Current Affairs

MEPs want to investigate Polish “Section 28” law

Ian Dunt March 21, 2007
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The European Parliament is prepared to investigate the legality of draft legislation restricting discussion of homosexuality in Polish schools, should the bill be officially submitted to the Polish lower house.

The parliament’s committee on civil liberties discussed the issue yesterday and decided to launch a study into the compatibility of such legislation with EU rules.

The committee asked for the EU parliament’s legal services to probe any Polish bill on two grounds.

Firstly to see if it is compatible with European anti-discrimination regulations, and secondly to see if it violates European norms on freedom of expression.

Concerned MEPs are preparing oral questions to the European Commission and the German EU presidency for the 10-11 April plenary session in Strasbourg.

The Polish government plans to ban discussions on homosexuality in schools and educational institutions across the country, with teachers set to be fired, fined or imprisoned if they violate the rules.

Openly gay teachers could also lose their jobs.

Poland’s education minister Roman Giertych – the leader of the League of Polish Families party which made the proposal – said last week that the laws would aim to “prohibit the promotion of homosexuality and other deviance.”

He even hopes to roll out a similar ban across the EU in future. His proposal has been fast-tracked and could become law by the end of the month.

The League of Polish Families is a right wing fringe party which joined the Kaczynski twins’ Law and Justice party in a government coalition following inconclusive elections in late 2005.

President Lech Kaczynski and Prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski are both very religious, and any policy which appeals to Poland’s Roman Catholic majority will prove politically attractive.

“There is no discrimination against homosexuals in Poland,” government spokesman Jan Dziedziczak told Polish daily Rzeczpospolita on Tuesday.

“But promotion of homosexuality in schools is another matter.

“There is no mandate for that.”

Kathalijne Buitenweg, a Dutch Green MEP, says serious questions surround Poland’s commitment to fundamental rights.

“It is shocking that the government of a modern European country would even consider such draconian legislation.

“The promotion of gay hatred is the antithesis of EU anti-discrimination rules and the Polish government must publicly reject this approach,” she said.

In an open letter, the US activist organisation Human Rights Watch made similar point, saying that “schools should be training grounds for tolerance, not bastions of repression and discrimination.”

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