LGBT+ advocates fear that the bill, if passed, would criminalise teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools
By Rachel Savage
LONDON, April 15 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Poland is set to vote on Thursday on a law that would jail people who promote underage sex for up to three years, in a move which liberals said aimed to ban sex education by labelling those who teach it as paedophiles and LGBT+ activists.
The authors of the bill said sex educators were often people who "groom and familiarise children with homosexuality", in one of Europe's most socially conservative countries where gay marriage is illegal.
"The organisations and activists most involved in the promotion of sexual 'education' in our country are the LGBT lobby," the "Stop Paedophilia" bill's backers said in a written document to parliament which accompanied the proposed law.
"In Western Europe, members of these movements involved in implementing sex education in schools were convicted of paedophilia," said the document, posted on parliament's website.
Poland's Government Information Centre did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Poland is one of Europe's most devoutly Catholic and socially conservative countries, although it is becoming more liberal. Schools do not usually offer formal sex education, instead teaching students how to "prepare for family life."
The ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, which has been battling corruption allegations and waning popularity since it came to power in 2015, has targeted LGBT+ rights as an invasive foreign influence that threatens Poland's national identity.
It condemned plans to teach a sex education programme, which included sexual orientation and was approved by the World Health Organization, in schools in the opposition-ruled capital Warsaw last year, as an infringement of traditional Catholic values.
Parliament will vote on Thursday whether to reject the bill, send it to a parliamentary commission for further work, or take it forwards to a second reading for further debate.
The bill's authors said "children are sexually awakened and familiarised with homosexuality" during sex education lessons, which were used "by the LGBT lobby to achieve radical political goals", including legalising adoption by LGBT+ couples.
By linking sex educators with paedophiles, people who teach students about sexual orientation, discrimination and reproductive health risk prosecution, LGBT+ rights groups said.
"This would make impossible for us as educators to come into schools and teach kids about humans, about what makes us us, and what's gender identity or sexual orientation," said Ola Kaczorek, an LGBT+ advocate.
"Usually school is not a friendly environment for non-heterosexual kids, but now it will be even harder," Kaczorek, co-president of the Love Does Not Exclude Association, an LGBT+ family group, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.
The bill is a public initiative, as the constitution allows citizens to submit legislative proposals if they can gather at least 100,000 signatures.
Poles took to their cars on Tuesday, honking horns and holding up signs to protest the sex education bill and another proposal to limit abortion rights, as restrictions on movement to contain the novel coronavirus prevented street gatherings.
Human Rights Watch, a New York-headquartered advocacy group, has criticised the government for debating the bills when restrictions on public life because of the coronavirus pandemic prohibit large-scale demonstrations.
(Reporting by Rachel Savage @rachelmsavage; Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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