Culture for Tolerance needs your help
Help us make YOUR festival happen!
2nd Edition of the Days of Lesbian and Gay Culture "Culture for Tolerance" April 21 – 24, 2005
The festival "Culture for Tolerance" is organized by the Krakow branch of Campaign Against Homophobia. Its goal is to introduce the theme of homosexuality into the wider discourse, to draw attention to the discrimination and exclusion against which homo-, bi- and transsexual people struggle on a daily basis. The organizers have set a goal for themselves: to establish a neutral space in which people – irrespective of their sexual orientation – might feel free, and one that will enable them to engage in dialogue on equal footing.
The festival inaugural run took place last May 6-9, 2004. It prompted, on the one hand, protests and aggressive attacks from radical right groups (i.e. physical attacks on peaceful participants of the March for Tolerance), yet on the other hand, there was positive interest in the festival, exceeding the organizers’ most humble expectations (as well as their capacity for dealing with what took place during the festival). It is this which confirmed our belief that "Culture for Tolerance" is a necessary event worth repeating.
But in order for that to happen, we urgently need your help. At the moment, the festival is at risk of being cancelled, because of financial problems our organization is experiencing. We are asking you for solidarity and any help you can provide. We would greatly appreciate, if you could add our Culture for Tolerance banner to your website, so that people wanting to support the festival can do so over the Internet.
English-version banner http://tolerancja.gej.net/banhelpeng.html
If you want to support the festival by donating money to, we will be extremely grateful. You send pay your money to the special festival account: Bank Inicjatyw Spoleczno-Ekonomicznych S.A. (or shortly: Bank BISE S.A.) III Oddzial w Warszawie ul. Dubois 5a 00-184 Warszawa IBAN PL42137010370000170640748002 Swift Code: BISPPLPW please add “Culture for Tolerance" or “Cracow"
There is also a possibility to make a donation via internet: http://tolerancja.gej.net/help.html
Best regards, Ida Lukawska, Tomasz Szypula, Anna Gruszczynska
Current information, precise event schedules as well as news about likely changes will be available at the following URL: http://www.tolerancja.kampania.org.pl
Contact info for the festival organizers: Project director: Tomasz Szypula firstname.lastname@example.org tel. (+48) 602 273 263
Chief coordinator of the festival: Ida Lukawska email@example.com tel. (+48) 608 208 918
Website of the Krakow branch of Campaign Against Homophobia: http://www.krakow.kampania.org.pl
May 18, 2005
Polish Mayor Cancels Gay Pride for Second Year
Warsaw – The conservative mayor of Poland’s capital city has banned gay Pride celebrations in Warsaw for the second year in a row.
Lech Kaczynski says that he is "for tolerance, but am against propagating gay orientation," according to the Polish news agency PAP.
Pride had been scheduled for June 11. Kaczynski says the celebration would detract from plans to unveil a monument the same day to Gen Stefan Rowecki, a leader of Poland’s anti-Nazi underground army during World War II. " Organising a gay parade on that day is a joke," Kaczynski told PAP.
Last year, Kaczynski banned Pride, saying he feared clashes between gay rights groups and opponents who planned a counter-demonstration. Nevertheless, about 500 gays rallied in front of city hall, chanting "Homophobe". The Equality Foundation, which was organizing the parade, said it would appeal this year’s ban to regional authorities. Kaczynski is a leading member of the center-right Law and Justice party and is widely seen as a leading contender for Poland’s presidency in October elections
May 23, 2005
Warsaw’s Gay Pride Parade To Go Ahead Despite Mayor’s Ban
Warsaw – Defiant gays in Warsaw have pledged that their Pride Parade scheduled for June 11 will go ahead, despite a ban announced last week by the city’s mayor. “ We plan to go ahead anyway,” said Robert Biedron of Kampania Przeciw Homofobii (Campaign Against Homophobia). “ And it will be legal,” he insisted.
Last week, Mayor of Warsaw, Lech Kaczynski banned the parade, saying that it would “interfere” with the unveiling of a statue to General Stefan Rowecki, the leader of the Polish underground during the Nazi occupation of Warsaw in the Second World War.
Last year, Mayor Kaczynski also banned the parade saying he feared clashes between gay rights groups and opponents who had planned a counter-demonstration. To have the parade banned for a second consecutive year was simply too much for gays in the Polish capital. “ We have found a legal way round the ban and have decided we will definitely have our Equality Parade,” Biedroƒ said.
8 June 2005
Advocate Against Ban on Warsaw Equality Parade
Right to be free from discrimination right to freedom of opinion and expression right to peacful assembly and association
IGLHRC joins the Equality Foundation, the Campaign against Homophobia, Lambda Warszawa, ILGCN Polska and ILGA (International Lesbian and Gay Association), in calling for signatures to petition the Mayor of Warsaw, Lech Kaczynski, to reverse his intended decision to ban the Equality Parade-Warsaw’s LGBT Pride celebration– for the second consecutive year.
Forwarded Statement From The Warsaw Pride Orgainzers
MAY 24, 2005 Concerned with the recent declarations made by the Mayor of Warsaw, Lech Kaczynski, that he would again ban a legal and peaceful Equality Parade in violation of the Polish Constitution, we wish to powerfully state that despite his decision the Parade will take place on June 11. We can no longer tolerate the humiliation and discrimination of gays and lesbians, and other social groups, by an individual who is running for the highest post in the republic.
