Polish education minister bans gay rights book

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The head of teacher training in Poland has been sacked after distributing a human rights manual which describes the types of discrimination lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people may face.

Polish Education Minister Roman Giertych said the publication titled Compass: a manual on human rights education with young people, is a “contradiction to the core curriculum for general education” and against his idea of “patriotic education” in schools.

The dismissal of Mirosław Sielatycki prompted protests from schoolchildren, who were later arrested outside the education ministry and condemnation from human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe, producers of the document.

Council of Europe Secretary General Terry Davis said: “”I do not understand how teaching tolerance can be grounds for dismissal.

“I asked the Polish government to clarify the circumstances in which Mr Mirosław Sielatycki, Director of the Polish In-Service Teachers Training Centre, has been dismissed.

“I made it clear that the Polish government is free to decide whether it wishes to use Council of Europe material for human rights education, but if the teaching material is optional, the values and principles contained therein are certainly not.

Mr Gietych is a member of the League of Polish Families, ruling coalition partners with the Right wing Law and Justice Party, both have a record of nationalist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic rhetoric. Mr Giertych has previously stated that, “There is no room, nor will there ever be any room for homosexual activism within the school system in Poland on my watch.”

Last month, deputy minister of education Miroslaw Orzechowskiego, also a member of the League of Polish Families, accused the Campaign against Homophobia, a Polish gay group, of “depraving young people.” Pointing to an international seminar on gender stereotypes that the group co-sponsored in 2005, he said the ministry would work to “prevent such organisations from getting money in the future.”

In recent weeks, another Polish minister, Wojciech Wierzejski, blamed “homos” for conspiring against him.

President Lech Kaczynski, the former leader of the ruling Law and Justice Party, has long opposed lesbian and gay people’s rights to expression and assembly. When serving as mayor of Warsaw, he attempted to ban Gay Pride marches in 2004 and 2005. He refused to meet with the parade organisers, saying, “I am not willing to meet perverts.” During his presidential campaign, Mr Kaczynski said that he would continue to ban gay demonstrations, as “public promotion of homosexuality will not be allowed.”