Pic: Maciek Mazur
Crowds gathered from early afternoon on Saturday 14 June, in front of the imposing Palace of Culture and Science in the centre of Warsaw, for the 14th edition of the city’s annual Equality Parade, also known as Warsaw Pride.
They listened to short but fiery speeches by prominent community leaders, gender activists and politicians. Anna Grodzka and Robert Biedron, Poland’s first transsexual and gay MPs, both made impassioned speeches calling for equal rights.
Traditionally, one of the key elements of the Warsaw Equality Parade is acknowledgement of the Letter of Support that is sent to the organisers each year by a body of foreign diplomatic missions. This year, 27 signatories lent their support, including the Ambassador of the Republic of South Africa – Shadrack Ted Lehlohonolo.
By 4pm, the parade, which comprised seven massive floats, left the square and the crowd swelled to well over 12,000, making it the biggest ever Pride parade in Warsaw’s history.
The 5 kilometre march snaked through the streets of central Warsaw, across the Vistula River and ended at one of the city recreation areas on the river bank. DJs, drag queens and singers entertained the audience till late.
Poland, which led the way in the dismantling of the Soviet Bloc throughout the 80s and 90s (many say which was inspired by the election of Polish Pope John Paul II into the Vatican in 1978), joined the European Union in 2004. Since then, its largely Catholic society has been faced with abolition of anti-gay laws which to this day sparks controversy and heated public debate.
The church continues to actively oppose the legal recognition of same-sex couples in Poland. A 2013 survey found that 60% of Poles oppose the legalisation of same-sex registered partnerships and 68% oppose same-sex marriage rights.
On Thursday 19 June, Warsaw, alongside many other Roman Catholic dioceses around the world will see another march – Corpus Christi – where Christians parade their faith under the leadership of their local clergymen and bishops, richly draped in white, red, gold and black cloaks.
See more pictures of the 2014 Warsaw Equality Parade below.