We can no longer accept the fact that we are treated as second-class citizens only because we are of a different sexual orientation that the dominant one. Last year’s ban of the Equality Parade – a bid tolerance celebration – was an action aimed against the most fundamental human rights, guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights, and most importantly by the Polish Constitution. Many circles in Poland and other countries protested against the ban. The announcement that the Equality Parade would be banned again already stirred much social uproar. Human rights violations cannot stand in a country that is part of the European Community and values the social teaching of the Roman-Catholic Church. A country that rightly reprimands Belarus for human rights shortcomings cannot violate those rights at home.
This is why we have decided to no longer tolerate such humiliating practices. We do not agree to be humiliated and taken away the right to demonstrate peacefully. We do not agree for peaceful demonstrations to be easily disturbed by right-wing militia organizations and politicians, as seen last year during the March of Tolerance in Kraków. We fear the "dark night" for gays and lesbians, proclaimed by the politicians of the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party, that is likely to co-government starting autumn. History has taught us that the Holocaust, pogroms, and hate crimes happen in places where some begin to consider themselves as better, more moral, or more Arian that others. We will not allow PiS politicians to treat us as a worse category of people and demonstrate that there is no place for us in Poland.
We should remember that if freedom is not defended on a daily basis, it may easily be lost. This is why we’re calling on all authorities, including Poland’s Citizens’ Rights Ombudsman and Prime Minister, to take a stand regarding the possibility of a repeated violation of fundamental human rights. We encourage all those who value the ideals of tolerance and respect for human rights to take part in the Equality Parade. On June 11, let’s show that there is no permission for lawlessness and injustice in Poland, a member of the European Union.
Tomasz Baczkowski, president, Equality Foundation
Robert Biedron, president, Campaign against Homophobia Yga Kostrzewa, vice-president, Lambda Warszawa
Szymon Niemiec, president, ILGCN Polsk
June 12, 2005
Thousands Rally for Gay Rights in Poland–Defy Ban
by Ela Kasprzycka
More than 2,000 people defied a ban on a gay-rights rally in Poland’s capital, taking to the streets of Warsaw on Saturday against the orders of the city’s conservative mayor. Gays, lesbians and their supporters carrying banners with slogans including “A gay is not a pedophile” and “Law and justice for all” rallied near parliament and marched to the Palace of Culture, a Stalinist landmark. It was the second year Warsaw’s mayor, Lech Kaczynski. had banned the gathering. Police detained more than 10 right-wing opponents of the gathering, which they said drew about 2,500 people, but made no attempt to break up the event.
Organizers said they wanted to highlight the problems facing homosexuals in this predominantly Roman Catholic country and to press for the legal right of assembly. "Homosexuals in Poland are still treated as deviants, pedophiles,” said Paulina Pilch, a 31-year-old lawyer among those demonstrating. "Such demonstrations are needed so people get to know us better and get used to us.” Politicians from liberal Polish parties and lawmakers from several other European nations also came to show support.
"Mayor Kaczynski, democracy also means freedom of assembly and expression for gays and lesbians,” Claudia Roth, a leader of Germany’s left-leaning Greens party, told the crowd. Some 200 opponents of the rally, including young supporters of the nationalist Polish Families League, threw eggs and stones at marchers and shouted anti-gay slogans. Maciej Kalinowski, a 20-year old medical student, said he was against open proclamations of homosexuality. “Let them do it in the privacy of their home,” Kalinowski said.
Anti-gay Demonstrators March in Warsaw
Some 800 people marched through the streets of Warsaw in an anti-gay demonstration on Saturday. The parade was an answer to last week’s Equality Parade of gays and lesbians which had been denied official consent of the Warsaw city authorities. This Saturday’s march organised by the Polish youth an offshoot of the radical right acquired the consent of the city mayor and was joined in by the rightist League of Polish Families an ultra Catholic national grouping. The parade of Normality as it was called stared at the Houses of Parliament and was to promote the traditional relationship of man and woman.
However the majority of the protesters were young men carrying white and red flags and the march was joined in by elderly couples. Euro deputy of the League of Polish families Wojciech Wierzejski praised last weeks events when the Polish Youth hurled stones and eggs and the parade of gays and lesbians and said that the League will not allow for any further equality Parades and after winning the elections will aim to de-legalise any homosexual associations or movements.
No tolerance for homosexuals and deviants called Wierzejski opening the parade. The event was joined by the head of the League of Polish families Roman Giertych who said there is no place in Polish public life for gays and lesbians. At the same time a counter parade marched through the city center organised by the opponents of the Polish Youth, who wanted to manifest their disapproval of a movement they consider fascist. Both parades were securely guarded by police units and wound up peacefully.
June 22, 2005
Polish gay ban angers Europe’s Greens
by Martin Walker, UPI Editor
Poland’s human rights record has come under fire in the European Parliament after the mayor of Warsaw banned this year’s "gay pride" rally. Although some 3,000 demonstrators went ahead with the march anyway, members of the Green party are threatening Poland with a censure vote claiming the country had "betrayed" its commitment to uphold the European Convention on Human Rights.
Warsaw Mayor Lech Kaczynski of the conservative and populist Law and Justice party and a front-runner in this fall’s presidential election, banned the "Warsaw Parade for Equal Rights" for the second year running, claiming a threat to law and order in the capital. British Green Euro-MP Caroline Lucas, whose southeast England constituency includes Brighton, home of Europe’s largest gay pride event, has also demanded an explanation to Parliament from Poland’s Ambassador to the European Union. "Polish gay rights activists have called on the EU to review Polish membership of the Union in light of the ban, which they say undermines the gay community’s human rights to free assembly and free speech," Lucas told reporters in Brussels.
ILGA Protests Homophobic Increase in Poland
Dear Friends, We are writing to share with you our growing concern for the safety of LGBT people in Poland.
