Activists have launched a number of campaigns to oppose increasingly homophobic policies by the Polish government.

In recent months and years, Polish leaders have threatened criminal sanctions against lesbian and gay activists and organisations, have tried to restrict freedom of expression and association, and have even threatened violence against LGBT marchers.

In response, Human Rights Watch and Campaign Against Homophobia (Kampania Przeciw Homofobii, Poland’s central LGBT group) have launched a petition demanding an end to homophobic policies by the government.

The petition, addressed to President Kaczynski, urges the government to stop its attacks on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. It further says:

“Your government has declared it will fire gay teachers, and impose criminal penalties on ‘anyone who promotes homosexuality or any other deviance of a sexual nature in education establishments.’ This blatant violation of basic rights could deprive students of potentially life-saving information about sexuality and about HIV/AIDS. Members of your government have accused organisations working on LGBT people’s human rights of “pedophilia,” and threatened them with criminal investigations.

“A legislator in your governing coalition said that gays who demonstrate ‘should be bashed with a baton.’ In 2004 and 2005, when mayor of Warsaw, you yourself tried to ban Gay Pride marches, saying that ‘public promotion of homosexuality will not be allowed.’ Your words and actions have contributed to a climate where violence against LGBT people is tolerated—or even encouraged.”

Activists in London are also planning a protest, organised by the British Youth Council and supported by the LGBTI human rights group OutRage!, outside the Polish Embassy on Thursday. The demonstration is being held on the International Day Against Homophobia, which is marked in over 50 countries around the world.

“We condemn rising homophobia in Poland and the increased persecution of Poland’s lesbian and gay citizens,” said David Allison of OutRage!.

“Polish gays are experiencing both queer-bashing attacks by neo-Nazis and government-orchestrated denunciations and discrimination. Poland’s new Education Bill includes a Section 28-style clause that will outlaw any objective, factual or sympathetic mention of homosexuality in schools. It is feared gay teachers may be sacked,” said Allison.

Polish junior education Minister, Miroslaw Orzechowski, told a recent press conference that the new law will: “punish whoever promotes homosexuality or any other deviance of a sexual nature in educational establishments.”

Maeve McGoldrick (23), spokesperson for the protest organisers, the British Youth Council, said:

“The UK has strong bi-lateral relations with Poland. We call on the UK government to take action within the EU and the Council of Europe to challenge Poland’s anti-gay policies.”

“Our embassy protest will be uniting with campaigners internationally in a worldwide minute of noise, paying tribute to all those who have suffered at the hands of homophobia,” she said.

On 25 April, Members of European Parliament called on the Polish government to abandon the homophobic clause in the new Education Bill.

The European Parliament also asked the Polish government to: “publicly condemn and take measures against declarations by public leaders inciting discrimination and hatred based on sexual orientation.”

To sign the Human Rights Watch and Campaign Against Homophobia petition, click here.

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