Poland should act to stop LGBTI intolerance, says Council of Europe

WARSAW (Reuters) – Polish politicians should stop stigmatizing LGBTI people, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights said in a memorandum published on Thursday, adding that such behavior risked legitimizing homophobic violence.

Poland’s ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party made battling what it calls “LGBT ideology” a key plank of election campaigns in 2019 and 2020 in a bid to rally core religious conservative voters.

“The Commissioner is deeply concerned about the propagation of negative and inflammatory homophobic narratives by many public officials in Poland, including people in the highest ranks of government,” the memorandum by Dunja Mijatovic said.

“…Stigmatization and hate directed at certain individuals or groups of people carry a real risk of legitimizing violence, sometimes with fatal consequences.”

The memorandum outlines instances of stigmatization of LGBTI people in Poland, including the declaration of “LGBT-free zones” by some local authorities, and instances of inflammatory language used about the LGBTI community by politicians and senior figures in the Catholic church.

“Stigmatizing rhetoric has often been accompanied by harassment and intimidation of LGBTI activists by law enforcement agencies and the public prosecution services,” the memorandum said, citing the example of an activist detained for hanging up posters of the Virgin Mary with a rainbow halo.

In written comments in response to the memorandum, the Polish government rejected the criticism.

“…It needs to be emphasized that the activities of the police could have never been considered as harassing or intimidating and they resulted only from respecting the law in force,” the government said.

It said that the commissioner’s comments on “LGBT-free zones” were “misleading”, adding that the institution of marriage as a union between a man and a woman was enshrined in the Polish constitution.

Poland and Hungary are under formal EU investigation for undermining the independence of courts, media and non-governmental organizations.

Reporting by Alan Charlish; Editing by Nick Macfie

FILE PHOTO: Pro-LGBT demonstrators hold a giant rainbow flag during a protest against hatred towards LGBT people, in the centre of Warsaw, Poland, August 30, 2020. Kuba Atys/Agencja Gazeta via REUTERS/File photo

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