Polands LGBT community targeted in run-up to elections

Anti-LGBT rhetoric has been a feature of the campaign ahead of Polands October 13 elections, with verbal attacks on gay rights campaigners launched by the countrys de facto leader and a senior Catholic cleric, who likened the movement to a “plague”.


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In a sermon commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising against German occupation, one of Polands most powerful Catholic prelates likened gay rights activists to the Communist rulers the Soviets imposed on the country just a few years after the Nazis crushed that doomed insurrection.

“Our land is no longer afflicted by the red plague, which doesnt mean that there isnt a new one that wants to control our souls, hearts and minds: not Marxist, Bolshevik, but born of the same spirit – not red, but rainbow,” Marek Jedraszewski, the archbishop of Krakow (the post famously occupied by Karol Wojtyla before he became Pope John Paul II), told the congregation at St Marys Basilica, one of the most revered sites in Polish Catholicism, on August 2.

Later in the same month, Jedraszewski added that “the word plague describes the cultural phenomenon that were dealing with extremely well”, telling a pro-government weekly that the authorities should “clearly state that this ideology is a threat to the nation and state”.

The archbishop got what he wanted. Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Polands de facto leader and head of the ruling nationalist Law and Justice party (PiS), declared his “deep gratitude” for Jedraszewskis defence of the “normal Polish family” against threats to the countrys “culture and freedom”, while mocking gay pride parades as “travelling theatres” in an August 16 speech.

Kaczynski then cemented this issue at the heart of the election campaign. “If the opposition forms a government, then it will be dominated by those who want a radical destruction of the moral and cultural order in our country,” he told a Catholic broadcaster in early October.

In what remains an overwhelmingly Catholic country, “PiS has tried to suggest that good Catholics can only vote for it,” explained Stanley Bill, a professor of Polish studies at Cambridge University and co-editor of the Notes from Poland blog, in an interview with FRANCE 24. At the same time, “its not the case that the main body of the episcopate comes out and supports PiS,” he continued, "but some sections of the Church have certainly given that impression."

Illiberal notions of what is normal

The kind of claims made by Kaczynski and Jedraszewski “feature prominently in PiS rhetoric”, observed Jan Zielonka, a Poland expert and professor of politics at Oxford University, in an interview with FRANCE 24. “Before the last general elections, in 2015, the focus was on migrants – but now LGBT people have replaced them as the other Other, so to speak.”

“There is plausible deniability in the rhetoric; theyre very careful to say that theyre attacking what they call LGBT ideology as opposed to LGBT individuals – but the undertones are pretty clear,” Bill added.

Some anti-LGBT protesters have been even more forthright than Kaczynski and Jedraszewski. Riot police detained some 30 demonstrators who tried to block a gay pride rally, pelting the marchers with eggs, in the south-eastern city of Lublin on September 28. Two counter-protesters who brought homemade bombs to the parade were also arrested. Lublins PiS mayor had originally tried to ban the pride march, but a judicial review allowed it to proceed.

The bombs were a “worrying sign”, Bill said. “When there is a climate of sustained rhetoric against a minority group, one certainly has concerns that it will lead to violence.”

Indeed, many LGBT Poles say they are living in a climate of fear. “Weve had death threats; [this] was about forcing us not to have this march,” Bartosz Staszewski, an organiser of the Lublin parade, told Reuters.

“Im afraid of being humiliated in front of [my] children; Im afraid my car will be vandalised or that someone will set fire to our flat,” said another member of the citys LGBT community, speaking to Agence France-Presse.

PiS mobilising core vote

Yet it seems that Kacszynskis invective against “LGBT ideology” has not harmed PiSs popularity ahead of Sundays elections. The party is projected to get 44 percent of the vote, according to an aggregate of voter intention surveys by specialised website Wybory.

Law and Justice “are playing to their base with the LGBT issue, stoking Read More – Source

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