Activists say reports of attacks against the Polish LGBT community are up in Poland, where months of anti-gay rhetoric by politicians and church leaders before Sunday’s parliamentary elections have created an atmosphere that’s increasingly hostile to the LGBT community, setting back years of slow progress in the country.
In an effort to capitalize on a wedge issue, the leader of the conservative ruling Law and Justice party (PiS), Jaroslaw Kaczynski, vowed to protect Poles from an “LGBT offensive” that he said seeks the “radical destruction of the moral and cultural order.” An archbishop called the LGBT community a “rainbow plague.” And far-right politician Janusz Korwin-Mikke said “one must slaughter” those who promote gay rights.
While gays and lesbians have never had the right to marry or to form civil unions, as they can in much of Europe, gay rights activists until not long ago felt that society was becoming more open and that those rights would one day come.
But the election has brought simmering tensions to the fore in Poland, setting off a back-and-forth between an increasingly vocal and assured LGBT community and those who say they are defending traditional values.
In an effort to counter growing hostility, there was a mass “coming-out” this summer, in which thousands declared, “I am LGBT” on their social media profiles. In response, some people turned out with brooms and cleaning chemicals to “disinfect” the streets after parades. Towns have declared themselves “LGBT free.” About 200 people marched in Warsaw, the capital, on Saturday, holding rosaries and crucifixes and praying to apologize for the “desecration” they say pride parades represent.
According to most polls, the ruling Law and Justice party looks set to win at least 231 seats in the election on 13 October, allowing it to continue to rule without a coalition partner for another four years. The PiS is projected to win more than 40 per cent of votes, a greater share than its two main opponents – the liberals (Civic Coalition) and the Left – put together.