Last month, the Mayor of Warsaw decided to refuse to issue a permit for the city’s Gay Pride parade. Less than a week after an improvised Pride march took place, the Mayor issued a permit for a so-called “normality parade.” This “normality parade” was nothing other than an anti-gay demonstration whose main objective was an incitation to hate and intolerance towards LGBT people.
Since that time, LGBT people all across Poland have been increasingly victims of harassment and physical abuse, including two people being shot and wounded in front of an LGBT club in Katowice. This violence is being committed in an atmosphere where public homophobia from government officials is commonplace and used to attract attention and get votes. In an open letter to Polish and European Union leaders, ILGA demands that the authorities put an end to this hostile and dangerous environment.
To see our letter to Polish and EU leaders, please visit our website at the following link: http://www.ilga.org/news_results.asp?LanguageID=1&FileID=649&FileCategory=58&ZoneID=4
For more information on the situation in Poland, please see a resume from ILGA members in Poland, the Campaign Against Homophobia and Lambda Warsaw at the following link: http://www.ilga.org/news_results.asp?LanguageID=1&FileID=645&FileCategory=1&ZoneID=4
Administrative and Communication Officer
ILGA International Lesbian and Gay Association
God and Gay Rights in Poland (Essay)
By Tomek Kitlinski and Pawel Leszkowicz (partners, LGBT activists and scholars living in Poland)
In May 7, 2004, in Krakow, skinheads from a far right parliamentary party, the League of Polish Families, attacked a peaceful demonstration of gays, lesbians, and their supporters with slurs and stones and caustic acid. On November 20, in Poznan, skinheads of the League fired teargas at the feminist and anti-homophobic March of Equality. Assaults on women and minorities have risen since Poland joined the European Union on May 1,2004. Poland’s joining the EU was seen by the League of Polish Families as a national humiliation, and support for the League has been growing in the intervening year.
Poland transitioned from Communism to Christian fundamentalism: the culture is anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-secular, and proBush.Even the Pope opposed the U.S. Iraqi invasion, but the Polish president and prime minister-without consulting parliament-sent a substantial contingent to help fight Bush’s war. So Polish troops go to Iraq, women to their kitchens, gay people to hell, while the media broadcast patriotic and religious kitsch and join politicians in rallying around Bush.
Poland is a "red state," a Trojan horse of Bush’s America within the EU. "Jesusland" extends to Poland. We invade Iraq together, murkily privatize social welfare, militarize our universities and the media. To the EU, Poland is the closest European ally of the U.S. This is Poland’s version of the current counter-Enlightenment that’s afoot in the U.S. Its elements are the sexual and economic degradation of women (particularly women artists), discrimination against gay people, and censorship of art and speech. Unlike "old Europe," Poland is openly enthusiastic about Bush’s politics (abortion, war, a gay marriage ban), and the country was exuberant about Mel Gibson’s epic of the counter-Enlightenment, The Passion of the Christ.
The leader of the League of Polish Families, Roman Giertych (b. 1971), waxed ecstatic: his party follows in the tradition of his grandfather’s (and Poland’s) anti-Semitism. The League of Polish Families came in second in the June 2004 elections to the European Parliament. On December 9,2004, the All-Polish Youth held a conference, "Homosexual Revolution," at the Jagiellonian University of Krakow. The homophobic conference was endorsed by professors of Poland’s oldest university, the Jagiellonian, established in 1364.
For fundamentalists, whether academic instructors or skinheads, the "homosexual revolution" is a source of both fear and fascination. On November 5, 2004 the United Nations Human Rights Committee urged Poland for a second time to liberalize its abortion laws and to implement sex education, contraception, and gay rights programs. The Committee expressed deep concern about restrictive abortion laws in Poland, which might cause women to seek unsafe, illegal abortions, with attendant risks to their life and health. Addressing the issue of sexual orientation, the human rights panel stated: "The Committee is concerned that the right of sexual minorities not to be discriminated against is not fully recognized, and the discriminatory acts and attitudes against persons on the grounds of sexual orientation are not adequately investigated and punished. Discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation should be specifically prohibited in Polish law."
What does the Polish situation look like in the frame of EU human rights regulations? As homosexuality had been decriminalized in Poland in 1932, the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1997, which put in place powers to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation and played such an important humanitarian function in other Eastern European countries, didn’t have any direct effect on local politics and legislation. Then the Treaty was followed in 2000 by the adoption of two key instruments: the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which prohibits anti-gay discrimination, and the Employment Directive, which lays down precise rules for banning it at the workplace. These form part of the Union’s so-called acquis communautaire, the laws that all new members must adopt.
In reaction to those decisions, in 2001 Poland established an Office of Governmental Plenipotentiary for the Equal Status of Women and Men, which is responsible for the fight against discrimination on several grounds, including sexual orientation. It is this office that co-financed a gay visibility campaign, "Let us be seen" (see the G&LR’s March-April 2004 issue). But in the Polish Constitution and law there are still no specific provisions against discrimination based on sexual orientation, and the Employment Directive hasn’t been implemented yet and is under legal consultation and parliamentary debate over whether to omit the category of sexual orientation in favor of a more general ban on discrimination.
The Passion Of The Conversion
"Would you please give me ten million dollars, and I’ll heal homosexuals," said in Polish Parliament a self-styled "ex-homosexual" Richard Cohen, American "conversion therapist" and president of the International Healing Foundation. Cohen’s mincing voice and anti-gay message were intended to rebaptize Poland before its debate on the bill legalizing same-sex civil unions. Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ and Richard Cohen’s "conversion therapy" hit Poland, hurt minorities, and harmed the fragile efforts to do away with prejudices in the ultra-traditionalist country. On March 5,2004, The Passion had its European premiere in the National Theater of Poland; on March 17, 2004, Richard Cohen, who proselytizes gay-to-straight conversion, had a presentation in Polish Parliament. Gibson and Cohen recycle and reinvigorate anti-Semitism. bigotry. and homophobia.
