A government minister has called for a ban on “promoting LGBT ideology” and teaching gender studies at universities and schools in Poland.
The suggestion marks the latest escalation in a government-led anti-LGBT campaign that began early last year. It also comes as the three parties in the ruling coalition manoeuvre ahead of an autumn reshuffle that will set the legislative agenda for the next three years.
If Poland were to outlaw the promotion of “LGBT ideology” or the teaching of gender studies, it would follow in the footsteps of governments in countries such as Russia and Hungary.
“It is time to implement everything we have promised since 2015,” said Michał Woś, the environment minister, referring to the year when the current government came to power.
“There are still issues that have not been implemented, such as…a prohibition on the promotion of LGBT ideology and on conducting various [forms of] gender studies at universities,” he continued, in an interview with Radio Plus.
Asked to clarify if this would entail a statutory ban on promoting “LGBT ideology”, Woś said that “the details can be talked about while working on the bill”. But he added that it was vital to restrict “programmes which severely corrupt young people in schools”.
Poland’s government has argued that “LGBT ideology”, which it says is being imported to Poland from the West, is a particular danger to children and young people, whom it seeks to “morally corrupt”.
During his recent re-election campaign, President Andrzej Duda, a government ally, signed a “Family Charter” in which he pledged to “defend children from LGBT ideology”, which he said is “more dangerous than communism”.
Duda also called for a “ban on the propagation of LGBT ideology in public institutions”, and for the constitution to be amended to outlaw adoption by same-sex couples, which he described as as “experimentation” on and “enslavement” of children.
However, since Duda’s subsequent election victory in early July, he has not followed up on those promises. Likewise, despite enjoying almost unchallenged executive and legislative power for the last five years, the current ruling coalition has not moved to introduce anti-LGBT laws.
Some local authorities, usually under the control of the Law and Justice (PiS) party that leads the national government, have passed resolutions declaring themselves “free from LGBT ideology”. But these are largely symbolic moves, rather than introducing any concrete measures.
Since Duda’s re-election, one of PiS’s junior coalition partners, United Poland (Solidarna Polska), has been seeking to push the government in a more radical direction on cultural issues.
In July, its leader – the justice minister, Zbigniew Ziobro – began the process of seeking to withdraw Poland from a European convention on preventing violence against women, claiming that it “promotes LGBT”.
Soon after, he and Woś – also a member of United Poland – tabled legislation that would make NGOs declare foreign funding.
Other factions within Poland’s government have, however, pushed back against some of these actions.
Instead of seeking to withdraw from the anti-violence convention, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki – a rival of Ziobro – instead delayed the issue by sending it to the Constitutional Tribunal for consideration.
Morawiecki’s PiS party have nevertheless actively led the anti-LGBT campaign. The party’s leader – and Poland’s de facto leader – Jarosław Kaczyński, warned last year that “imported LGBT…threatens our identity, our nation, its continued existence, and therefore the Polish state”.
Last month, the PiS education minister, Dariusz Piontkowski, defended a school superintendent who said that the “LGBT virus” is even more dangerous to young people than COVID-19.
In 2013, Russia passed a law banning the promotion of “non-traditional sexual relationships” among minors. Human Rights Watch says that the law “targets vulnerable sexual and gender minorities for political gain” and has “increased social hostility…with harmful consequences for LGBT youth”.
In 2018, Hungary’s right-wing government – a close ally of the current Polish administration – issued a decree effectively banning gender studies programmes at universities. “We do not consider it acceptable to talk about socially constructed genders,” said a spokesman for Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
In June this year, Romania’s parliament approved a law that would ban educational institutions from “propagating theories and opinion on gender identity according to which gender is a separate concept from biological sex”. The legislation has, however, been sent to the constitutional court by the president for consideration.
Both Hungary and Romania’s moves have been criticised by universities in the two countries and local and international rights groups.
Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland and assistant professor of history at the Pedagogical University of Krakow. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign Policy, POLITICO Europe, The Independent and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.