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Leafy Dutch town severs all ties with its Polish twin city over its abhorrently homophobic ‘LGBT-free zone’

Emma Powys Maurice July 15, 2020
LGBT free zone stickers

"LGBT-free zone" stickers distributed by a Polish conservative newspaper, Gazeta Polska. (GPtygodnik/ Twitter)

A Dutch town has severed a 21-year relationship with its twin town in Poland over the latter’s declaration to become an ‘LGBT-free zone’.

On Monday (July 13) the Nieuwegein town council voted almost unanimously to break ties with its sister city Pulawy in south eastern Poland. Only one councillor voted to maintain the relationship on a friendly basis.

The mayor of the Dutch town, Frans Backhuijsm, had attempted to reach out to the mayor of Pulawy on March 19 when it first signed the ‘LGBT-free’ declaration.

In the letter, Nieuwegein reportedly expressed its concerns about the exclusion of people on the basis of their sexual orientation. The letter was never officially replied to, but local politicians told Polish media that “Nieuwegein should not interfere in Polish politics”.

Council member Marieke Schouten marked the decision to end the symbolic relationship by covering the Polish town’s name on Nieuwegein’s entry signs with a rainbow flag.

“This is a statement,” she told RTV Utrecht. “Gay-free zones are not done. Everybody is welcome in our town. It doesn’t matter who you are, what colour skin you have, what you believe in or what your sexual orientation is.

“If you have a friendship with a town where that’s not allowed, we have good reason to say we are concerned about what’s happening over there.”

The name Pulawy is still on the access signs to the city, but will disappear from all communications before October this year.

Pride in London urges government to speak out against 'LGBT-free' Poland
The red area shows the municipalities in Poland that have signed the ‘LGBT-free’ pledge. (Atlas of Hate)

Nieuwegein isn’t the first to end a twinning partnership over Poland’s increasing homophobia. In February the French town of Saint-Jean-de-Braye broke its relationship with its sister city of Tuchów, saying that the oath that united the two towns was now “tainted”.

Representatives said in a statement: “France is committed to combating human rights violations based on sexual orientation. We cannot accept that the ties that unite our two cities by a twinning oath be tainted. We condemn the position taken by our twin city of Tuchów.”

Around a third of Poland has now proclaimed itself to be “free from LGBT+ ideology”. Local authorities in the LGBT-free zones pledge to refrain from acts that encourage tolerance and must avoid providing financial assistance to NGOs working to promote equal rights.

The move was strongly condemned by the European Parliament, but it seems to have had little effect on the rising tide of intolerance in the country.

More: Europe, LGBT-free zones, Nieuwegein, Poland, the Netherlands, Twin Cities

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