"The reason I ask for ten million dollars is because we need to create social organizations to help homosexuals to change. If you want to push legislation, somebody introduce a bill for the healing of homosexuality. That should really screw up homosexual activists." Richard Cohen called upon Polish Parliament to reject the bill legalizing same-sex unions. In a country of twenty per cent unemployment and new poverty, Cohen pleaded for ten million dollars to fight homosexuality.
"The Promotion of Homosexuality in Social Life and Its Effects for the Human Person, Family, and Culture" was the title of Cohen’s presentation in Polish Parliament, to which he was invited by the League of Polish Families. The leader of the League, Roman Giertych, wants to change the penal code and has introduced a bill in parliament that would penalize, through fine or even imprisonment, those who publicly promote the change of the "traditional" definition of marriage. The Green Party of Poland granted Giertych the title of the Homophobe of the Year. Maciej Giertych (b. 1936), an activist in the League of Polish Families and the father of Roman, participated in the Parliament meeting with Richard Cohen. A specialist in the biology of trees (dendrology), he boasted during the meeting that he had translated the "Homosexuality and Hope" statement of the U.S. Catholic Medical Asociation on "possibilities of change and the negative consequences associated with homosexual activity," but complained that he could never obtain copyrights for publishing it in Poland. (Roman’s grandfather, Jedrzej Giertych, 1903-1992, was the author of a 1938 book whose title translates as "Toward Ending the Crisis," where he called for the expulsion of Jews from Poland.)
"Mr. Richard Cohen will speak on the understanding and cure of homosexuality as help for the human person, family, and civilizaton," intoned a priest on Poland’s mass-audience Radio Maryja, which furthers the ideology of fundamentalism. It was a campily sweet voice that advertized Cohen’s speech for a fortnight. The program took four hours. When Cohen was on the air, he emitted the Polish equivalent of "yuck" to express what he takes to be a universal disgust for gays. On the radio program he was paired with Ludwika Sadowska, professor of medicine, who swallowed the "u" in homoseksualizm ("homosexuality") and equated it with abnormality, pathology, and disease. Sadowska’s unsophisticated elocution matched her simple medicalization of homosexuality: she sounded like a broken record of stereotypes out of 1950’s sexology. The Polish priest who hosted the program condemned "easy and cheap toleration, which is in fact a way of death." Cohen accused gays of a world conspiracy, likened it to Communism, and exhorted: "I challenge you, Poland, to be a world leader in solving homosexuality!"
On Radio Maryja, Richard Cohen asked a rhetorical question: "One is not born homosexual-who would like to be born a leper in the society?" Gays, according to him, can renounce their unfortunate attraction, and only then do they become fully human. Cohen’s fallacious thinking was never called into question in the Polish media. Radio Maryja and the newspaper Nasz Dziennik lauded him. Other media made bare mention of Cohen, without endorsing or questioning his method. Among them, Poland’s most I influential mass circulation newspaper, Gazeta Ryborcza, posted the Catholic Press Agency story on Cohen’s visit, without commentary: "Richard Cohen himself experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual orientation.The decisive moment was. as he indicated, his meeting of Christ. Cohen who had professed Judaism became a Christian."
In fall 2003 Gazeta Ryborcza featured in its section "Science" the research of Robert L. Spitzer, a Columbia professor who researches "reparative therapies" for sexual orientation change. In February 2004, the paper blared on its front page the supposed discovery of the HIV-positive status of Wojciech K., who’s on trial for pedophilia. The paper’s coverage of this case reinforced Poland’s habit of confusing pedophilia and homosexuality. Wprost, a mass-circulation news magazine, followed Gazeta Ryborcza in tearing the rights and dignity of Wojciech K. to shreds, while adding infamy to insult by claiming to have uncovered an international conspiracy of gays to spread HN. And yet, when Zycie Warszawy and TVN network reported an actual jump in HIV infections in Poland in 2004 (seventy percent of them in heterosexuals), Gazeta Ryborcza and Wprost remained silentthis, in a country without sex education at schools or safe sex campaigns in the media.
The ideas of Mel Gibson and Richard Cohen have found a receptive audience in Poland because they use Catholicism to confirm a pre-existing hatred of otherness. The faithful were bussed to movie theaters by their local parishes to weep through The Passion of the Christ. Cardinal Jozef Glemp, the head of the Polish Church, pronounced the picture to be "pre-eminent" and recommended that everyone see it. Film critic Bartosz Zurawiecki was taken in, too. In a popular magazine, Przekroj, he proclaimed: "Gibson did not sin." The Passion belongs to what Camille Paglia dubbed a class of "vulgar horror films awash in red slop," as opposed to "psychological high Gothic." The violence of Gibson’s picture slides into butchery as whips and scourges do their deadly flogging and flaying. The flagellation, which appears prominently in medieval iconography from Sebastiano del Piombo to Albrecht Diirer, is taken in Gibson’s film to the nausea-inducing extreme.
"Mel Gibson faithfully follows the biblical events," declared Polish critic Bartosz Zurawiecki-wrongly, as the filmmaker was inspired by the mysticism of Anna Katharina Emmerich (1774-1824), a stigmatic nun in Westphalia whose visions were written down by Romantic poet Clemens Brentano. Biblical scholars (P. Riegler, L. Richen, M. Meinertz) have proven that her apparitions were incompatible with the topography and history of the Bible. In line with the visions of Emmerich, the movie is saturated with anti-Semitism. As Rabbi Marvin Hier, Wiesenthal Center Dean and Founder, declared: "Our disagreement is with Mel Gibson, whose own personal embellishments of the Gospel stereotype and denigrate the masses of Jews who were not followers of Jesus."
