The Law and Justice Party (PiS) has used three consecutive electoral victories in Poland to polarize society around the “gender ideology” issue, leading to the government’s unanimous opposition of every policy proposal that mentions “gender” or “gender equality”. Consequently, while Poland’s veto of the rule-of-law condition in the EU budget came as no surprise, the reasons for its veto of European gender equality legislation is something that other European nations are still trying to wrap their heads around.
Since October 22, the Polish people have been protesting on the streets all around the country. On that day, Poland’s politicized Constitutional Tribunal effectively imposed a near-total ban on abortion. The demonstrations have been labeled by PiS government officials and Catholic Church leaders in Poland as an emanation of the “civilization of death” and “gender ideology”, proponents of which have long been considered public enemy number one by the PiS party.
Under the pretext of struggle against this supposed scourge, the PiS has, among other things, launched a crusade against LGBT+ people. An example of this are the so-called “LGBT-free zones” declared by local PiS politicians in dozens of municipalities and counties across Poland. However, there is much more, such as the flagrantly homophobic, dehumanizing hate speech used by the nation’s top politicians, including president Andrzej Duda and the newly-appointed minister of education Przemysław Czarnek. All that the state apparatus, including state-owned TV Poland, does is scare Poles with “gender ideology” by equating LGBT+ with pedophilia.
Recently, the European Commission unveiled its third Gender Action Plan on women’s empowerment and gender equality in external affairs. It seeks to bolster women’s, girls’ and LGBT+ rights globally by “challenging gender norms and stereotypes.” It calls for the EU to lead by example through gender-balanced leadership in its own ranks, better monitoring, and cooperating more closely with member states at the national level. It also reiterates the aim of having 85% of its development projects contribute to gender issues by 2025. According to European Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen, the plan is even more timely during a pandemic, since gender inequality has deepened as a result of it. Consequently, the EU must take immediate action to reverse this trend.
Unfortunately, when Polish officials saw the word “gender”, they said a resounding “no!” to the entire document. The PiS government has lebeled gender equality a “foreign ideology” and decided to block the initiative without a second thought, without even taking into account its positive consequences for women and girls, especially those who are disadvantaged, and whose protection PiS talks so much about. Clearly, right-wing populists are consistent in their views only when they want to be, and are more interested in short-term personal and political gain than in any long-term benefits for Polish society.
And there is still more to this obstinacy. In October Poland blocked two official documents because dogged PiS ideological trackers found “gender” in them. First, as Mateusz Morawiecki could not attend the EU summit on October 16 due to the Covid-19 quarantine, Viktor Orbán, who in Morawiecki’s name represented Poland, did not allow the provision of gender equality in Africa to be included in the summit conclusions. A few days later, the Polish government blocked the Council Presidency Conclusions on Artificial Intelligence, again citing the inclusion of the term “gender equality”. The Polish ambassador tried to brush it off by saying that “the meaning of ‘gender’ is unclear; the lack of definition and unambiguous understanding for all member states may cause semantic problems”. He did not convince anybody.
In all these cases the Polish government’s stand against gender equality has been supported only by Hungary, while the remaining 25 member states have been left scratching their heads. PiS ideology obscures the vision of the EU as a close alliance with vital goals, not only for the continent in general, but also for the people of Poland specifically. If Warsaw continues blindly following this path it will end up, officially or legally, outside the European Union.
The article is syndicated by 4Liberty.eu Network.