Poland's Recent Election and What It Means for the LGBTQ+ Community

Sunday, July 19

By Sandhya Maddali

In a runoff election on July 12th, Andrzej Duda was re-elected as the President of Poland, emerging with a narrow victory over Rafał Trzaskowski, the Mayor of Warsaw. Duda, representing the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party, received 51% of the vote, while Trzaskowski, running for the more centrist Civic Platform (PO) party, received 49% of the vote. This election was a particularly polarizing one, exposing the divides in Poland's population in relation to both political and social issues. A major social issue that was extremely divisive were the rights of Poland's LGBTQ+ community. Duda is staunchly anti-LGBTQ+, with aims to further limit their rights, while Trzaskowski had goals to improve conditions for members of Poland's LGBTQ+ community.

ILGA-Europe's Rainbow Map initiative gives a clear picture of Poland's historic discrimination and harmful treatment when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community, and Duda capitalized on these sentiments heavily throughout his campaign. His plans to strip the LGBTQ+ community of their rights and anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric appealed to conservative Christian voters, older voters, and voters from rural areas. Zosia Wanat and Jan Cienski reported for Politico that 91% of voters in Chrzanów, Poland, a town in the Polish countryside, voted for Duda in the first round of the election and similar trends were seen in the rest of rural Poland. Wanat and Cienski's report showed that Trzaskowski, on the other hand, held a comfortable lead in Poland's major cities, though it wasn't enough to overcome the 2% lead that Duda held overall. 

Duda's re-election is extremely damaging to Poland's LGBTQ+ folks in so many ways. Sure, 51% of the voters this year may not be openly homophobic, but they are complicit. They felt it appropriate to vote for someone who is so openly discriminatory to a whole group of people simply because of who they love or who they are. Earlier this year, at a campaign rally, Duda supported the dehumanizing notion that "LGBT is not a people, it's an ideology," and that it is a "neo-Bolshevist ideology" which is "more dangerous than communism." He also signed an order which included literature about "protecting children from LGBT ideology" by banning public institutions from "propagating" it. This would seemingly prohibit public schools from providing much-needed sex-ed for LGBTQ+ youth, among other harmful repercussions.

Poland has not and will not be a safe space for LGBTQ+ folks with Duda in power. Almost one-third of Poland has been declared an "LGBT-free" zone by the local officials in each area, according to German news site Deutsche Welle (DW). Just a year ago, the first pride march in Bialystok, a city in Poland (pictured above), was impeded by counter-protestors who harrassed the peaceful marchers. The counter-protestors threw rocks and attempted to block the path of the pride parade. This kind of anti-LGBTQ+ violence and rhetoric has become so common and dangerous that ILGA-Europe reports a rise in Poles who want to leave Poland for safer countries. If Andrzej Duda's second term unfolds as he promised it would, it will be fraught with xenophobia and discrimination. 

In the meantime, there are a few ways to help. This wonderful link (https://lgbtqpl.carrd.co/) has a wide variety of action items - from educating yourself to signing petitions to donating. These charities, which are already available at the bottom of the linked page, are great to donate to as well (https://mnw.org.pl/wspieram/http://lambdawarszawa.org/lambdawarszawa/wlacz-sie/darowizna/https://wspieraj.kph.org.pl/).

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