Is Poland having its own culture wars? The ideas of Gibson and Cohen are appealing to the country’s popular pieties. A Catholic weekly, Gosc Niedzielny, ran a story called ”’Saint’ Mel." Although the word "saint" was in quotation marks, the article came close to hagiography in describing the elements of Gibson’s life: an Australian with an Irish background, alcoholism followed by conversion to integrist Catholicism, addiction to the Latin mass and traditional morality, construction of his own church edifice. Gibson and Cohen rehash and reinforce old Polish prejudices. On Radio Maryja, Cohen appealed to the listeners to call on their MPs to reject the same-sex civil union bill. In Polish Parliament, the proponent of "conversion therapy" appealed for money–predictably so. In the end , Gibson and Cohen preach to the converted and deepen their prejudices.
October 25, 2005
Polish leader’s anti-gay stance threatens EU voting rights
by Nicholas Watt, European editor
Poland could lose its EU voting rights if its newly elected president continues to oppose gay rights and seeks to introduce the death penalty, the European Commission warned yesterday. In a shot across the bows of arch-conservative Lech Kaczynski, the commission declared that all member states must abide by EU rules which protect minorities and block the death penalty. Failure to comply could trigger a special process under the Treaty of Nice which deprives errant member states of their voting rights in ministerial meetings. "We are going to follow the situation very attentively," the principal commission spokesman, Jonathan Todd, said yesterday.
The commission intervened after Mr Kaczynski, the Law and Justice party candidate, was confirmed as the winner of Sunday’s second round in the Polish presidential election with 54% of the vote. Donald Tusk, a more moderate conservative from the pro-market Civic Platform party, won 46% of the vote. The election cleared the way for a strengthened Law and Justice party, headed by the new president’s identical twin brother Jaroslaw, to launch formal coalition talks with Civic Platform.
The two parties won a conservative majority in parliamentary elections on September 25. European diplomats will be watching the negotiations carefully after the success of the new president, who made his name as mayor of Warsaw. A strongly conservative Catholic, he refused to allow gay pride marches and supports the death penalty. Friso Roscam Abbing, the European commission’s justice spokesman, warned the new president he must abide by article 6 of the Treaty of Nice, which says that all member states must protect minority rights and not impose the death penalty. A failure to comply could trigger article 7, which allows the EU to deprive a member state of voting rights. This allows voting rights to be withdrawn if a member state is in "serious breach" of its obligations on human rights.
November 19, 2005
Today’s Gay March in Poznan Now Legally Banned–But Organisers Vow To Go Ahead
Warsaw – The March of Equality and Tolerance, dubbed ‘Gay Pride’, due to be staged in Poznan western Poland, this afternoon (Saturday) has been officially banned.
Andrzej Nowakowski, the ‘voivode’ (representative of central government) of the Wielkopolska Province, has upheld the decision made earlier in the week by Ryszard Grobelny, Mayor of Pozna_, to ban the march. But march organisers, including Greens 2004 Party and the Konsola Women’s Association, have vowed to go ahead, despite the legal ruling. “ This is our basic right as the citizens of this country,” says Marta Jermaczek of the Greens. Anna Szpytko, the spokesperson for mayor Grobelny, said on Tuesday that the decision was made due to “security concerns” and because it would be “a serious danger to social order and property”.
But this is dismissed by Polish activists who say the decision is politically motivated. Even the fiercely independent Radio Polonia reported: “The official line is that the organisers refused to change the route but it seems fairly clear that the city authorities yielded to the combined pressure of right-wing councillors from the ruling Law and Justice and League of Polish Families as well as from the Social Council of Poznan Archbishop.”
The radio station said that mayor Grobelny was put in an impossible situation, adding that there were suggestions of pressures put on him by rightist groups and even government. “ I am sorry that the mayor of Pozna_ surrendered to the demands of the politicians from PiS, LPR, and the All-Polish Youth. I’m sorry that tolerance and democracy fell under this pressure,” Izabela Kowalczyk of Greens 2004 said earlier in the week. A similar, though legal, event was supposed to take place in 2004, but was blocked when far-right activists of the All-Polish Youth, an organization affiliated with the far-right League of Polish Families (LPR), began throwing stones at demonstrators.
21 November 2005
Polish gay rights marchers face jail
Police blocked the parade after a city ban
Dozens of gay rights activists could face fines or prison sentences of up to a month for rallying in Poznan this weekend in defiance of a city ban on their "Equality March," authorities said. In the latest standoff between an increasingly active gay rights movement and authorities in this staunchly Roman Catholic nation, a few hundred activists staged a demonstration in the western Polish city of Poznan on Saturday, although police had blocked their planned parade route. Sixty-eight activists could face fines of up to 5,000 zlotys (US$1500) or up to one month in prison, said Miroslaw Adamski, spokesman for the district prosecutor’s office in Poznan.
A spokesman for city police, Andrzej Borwiak, told news agency PAP that about a dozen aggressive counter-demonstrators were arrested. Some of them threw eggs and chanted slogans such as "We are going to do with you what Hitler did with the Jews," PAP reported. The Equality March was organized as part of a dayslong festival in Poznan devoted to promoting tolerance. On Tuesday, local authorities banned Saturday’s march, on the grounds it posed a "danger to life, health and property." Poland – a conservative country that joined the European Union last year – has been grappling with the issue of how far to go in accepting homosexuality.
