Poland Monthly Digest: NATO anniversary, and LGBTQ+ rights controversy5 min read
– On March 3rd, hundreds of protesters gathered in Gdynia, Katowice, Łódź, Warsaw, and Wrocław in support of women’s rights such as equal pay and the right to an abortion. Protesters displayed counter-patriarchal slogans like “Sex, not sexism” and showed support for the liberalization of abortion law in Poland (read more in: “People are opposing it in a very vivid way”: an interview with a Polish protester and abortion rights activist” ).
– 20 years ago, on March 12th, 1999, Poland, The Czech Republic, and Hungary joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Polish President Andrzej Duda said during a speech at at a military base on March 11th that joining NATO had reaffirmed Poland’s independence, sovereignty, and exit from Russia’s sphere of influence. In the course of the celebration, President Duda also announced that the government had drafted a bill to increase military spending to 2.5% of the GDP by 2030.
– NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, during his Warsaw visit on March 8th, said that Poland could be an example for other member-states in fulfilling NATO’s commitments. He participated in a debate organized by the German Marshall Fund, the Polish Institute of International Affairs and NATO’s Public Diplomacy Department, alongside former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs Jacek Czaputowicz.
– In December, 2018 allegations of child sexual abuse surfaced against the late Reverend Henryk Jankowski, a priest affiliated with the Solidarność trade union. Jankowski died in 2010, but the accusations go back to the 1980s. Over the course of the next three months, several figures who had been involved in strikes and other political action in the 1980s claimed that Jankowski’s sexual activities with children were well-known at the time.
What was thought to be an isolated incident has launched a larger conversation about child sex abuse in the Polish Roman Catholic Church. On the 14th of March, the Episcopal Conference of Poland released a study, prepared by the Institute for Catholic Church Statistics, revealing abuses committed by 382 priests over twenty-eight years. According to the document, 625 children up to fifteen years old had been victimised.
Prior to publication, Pope Francis had held a meeting in the Vatican on clerical abuse which seems to have influenced the Polish Catholic Church; the narrative in Poland has changed from sweeping the problem under the blanket – like blaming divorce rates, homosexuality, feminists or even promiscuous children – to acknowledging to it.
However, independent media outlet oko.press claims that the Church’s statistics have been artificially lowered. The Polish figures show that 0.8% of clergy perpetrated child sex abuse while the figure in, for example, Germany, is 4.4%.
– On March 19th, the Institute of National Remembrance requested to waive the immunity of seven judges and prosecutors involved in in illegal prosecutions and detentions during the time of martial law in Poland from 1981- 1983. This case is part of a larger reconciliation process in Poland ongoing since 1989.
– On March 22nd, Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs Jacek Czaputowicz together with Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjørn Jagland raised concerns about the possibility of Russia leaving Council of Europe. They said that Russian people would suffer the most, because Russians might lose access to the Court of Justice and the protection of human rights’ conventions (read more in: The Russian Question and the Council of Europe: where is the conflict headed?)
– On March 22nd, the President of Poland, Andrzej Duda, and the President of Hungary, János Áder, met in Kielce, Poland to celebrate Polish-Hungarian Friendship Day. Politicians talked about anti-abortion politics, military cooperation, and the Visegrad Group. In the course of celebration, President of Hungary Janos Áder was honored with the Order of the White Eagle, Poland’s oldest and highest order, awarded both to civilians and military staff for their merits. During the award ceremony President Duda underlined Áder’s commitment in the development of Poland- Hungarian cooperation.
– At the end of February, the new mayor of Warsaw Rafał Trzaskowski signed the LGBT Plus Declaration aiming to reopen shelter services for LGBTQ+ people who have suffered abuse, implement anti-discrimination policies in Warsaw municipal institutions, and introduce WHO sex education standards in Warsaw schools. Over the last week of February, and into the beginning of March the Declaration dominated discussion in Polish politics.
On March 11th, The Ombudsperson for Children Mikołaj Pawlak raised concerns about the constitutionality of the LGBT Plus Declaration, in particular “parents’ rights to rise theirs kids accordingly to their beliefs. It is parent’s right to decide when kids will learn about different aspects of adult life” and “the biggest concern I have is about the ‘sexualization of toddlers’” the Ombudsperson said. Pawlak also said that he had sent a letter to the president of Warsaw asking about the Declaration.
On the same day, Minister of the Interior Joachim Brudziński called the LGBT Plus Declaration dangerous on ideological grounds; telling the Trzaskowski administration to “ (…) back off from the vulnerability and privacy of my children.” Many politicians of the ruling party have adopted the slogan ‘tolerance – yes, affirmation – no’.
– On March 19th, Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz, leader of the Polish People’s Party, said that “the party is against same sex marriages and same sex adoptions.” However, a recent survey shows that 56% of Poles, and nearly 1/3 of PiS (Law and Justice) voters approve of same sex partnerships. Also, earlier this year, high school students were recorded dancing a traditional Polish dance in same-sex pairs, which they called a “Polonaise of Equality” (see video below).