After Polish President Andrzej Duda narrowly won a second term last weekend, the country’s LGBTQ community fears increased homophobic legislation and exclusion from society.
Duda, who had said LGBTQ “ideology” was worse than communism, had also promised to ban same-sex marriage and adoption rights for LGBTQ couples. He won against liberal Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski with 51% of the vote in the runoff election.
Beyond Duda’s policy proposals, his rhetoric demonizing the LGBTQ community is dangerous in itself, Human Rights Watch’s advocacy director for Europe and Central Asia, said.
“Even the rhetoric of local administrations establishing LGBT-free zones, the impact of the rhetoric used by the candidate for president, really created a context of demonization of LGBT people,” Dam said. “And that itself is really dangerous in a modern society.”
Leading up to the election, Duda viciously dehumanized LGBTQ people, using the phrase “LGBT are not people.” A member of Duda’s Law and Justice Party had earlier said “LGBT are not people, they are an ideology.”
Hate crimes against Poland’s LGBTQ people have occurred for years and Duda’s homophobic rhetoric is only exacerbating the situation, according to Hubert Sobecki, head of a Warsaw-based LGBTQ-right group.
“It’s a disaster. You can call it a humanitarian disaster, but that wouldn’t even bring you close to the scope of human suffering those people are inflicting on us as a community,” Sobecki said. “They call us ‘ideology,’ but it’s not the ideology that is beaten up on the street.”
Duda has aligned his platform with increasingly homophobic trends in Russia, where the constitution now bans same-sex marriage. He also visited the White House last month, where President Donald Trump praised him for “doing a terrific job.” Duda leveraged his visit to the United States to leverage Trump’s anti-LGBTQ rhetoric for his campaign, according to Alphonso David, president of Human Rights Campaign.
Poland’s increasingly hostile environment has taken a toll on the mental health of young LGBTQ people in the country. A 2020 study shows that about 84% of young LGBTQ people now have suicidal thoughts. The percentage of queer teens who have attempted suicide climbed from 30% in 2016 to 45% this year.
Despaired by Duda’s reelection some LGBTQ people are thinking of leaving the country.
“I want to have the same rights as my sister has who lives with her husband,” Romana Dybalska, who is raising three children with her partner, said. “I believe that good times will still come to Poland, but at this point I am considering leaving this country.”
Sources: PBS NewsHour 7/15/20; NBC News 07/13/20; The Daily Beast 07/16/20.