Gay rights rallies in Poland have drawn anti-gay protesters in past years, often resulting in violent clashes.
The Battle of Poznan: A Gay Suspect’s View of the Poznan Events
“ They’re driving me to a police station. Love you, call you later.”
by Tomasz Szypula, secretary general of KPH (Campaign Against Homophobia) in Warsaw
Translated by Marcin Sobczyk
Warsaw – I am 25. I was born four months before the Solidarity began its revolution in August 1980. The only Poland I can remember is time after 1989. The time of democracy – at least until last Saturday.
On the morning of Saturday, Nov. 19, I arrived in Poznan´ to take part in a conference and the Equality March. Already on Friday I learned that the leftist voivode, or a central government representative, agreed with the mayor of Poznan´ and upheld his ban of the march. But I had confidence in the Constitution, the EU laws—for sure the police would protect us. There were some 100 people at the conference, university students, mainly girls. Most of them had no affiliation, while the rest were feminists from the Konsola Women Association, the Greens 2004 activists, several people from gay organizations from all over Poland. We’re talking about exclusion of not only gays and lesbians, but news media and politicians referred to the Days of Equality as “the Gay Parade.”
At 3 p.m., we’re walking out of the Bookarest bookstore and we’re going down the Polwiejska Street. We’re just several hundred meters away from the Old Market Square. There may be several hundred of us. Maybe three, maybe five hundred. After just several minutes the police stand in our way, both in front of us and behind us as well. We’re surrounded and can’t move.
We’re shouting: “Let us through! Freedom! Equality! Tolerance!” The people behind the police officers yell: “Faggot! Perverts!” Eggs begin to fly. I get one on the ear. I wipe it off. The ear hurts a little, but it’s nothing — I continue: “Tolerance!” After a moment we realize that the police will not let us go anywhere. So we begin walking around between the police cordons and shout: “Democracy all around!” After half an hour of walking like that, waving rainbow flags, and shouting “Equal, but different,” we take out candles and light them. Several hundred people hold the candles and shout: “This is a funeral of democracy.” After a moment, the girls who lead this demonstration enter a podium and begin thanking people for coming to the march. We’re all wondering how to get out.
And that’s when it began. Someone shouted: “On the ground!” I turn around and see disguised police officers with shields, running to get us. I grab my friends and we all sit on the street. The policeman tries to pull a girl out of the crowd. She’s screaming, but the guy is two meters tall and she gives up. I’m holding on to the other people and then a disguised police guy grabs my leg. Someone’s holding me, but he’s trying to pull me out. He’s shoving me around on the street and I say: “Let me go!”
When I get up, the police office grabs my hands, takes them behind me, and pushes me in the direction of a car. I’m scared. There’s some eight people at the prison van. “Name!” the police officer wants to know. “Szypula,” I’m trying to answer. The girl next to me is weeping. Another one is vomiting. The crying one bursts out in tears. I hold her, her name is Dabrowka. “Don’t worry, they won’t do anything to us,” I say. Dabrowka is 20 and she was at the march with her sister, who was also detained. They’re both college students who came to show their solidarity with the march.
They’re speeding us to the police station, the siren’s on. There are some nine people in the van. I call my boyfriend and say: “They’re driving me to a police station. Love you, call you later.” A dread-haired guy turns pale. We stop, the door opens. The police officer reads out our names. We’re taken to the third floor. There are 22 people in the room, including us.
I don’t know where I am. Somebody from Poznan´ looks out the window and says that it’s the Poznan´-New City police station. The pale dread-haired guy asks for water. During the interrogation, I learn I’m suspected of breaking Article 50 of the Misdemeanors Code. I reply that I don’t understand. The policewoman answers: “taking part in an illegal concourse.” She’s asking me how I plead to the charge. I can’t stand it any longer: “What about the Constitution, what about the EU laws, what about the freedom of gathering?” She replies that it’s her job. A phone interrupts the interrogation, it’s her boyfriend on the phone. “Honey, we won’t make it to the movies — I still need to hear from six of them,” she says.
I’m angry. I plead not guilty. I’m starting a speech about the Constitution blah blah, the EU blah blah, citizens’ rights. She writes it all down unemotionally. I sign in the box that states “Suspect”. I get out of the station. I feel horrible. I wonder what is less horrible — to be beaten by a far-right fanatic All-Polish Youth or to go through the police procedure. I think I prefer to get a beating.
I get back to the Old Town. At Café Miesna, there’s a concert going on as part of the Days of Equality. We share our stories with other demonstrators. My friends were taken to a different station. We try to calm down. Seven brave girls my age organized this march. It wasn’t a gay demo, and there were more girls there. But the mayor, the voivode, and bishop concluded that we posed a threat. The police treated as like they treat football hooligans. If that’s the beginning of the New Republic as Law and Justice Party politicians say, then yes, we’re a big danger to it.
… Because we believe in democracy
Unedited "Inedependent" video of the action of the riot police in Poznan´ from Indymedial.pl.
Note: this is is a 30mb file and runs for 6 minutes
Photographs taken in Poznan´ on Saturday can be found at:
Mayor of Poznan´ Bans Gay Pride Parade. Audio report (MP3) by Radio Polonia’s Michal Kubicki (Radio Polonia, November 18, 2005)
Poznan Update: Dramatic Video Footage Shows Extent of Police Violence During Gay Demo. London Protest Set for Thursday. ILGA-Europe Protests to Barroso. Dramatic – and unedited – video footage of the problems in Poznan has been released by Indymedia.pl.
November 22, 2005
Please Help Us – Polish Gays Call to Europe.
