Ambassadors to Poland call for 'environment of tolerance' for LGBT+ people

by Hugo Greenhalgh | @hugo_greenhalgh | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 28 September 2020 15:04 GMT

A demonstrator holds a sign as people gather outside the European Union institutions to rally in solidarity with Poland's LGBT community, in Brussels, Belgium August 19, 2020. REUTERS/Yves Herman

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As international concerns grow over LGBT+ rights, diplomats urge Warsaw to help foster an inclusive climate

By Hugo Greenhalgh

LONDON, Sept 28 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Fifty ambassadors to Poland have written an open letter calling on Warsaw to help forge "an environment of non-discrimination, tolerance and mutual acceptance" as international concerns grow over the treatment of LGBT+ people in the country.

The U.S., British and Indian ambassadors were among the signatories, who paid tribute to Polish LGBT+ organisations seeking to "end discrimination, in particular on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity".

Part of an initiative to mark the annual Warsaw Equality Parade, cancelled this year due to coronavirus, the open letter campaign began in 2012 with 11 signatories. This year, it was coordinated by the Belgian Embassy.

Deputy spokeswoman for Belgium's Foreign Ministry Marie Cherchari said the missive was not intended as criticism of any particular entity or organisation.

"There is no finger-pointing, but the letter restates some universal principles about human rights and non-discrimination," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by telephone.

The open letter was published against a backdrop of increasing international pressure on Poland's ruling Law & Justice (PiS) party over its attitude towards gay and transgender rights in the country.

Two weeks ago, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling on the EU to take action against Poland for rolling back LGBT+ rights and compromising judicial independence, including potentially denying it funding from the bloc.

Earlier this month, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen condemned so-called "LGBT-free zones", which have seen almost a third of local authorities pass motions rejecting "LGBT ideology". She called them "humanity-free zones".

Poland's deputy foreign minister, Pawel Jablonski, said on Twitter that he supported the ambassadors' letter.

"Every human being enjoys equal level of protection under the Polish law," he posted in English on Sunday. "No one should be discriminated against in political, social or economic life – for any reason whatsoever."

He added that "(LGBT-free zones) do not exist in Poland", calling reports about them "#fakenews".

Poland's Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.

International LGBT+ rights group All Out delivered a petition last week backed by more than 340,000 signatures to European Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli condemning Poland's treatment of its LGBT+ community.

Matt Beard, the organisation's executive director, welcomed the ambassadors' letter.

"It is testament to the fact that politicians in the Law & Justice party have actually pushed their anti-LGBT agenda beyond the limits of what is acceptable to parts of the international community," he said.

Related stories:

'Queer Eye' star Antoni Porowski calls out Poland's 'absurd' anti-LGBT+ crackdown

Polish town votes to stay 'LGBT-free zone' despite global criticism

EU chief executive decries "LGBT-free zones" in swipe at Poland

(Reporting by Hugo Greenhalgh @hugo_greenhalgh; Editing by Helen Popper. 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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