The mayor of a Polish town which declared itself an ‘LGBT-free zone’ has spoken of his regret at the decision.
Mayor of Krasnik, Wojciech Wilk, thought the move would be mostly symbolic and provide a boost from his conservative base, when the majority of local councillors voted to adopt the motion two years ago. However, this has not proved to be the case as the town of 32,000 people has missed out on millions of funding as a result of the discriminatory decision.
“We have become Europe’s laughing stock, and it’s the citizens, not the local politicians who’ve suffered most,” said Wilk, according to The New York Times. “It has turned our town into a synonym for homophobia.”
The zones were first introduced in 2019 and by June 2020, 100 of Poland’s municipalities, accounting for around a third of the population, had adopted resolutions leading them to be called ‘LGBT-free zones’. None of these zones have any legal enforcements that can prevent LGBTQ+ people from entering or living there but they serve as a reprimand of what their proponents call ‘LGBT ideology’ and allow the banning of equality marches and other LGBT events.
It is part of a widespread campaign against LGBTQ+ people in the country. Poland’s President Andrzej Duda used harmful rhetoric and called for policies that deny human rights to LGBTQ+ people as a campaign tactic in his successful re-election campaign last year and the Archbishop of Krakow warned of a neo-Marxist “rainbow plague” in 2019. Just last week a senior Polish judge doxed a 10-year-old trans girl because her school had asked teachers to use her new name and correct pronouns.
This political posturing has had real and negative effects on Polish LGBTQ+ people. The towns themselves are also suffering reputational and economic damage for their choices.
Since July 2020, the European Union has denied funding from the Structural Funds and Cohesion Fund to municipalities that have adopted “LGBT-free” declarations, which are in violation of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
Krasnik itself has been denied access to €3-10 million worth of funding from Norway as part of the European Economic Area Financial Mechanism.
Many twinning arrangements between foreign towns and Polish ones which have adopted ‘LGBT-free zones’ have been cancelled too. Including between Fermoy in Cork and the Polish town of Nowa Dęba. A few months later, Nowa Dęba rescinded the declaration that it was an ‘LGBT-free zone’.
Mayor Wilk is now lobbying councillors to repeal the resolution in Krasnik. He believes the town needs access to funding to finance electric buses and youth programmes, which he said are particularly important because young people keep leaving.
“My position is clear: I want this resolution repealed,” he said, “because it’s harmful for the town and its inhabitants.”
Although any repeal is unlikely as the 21-member council in Krasnik, having voted last year against repeal, recently rejected an appeal by the mayor for another vote.
Despite growing hostility from politicians in recent years, Polish people have actually become more accepting of LGBTQ+ individuals. 49% of Polish people believe gay, lesbian and bisexual people should have the same rights as heterosexual people, according to a Eurobarometer report in 2019. This is up by 12 percentage points from 2015. Only Germany saw a larger increase in that time period out of the whole EU.
While times are tough for LGBTQ+ people in Poland right now, there is hope through increasing EU pressure on the country, continued funding cuts and rising acceptance amongst the general Polish population.
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