An impassioned plea has come from many gays in Poland today in the wake of the heavy-handed action of the riot police in Poznan´ on Saturday when more than 60 people were arrested during a peaceful demonstration. The message was simple: “Please help us”. (UK Gay News, November 19, 2005) Today’s Gay March in Poznan´ Now Legally Banned. The March of Equality and Tolerance, dubbed ‘Gay Pride’, due to be staged in Poznan, western Poland, this afternoon (Saturday) has been officially banned. (UK Gay News, November 19, 2005)
Polish City Bans Gay March for Security Reasons, by Marcin Sobczyk in Warsaw. The mayor of Poznan´, a metropolitan city in western Poland, banned a gay parade on Tuesday, Nov. 15. The Poznan´ march, expected to gather some 500 demonstrators, was supposed to take place on Nov. 19 as part of the Days of Equality and Tolerance in Poznan´, organized by leftist, ecological, and feminist groupings. (UK Gay News, November 16, 2005)
UK Gay News has many articles on Poland. These can be accessed through the search engine on the main Archive page
Campaign Against Homophobia Poland website (in English)
Radio Polonia website (in English)
Polskie Radio website (in Polish)
Warsaw Independent website
Poland’s violence against gays – and drive for reproduction and expansion
by Tomek Kitlinski
Sixty-five gay and lesbian demonstrators were arrested in Poland’s major city, Poznan, a week ago. On November 26 and 27, 2005, demonstrations in support of the Poznan Parade of Equality convened across Poland.
Poland breeds prejudices, bans, violences, children. The Polish parliament passed a bill of paying families for having babies – in a country where abortion is illegal. Deputy PM and minister of interior, Ludwik Dorn, expressed his “recognition to the police” for brutality towards a peaceful demonstration of lesbians and gays in the city of Poznan on November 19, 2005. Is Walter Benjamin’s specter of gestaltlos police violence back to Eastern Europe? The police stormed the Parade of Equality banned by Poznan mayor. The ban follows the example of Poland’s president-elect, Lech Kaczynski who prohibited Warsaw gay parades in 2004 and 2005 when he was mayor of the capital.
In Poznan a week ago the police cordoned off the hundreds of lgbt activists who gathered together in the heart of the city, organized by Iza Kowalczyk of the Green party. Homophobic skinheads swarmed around, pelted eggs and shouted at the activists: “Fags to gas,” “We’ll do to you what Hitler did to Jews.”
The police stormed the gay and lesbian demonstrators. Sixty-five activists were arrested. Many of them were beaten. The activists were arrested and face the penalty of fine or imprisonment. This is part of the anti-gay regime in Poland under the new government of the Law and Justice party headed by the Kaczynski twins. The far-right party won both the parliamentary and presidential elections in Poland and champions the anti-modern policy of the traditional family – Polish and Catholic.
The leader of the victorious Law and Justice party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, is a closeted gay. In the election campaign he said that homosexuals must not be teachers. The new prime minister, Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, attacked homosexuality as “unnatural” in his first interview with the Polish edition of Newsweek. Marcinkiewicz, as he puts it, “charges his batteries” at Radio Maryja, ultrafundamentalist radio station which calls for xenophobia. Marcinkiewicz and other politicians of Law and Justice are often hosted in the programs of Radio Maryja. The new government furthers the anti-woman ideology; it disbanded the office of the minister plenipotentiary for the equality of women and men. The current speaker of parliament, Marek Jurek, argued for the role of corporal punishments for educating children. To spread its message, the Law and Justice admits that it wants the most influence on Poland’s mass media.
In parliament the Law and Justice co-operates with the party League of Polish Families which has roots in the interwar anti-Semitism. The grandfather of the leader, Roman Giertych, Jedrzej Giertych was a racist politician and author of a book ‘Towards Ending the Crisis’ (1938), where he called for the expulsion of Jews from Poland. His father of the leader, Maciej Giertych, a League activist, publicly supports the religious conversion of gays from their homosexuality, and has translated the Homosexuality and Hope statement of the US Catholic Medical Association concerning "possibilities of change and the negative consequences associated with homosexual activity." Because of their rabid chauvinism, the books of Jedrzej and Maciej Giertych were withdrawn from Poland’s stand at the 2000 Frankfurt Book Fair.
The League of Polish Families initiated the bill to stimulate financially Poland’s birth rate. The Kaczynski twins and their Law and Justice party supported the bill. Abortion is banned in Poland, sexual education does not exist. Instead religious instruction was introduced to schools without parliamentary debate; the new minister of education plans patriotic instruction for all pupils. A spirit of reproductive and militaristic expansion thrives. Polish troops are in Iraq, CIA prisons are in Poland.
Against the ban on the Parade of Equality in Poznan, Poles in New York staged a protest in front of the Polish consulate. Berlin saw a demonstration before the Polish embassy, with Bundestag deputy of the Green party, Volker Beck, and European parliament member, Michael Cramer. International scholars, coordinated by Professor Brian Porter of Ann Arbor, issued a petition: “With growing distress we are witnessing a disturbing shift in the social and political climate in Poland. With concern we are observing in Polish public life a turn away from values such as tolerance, respect for cultural diversity, and civil rights—values which have long distinguished Poland’s history and culture—towards an atmosphere that promotes xenophobia.”
Anti-gay, misogynic and xenophobic prejudices are bred in Poland. To counter them, on November 26 and 27, 2005, demonstrations in support of the Poznan Parade of Equality were held across Poland in the cities of Cracow, Elblag, Gdansk, Katowice, Lodz, Poznan, Rzeszow, Torun, Warsaw, and Wroclaw.
