community as well as being the subject of a very positive article in the Polish Newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza.
Waldemar, 49, is originally from the town of Nowa Sol in Poland. He is a registered nurse and, despite the economic crisis, he has found it relatively easy to find employment in nursing in the UK. He thinks that his standard of living has increased dramatically since moving here, as nurses in Poland are poorly paid. Krzysztof, 29, works as a Supervisor in an industrial laundry, and has also set up his own small business, a process which is much easier in the UK than in Poland, where governmental bureaucracy means that most contact with government offices must be carried out formally in person.
The couple decided to move to the UK after Polish elections in 2005 returned a coalition government between two right-wing political parties. Since this government came to power, Waldemar believes that homophobia in the Polish government has increased: ‚The government started to incite persecution against gay men and lesbians. They wanted especially to discriminate against teachers, doctors and nurses.’
Waldemar and Krzysztof also wanted to have a civil partnership ceremony, so that they could be recognised as legal partners. There is currently no legal framework for civil partnerships in Poland, and many politicians are vocally critical of gay rights legislation. Because of this, Waldemar and Krzysztof believed that the UK offered them the best options for living together as a gay couple.
Waldemar and Krzysztof were civilly partnered in October 2007 in Dukinfield. The ceremony was filmed for a Polish TV company. Krzysztof explains that since the ceremony he feels more psychologically comfortable: ‚I don’t fear the future anymore, because I live in a safe civil partnership with the man I love.’
Both Waldemar and Krzysztof see big differences in the ways the LGBT community are treated in the UK and in Poland. ‚In the UK, any open or hidden discrimination against gays is punished,’ says Krzysztof. ‚In Poland, it is the opposite. The government supports discrimination against gay people.’
The couple have not had any major problems adjusting to life in the UK. Waldemar says that everything is better in the UK, except the food, which has too much salt and vinegar! For Krzysztof, the biggest problem is the weather, although he would also like to have more friends in the UK. Neither of them envisages returning to Poland. Krzysztof says: ‚the UK has become my new home.’ Waldemar adds: ‚In the UK I have the right to live as a gay man – free and without discrimination. If one day England expels me, I will go to Germany, Austria, Australia, wherever – but never back to Poland.’
Gay Poles on Film
Homo.pl – a profile of the life and times of four Polish gay couples.
A documentary made by Robert Glinski encouraged polish lesbian and gay people to speak for the first time about their lives and their feelings. ‚I wanted to make a film, which sees homosexuals as normal people, rather than as activists or party people.’ Says Robert about the film. „My heroes are people like everybody else: baker, bank clerk, teacher, hairdresser, etc. They are in love. They are together. They are building their happiness not in a „different way” than others do. Polish gays and lesbians living in permanent relationships do not conform to the stereotype of life filled with hundreds of sexual partners. Faithfulness and normality are very important for them although the reality they live in does not make their everyday existence easier. Homo.pl is a warm portrait without pity or patronizing approach.”
Coming out in Poland
Coming Out in Poland offers a rare look into the lives of „out” gay people in Warsaw. The film profiles a radio personality who came out as a gay man on his own live show, while confronting homophobia, and a lesbian couple, one of whom lost her teaching job, as a result of speaking out publicly as a gay woman. „Coming Out in Poland” explores the issue of gay and lesbian rights in a conservative society, while providing a glimpse into the complex identity struggles involved in the process of ‚coming out’.
Homophobic gems from Poland
On Gay Elephants
In April 2009 a member of Poland’s Law and Justice Party criticised a zoo for acquiring an elephant that might be gay. Poznan Zoo in the west of the country, is home to Ninio. Councillor Michal Grzes told local media that the animal preferred male company and would probably not procreate’ We didn’t pay 37 million zlotys (£7.6 million) for the largest elephant house in Europe to have a gay elephant live there,” he said. The head of the zoo has defended the purchase however and claims that 10 year old Ninio may still be too young to decide whether he is gay. Elephants do not reach sexual maturity until the age of 14.
On Tinky Winky
The country was widely mocked when it was revealed that Ewa Sowinska, a government-appointed children rights watchdog, said she would ask psychologists to advise if the Teletubbies’ camp antics could affect children.’ I noticed Tinky Winky has a lady’s purse, but I didn’t realise he’s a boy,” she said.’ At first I thought the purse would be a burden for this Teletubby. Later I learned that this may have a homosexual undertone.”
On Wiping out humanity
On a state visit to Ireland in 2007 President Lech Kaczynski, a, member of the Law and Justice Party, said that the promotion of homosexuality would lead to the eventual destruction of the human race.
„What are you staring at, faggot!?” / „What are you staring at, dyke!?”
In 2007 The Campaign against Homophobia launched a social ad campaign with two editions of posters to the streets of Warsaw, with the aim to provoke citizens to feel the level of pressure and hatred that surrounds lesbians and gays and their friends and families every day.
Wojciech Wierzejski, a senior politician from the nationalist party, The League of Polish Families, which recently joined the conservative coalition government, was quoted by Polish newspaper, Zycie Warszawy as saying that if gay rights groups marched illegally then the police should beat them with sticks.
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