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LGBT rights threatened by Polish President's potential re-election pledge

The pledge, which includes banning same sex marriage and prohibiting same sex couples to adopt, is one of many infringes on LGBT rights sweeping through eastern Europe

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Image Credit: The White House

How a candidate is to win an election can often be determined by how they emerge straight out of the gate. For Poland’s President, Andrzej Duda, it was clear how he could kickstart his campaign ahead of his opponents; to ramp up anti-LGBT rhetoric. The presidential election, originally to be held on 10 May that was postponed due to the Coronavirus pandemic, is now being held on 28 June and will determine the political landscape of Poland until the next parliamentary poll in 2023, that has a greater scope for change.

In the recent example of this rhetoric, he announced to his conservative base that he had signed a ‘family values’ declaration. This swore to protect children from LGBT ideology, and stopped the teaching of LGBT inclusion in public institutions. Capturing his sentiments, Reuters reported him commenting on how parents were “responsible” for their children’s sexual education, and it was irresponsible for institutions to intervene in this process. And now, with the help of this declaration, the ability to do so is effectively impossible. Simultaneously, he explained that he would also ban same sex marriages and would prohibit allowing same sex couples to adopt children.

These later statements exist only as pledges for the meantime. However, a survey conducted by the CBOS polling agency in February found that Duda had been averaging at a comfortable 60% approval rating; the highest of any Polish politician. When the same survey asked if they were confident that he was performing his duties, 57% of respondents were satisfied that he was. With the rescheduled election day now under two weeks away, this has certainly left Duda in a secure position.

If he is victorious, it would grant the government a three year run of its far right reconstruction of the state, which appears to be the inevitable reality. However, reports have suggested that these approval ratings are now in decline. These far right and anti LGBT campaign promises appear to be a means to an end for Duda, therefore, as they present a way to win back his small provincial town support base.

The harsh reality is that this case does not exist in isolation. Rather, it acts as part of a trend across eastern Europe where the rights of LGBT communities are under threat. The alarm bells were ringing last spring when in March the eastern town of Świdnik in Poland passed a resolution rejecting the LGBT ‘ideology’. This stance soon snowballed into the creation of LGBT ideology free zones meaning that the declared region in question must be free of LGBT influence. For many, this was sounding eerily familiar to previous times in history where there have been attempts to restrict the movements of communities within a country. By August, around 30 of these zones had been declared across Poland, including four of the traditionally far right voivodeships in the south east of the country.

Further east, in Russia the 2013 gay propaganda law still causes hostility. The legislation, which passed 401-0, makes equating heterosexual relationships to homosexual relationships illegal. While it is not technically illegal to be gay in Russia, life is exceptionally challenging for homosexual people as the constant threat of their sexuality being exposed looms. In Russia, it appears to be the worst kept secret in global politics that equality for the LGBT community is offered in the shadows and confinement of their own home, but not out in the streets.

In fact, the stance even secured the censorship of the biopic of Elton John’s life, Rocketman, for Russian viewers. As the film aired in Russia last summer, it became apparent to the production team that scenes had been cut that promoted “non traditional sexual relations”, according to authorities. Yet, with the move matching the rhetoric of the country, the outrage of the censorship was somewhat muted.

With the Polish presidential election pushed back until 28 June, LGBT communities during their pride month may be forced to live in a society where they are deemed a lesser sub section of society. Historically, there has always been a culture divide between the east and the west. However, across the Atlantic with Trump eliminating Obama era regulations that made discriminating against transgender people when receiving healthcare and medical treatment illegal, a sinister similarity may be forming. In a cruel moment of irony, it seems the east and west are aligning some sections of their political stances.

Protests have broken out across the globe in response to the death of George Floyd. In this march for equality, it is of the utmost importance that it is intersectional, as it is not only the Black community in need of help. For LGBT communities throughout eastern Europe the fight for equality is far from finished, and there presents a very long road ahead.

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