28 November 2005
Member of European Parliament Pushes for Legal Action on Poland
by Ben Townley
Liberal Democrat European Justice spokeswoman and MEP Baroness Sarah Ludford has called on the EU to take legal action against Poland and press for it to drop its homophobic practices. The move comes after a violent clash between protestors and police last week in the city of Poznan, when officers broke up a peaceful march and reportedly failed to offer adequate protection from far right counter demonstrators.
Another march was held over the weekend in cities across the country, with hundreds of campaigners calling for more equality.
They fear a rise in homophobia after a series of apparent anti-gay acts in the government. These have included the banning of a series of gay demonstrations in the country, the use of anti-gay language by senior politicians and the closing of the government office responsible for promotion of equal treatment for sexual minorities. This comes despite the EU warning Poland about its stance on LGBT issues both before its accession to the bloc and since a Pride event was barred in Warsaw.
However, Baroness Ludford says more needs to be done. “Repressive and intolerant behaviour is quite rightly condemned when it takes place in a country seeking EU membership, but when it occurs in an existing member state, a blind eye seems to be turned,” she said today. “This is gutless hypocrisy.” She called for the EU to show an active concern on homophobia in order to stamp out anti-gay sentiment in member states. As part of the European Parliament’ Gay & Lesbian Rights intergroup, she was told earlier this year that the decision by the then Mayor of Warsaw Mr Lech Kaczynski to bar the Pride parade was a matter of national law. Now that Kaczynski has been elected as President, she said more concrete action needs to be taken.
Her comments have been echoed by global human rights group Amnesty International, which has also voiced its “concern about a climate of intolerance in Poland, Amnesty International calls on the Polish authorities to fulfil their obligations under international human rights law, including by explicitly prohibiting discrimination against sexual minorities, and investigating and penalising all public expressions of incitement of hatred and intolerance against sexual minorities,” the group said in a statement.
The EU has already warned that Poland could be stripped of its voting rights if it makes no moves to protect its LGBT citizens in the coming months. The country has yet to respond to the criticism.
3-8 November 2005
by Sander van der Eijk and Wim Monasso
The socio-economic, political and religio-cultural conditions in Poland to-day indicate, that Homosexuality is indeed a taboo issue – as it was in The Netherlands in the 1950’s and 1960’s. In Poland, homosexuality is not uncommonly seen as an ‘illness from which the patient should be cured’, through hormonal therapy. In The Netherlands again, such medical ‘cure’ was still being promoted – though as a vanishing, highly controversial viewpoint – in the 1980’s.
Polish legislation, educational and other policies at national and local level, the media, the arts and sports hardly allow for a minimum of breathing space for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender people (LGBT) to live their lives freely, healthily and in dignity. Many of them are known to remain ‘in the closet’, including at the highest level of Government.
Historically, as well as contemporarily, the role of the Roman Catholic Church is a key factor in preserving this status quo.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights presented, as part of the UN Human Rights Committee’s Concluding Observations on Poland on 5 November 2004, a series of critical comments about, inter alia, the state of affairs regarding Polish sexual education in school curricula, the right to non-discrimination of sexual minorities, and the need to prohibit such discrimination in Polish law.
Other international legal instruments are, likewise, a point of reference for Polish LGBT rights, e.g. the Treaty of Amsterdam, the E.U. Treaty of Nice, the UN General Assembly draft resolution on ‘the Right to Freedom of Sexual Orientation’ (the “Brazilian resolution”, on which ILGA has worked hard).
From a political perspective, Poland’s recent changes after national elections – i.e. towards the extreme right- do not augur well at all for the situation of sexual minorities. Our interlocutors in Warsaw, Gdansk and Cracow frequently spoke of their “shock and disgust” about the recent political rightist shift of their country.
During our stay in Poland, we noted also some – positive – indications of change. Just to mention a few:
-research work in Gender Studies (and in related academic disciplines) is increasingly touching on Homosexuality
– European Union Guidelines on Non-Discriminatory Practices in Employment are, as it seems, the first ones to trickle down into concrete Polish labour situations, so as to trigger off improvement for people of sexual minorities.
– commercial banks do provide loans to gay and lesbian couples, without a problem.
Important groundbreaking work to change the homophobic situation is being effectuated, slowly but steadily, by NGO’s and people in academia. We ourselves noted particularly the hard and enthusiastic work of volunteer activists, involved in the largest cities of Poland – Warsaw, Gdansk, Cracow – viz. under the aegis of KPH and Lambda.
These two major associations for addressing LGBT issues, are legally recognised by the State. They are still very young in their existence – established in 2001 and 1997 respectively – and they are composed largely of young people. Their total number of activists is probably not more than about 200 people nationwide, against an estimated LGBT population of 2 million (or 5% out of the total of 39 mln).
In Poland’s seven largest cities, LGBT-activities are being undertaken, whether by KPH, Lambda, or by a few other, smaller groups such as Berit (Christian), etc. There is no outreach into the rural areas. It is not surprising to know that between Warsaw and rural village life, there is a marked difference in openness for things like a ‘Gay Pride’ march.
With a view to the Polish cooperation with COC Haaglanden (and possibly with other local COC’s) we have noted and discussed the stated organisational needs of KPH and Lambda. These needs are ranging from a long term strategy, more skills training, study or exposure visits abroad, to better networking strategies, more vigorous methods of fundraising, as well as to foreign/Dutch experts’ input in domains of psychological support and counselling related to LGBT people.
Recommendations for follow-up activities in the coming three years are listed in the chapter on ‘’Recommendations’’, below. These are not addressed only to COC Haaglanden, but also to other public and private institutional players concerned, and to
people of influence, both inside and outside the Netherlands.
See complete report at: Poland Lambda Warsaw Report