“Attempting to rush [laws] through under the cover of the COVID-19 crisis is unconscionable”


Two “recklessly regressive” bills that seek to ban abortions and criminalise sex education, whilst comparing homosexuality with paedophilia, are scheduled to be debated in Poland’s Parliament today.

Both bills were initially introduced in March 2018 and October 2019 but have been stalled under the Parliament election in November 2019. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the scheduling of the debate has led to virtual protests in lockdown as street protests are not possible. 

“Attempting to pass these recklessly retrogressive laws at any time would be shameful, but to rush them through under the cover of the COVID-19 crisis is unconscionable,” said Draginja Nadazdin, Director of Amnesty International Poland.

Backers of the bills say they will fight paedophilia and discourage early promiscuity, but critics argue it would create an oppressive legal tool to persecute LGBTQI+ people. 

Poland are known for some of Europe’s strictest anti-abortion laws and are a deeply divided society split between traditionalists loyal to the Catholic church and those who seek a liberal country. “LGBTQI+ ideology-free zones” were created by right-wing conservatives as a response to Warsaw’s mayor Rafał Trzaskowski signing a declaration supporting LGBTQI+ rights in February last year.

Parliament speaker Elzbieta Witek said: “I know that they are controversial, but in a democratic state – and Poland is such a state – citizens’ projects must be subjected to proceedings in the Polish parliament, because that’s the law.”

The bills are both from citizens’ initiatives, the first limits abortion and the second, initiated by anti-LGBTQI+ groups, states that teaching or promoting sexuality education to people under 18 is a punishable crime – by up to three years in prison. 

“In a country where sexual and reproductive rights are already extremely limited,” Amnesty International said, “it is therefore vital that Polish MPs reject these regressive bills.”

Members of Parliament have a legal duty to consider any outstanding citizen’s initiatives bills within six months of its formation.

The virtual protests continue with thousands of activists posting selfies of themselves with the hashtags #ProtestAtHome and #StrajkKobiet with many using a backdrop of Polish Parliament to show that they are targeting Polish MPs. 

Read more here amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/04/poland

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