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Poland: New school bill is 'Polish Clause 28', it is homophobic and violates rights

A new Polish Ministry of Education anti-homosexuality proposal is strongly reminiscent of ‘Clause 28’ in Britain, known as Section 2A in Scotland, Amnesty International said today (23 March 2007). It is alarming that it comes amid recent threats against Gay Pride march organisers and increasing intimidation of and discrimination against gay people in Poland.

The proposal, announced on March 13, would “prohibit the promotion of homosexuality and other deviance” in Polish schools. Failure to comply could lead to dismissal, fine or imprisonment.

The measure would deprive students of their right to freedom of expression, of a full education, and of the right to associate freely. It would institutionalise discrimination in Poland’s school system. It would criminalise anybody who promotes equality regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. In short, if the measure is enacted, Poland would be in violation of its obligations under international and regional human rights treaties to which Poland is a state party and its commitments when the country joined the European Union.

The proposal is part of a growing climate of intimidation and discrimination in Poland against lesbians, gay men, and bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. On 11 May 2006, the parliamentarian Wojciech Wierzejski encouraged the use of force should LGBT rights activists organise their annual Equality March in Warsaw in June. On 26 September 2006, the Ministry of Education rejected the funding for a project submitted by an LGBT organisation arguing that “the Ministry does not support actions that aim to propagate homosexual behaviour and such attitude among young people.”

Openly homophobic language by highly placed politicians contributes to the persistence of discriminatory attitudes. Earlier this month, Poland’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education Roman Giertych reportedly stated during a meeting of European Ministers of Education, “We ... cannot promote as normal same-sex partnerships when teaching youth, as those partnerships objectively constitute deviation from the natural law.” In February, President Lech Kaczynski reportedly said during his visit to Ireland that “LGBT people should not promote their sexual orientation.”

Despite strong statements of support by politicians and generally unfavourable societal attitudes toward homosexuality, the Ministry of Education’s proposal is not universally supported in Poland. Over 10,000 teachers marched through Warsaw on March 17 in a demonstration motivated in part by opposition to the bill. LGBT groups joined the teachers to protest the measure.

Amnesty International is calling on the Polish authorities to:

  • ensure that all persons in Poland, including Children's rights, fully enjoy their rights to free speech, freedom from discrimination, and to seek, receive and impart information
  • prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination, including discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity
  • exercise leadership to ensure that the human rights to freedom from discrimination, freedom of expression and freedom of association are actively promoted, and work to build a society where they can be enjoyed by all. In particular, officials at the highest level should publicly condemn discrimination against lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people and make clear that any abuse of their human rights, whoever the victim, will not be tolerated. They should ensure that they do not make any public statement or order that could reasonably be interpreted as a license to discriminate or in any other way abuse the human rights of individuals because of their actual or imputed sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
  • provide adequate information and support to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youths.

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