Poland told to ‘annul’ abhorrent ‘LGBT-free’ zones by Council of Europe

EU Poland

The Council of Europe, the continent’s leading human rights organisation, has called on Poland to annul its abhorrent so-called LGBT-free zones.

The council’s Congress of Local and Regional Authorities gathered on Wednesday (16 June) to adopt a resolution condemning the “rising anti-LGBTI hate speech and discrimination” sweeping across Poland.

It included a recommendation that central governments develop national action plans reinforcing anti-discriminatory and human rights measures, with a particular focus on LGBT+ people.

“Across Europe, the rights and recognition of LGBTI people are under pressure,” said rapporteur Andrew Boff.

“Rising hate speech is creating divisions between the citizens of our towns and regions. Against this, local and regional authorities must strengthen the social rights and well-being of their LGBTI citizens and promote dialogue. We have a duty to all our fellow citizens to create inclusive societies.”

Since 2019, more than 90 Polish towns and regions had passed resolutions declaring themselves free from so-called “LGBT-ideology”.

These “LGBT-free zones” now cover more than a third of the country, their homophobic rhetoric reinforced by the governing Law and Justice party, which has repeatedly positioned LGBT+ people as a corrosive threat to so-called traditional values.

The council acknowledged the discourse that attempts to “delegitimise” LGBT+ identities through the use of derogatory terms such as “propaganda of homosexuality”, “gender ideology” or “LGBT ideology”.

“Rising conservative and fundamentalist voices in Europe are increasingly politicising the issue of LGBTI identity and designating LGBTI people as scapegoats, questioning diversity in general, and LGBTI people’s human rights and the legitimacy of their identity, in particular,” they said.

They reiterated that “neither cultural, traditional nor religious values, nor the rules of a ‘dominant culture’ can be invoked to justify hate speech or any other form of discrimination,” including on the grounds of sexuality or gender identity.

It’s far from the first time the EU has moved to condemn Poland’s growing anti-LGBT+ sentiment. In December 2019 the European Parliament passed a resolution against public discrimination and hate speech, and encouraged funding to be withdrawn from nations that infringe this.

The EU has since made good on this threat and scrapped huge grants from certain regions, which prompted some LGBT-free zones to withdraw their homophobic pledges.

The Council of Europe cannot make binding laws, but it does have the power to enforce certain international agreements between European states. Their latest condemnation serves as an uncomfortable reminder of the widening gulf between president Andrezj Duda and his European counterparts.