by Sabine Hannakampf
The situation for Polish LGBTI activists who have been fighting against the right-wing conservatives’ plans to eradicate queer life in Poland is coming to a head. The Polish state is using SLAPP lawsuits to silence their voices.
In April 2019, Jarosław Kaczyński, leader of the right-wing populist PiS party, called “LGBT ideology” a “threat to Polish society”. From then on, more and more PiS-friendly regions declared themselves “LGBT-free zones”.
Instead of standing idly by, brave queer activists have stood up against this and started to draw the world’s attention to how the Polish state is trying to eradicate the queer community in Poland, at least in spirit.
Jakub Gawron, Paulina Pajak, Paweł Preneta and Kamil Mazcuga were among the first to make the evolution of hate visible to all. On their interactive map, the “Atlas of Hate”, the public was able to follow the worryingly rapid increase of “LGBT-free zones” in Poland.
Activists face legal action
Now their commitment is taking its toll. The Polish state has brought charges against the website’s initiators Jakub Gawron, Paulina Pajak and Paweł Preneta (only Kamil Maczuga has so far been spared) and is demanding substantial financial compensation.
The initiator of the photo project “LGBT-free Zones”, Bart Staszweski, is also facing numerous legal actions.
Staszweski, who is very active in the Polish queer community, photographed so-called “LGBT-free zones” and their queer inhabitants to show the people behind the decisions of the municipalities and counties. His photo project raised global awareness of the issue in Poland. This effort is now his undoing.
Also on trial are three Polish women who made a poster of the Virgin Mary on which Mary wears a halo in rainbow colours – for the Polish state a “violation of religious feelings”. The trial of Elżbieta Podleśna, Anna Prus and Joanna Gzyra-Iskandar Podleśna began on Wednesday.
Projekt fotograficzny „Strefy Wolne od LGBT” ma skłonić do rozmowy nad lokalnymi rezolucjami jakie powzięli samorządowcy. Pojadę do 36 takich stref i sfotografuje mieszkańców LGBT.
With my photo project I want show real people behind @LGBTfreeZones
More: https://t.co/WB7sLLxs1P pic.twitter.com/mrasDShASK
— Bart Staszewski 🏳️🌈🇵🇱 (@BartStaszewski) January 23, 2020
SLAPP – Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation
SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) lawsuits are those targeted court cases that serve the sole purpose of intimidating and demoralising dissenters. The tactic is simple: at some point, financial costs, time and psychological strain bring critics to their knees – and they give up, completely despondent.
The European Commission has stated in the European Action Plan for Democracy that the purpose of such lawsuits is,
“to censor, intimidate and silence critics by saddling them with the costs of defending themselves until they give up their criticism or opposition”.
Therefore, for the European Commission, SLAPP lawsuits are
“a particular form of harassment to which journalists and others involved in the protection of the public interest are increasingly subjected”.
“What I saw was hatred, contempt, aggression,” says one of the women who are facing prison time for protesting against an Easter display at a church in Poland that counted “gender” and “LGBT” as sins to battle against. https://t.co/TlzYXWCPba
— POLITICOEurope (@POLITICOEurope) January 14, 2021
LGBTI Intergroup in the European Parliament
Commenting on the latest development in Poland, Terry Reintke, Vice-Chair of the Greens/EFA Group and Co-Chair of the LGBTI Intergroup in the European Parliament, said:
“Today, the voices of activists who denounce the discriminatory actions of the government through their engagement or artistic means are particularly needed. Civil society must have the freedom to dissent, criticise and denounce grievances without fear of legal consequences.”
The LGBTI Intergroup in the European Parliament is in regular contact with the accused in order to better understand the developments and provide the necessary support to the victims.
Together with other European actors, the LGBTI Intergroup wants to continue to ensure that homophobia and discrimination in Poland are noticed by the European Union and punished accordingly, as promised by Ursula von der Leyen in her State of the Union address in September 2020.
- Atlas of Hate: By Jakub Gawron / https://atlasnienawisci.pl
- christian-sterk-uLHn7G9HnoM-unsplash: By Christian Sterk / Unsplash
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