How Much does Homophobia Cost? In Poland, They Formally Gave it Up to Get Money
Is homophobia bought with money? The issue arose after a decision by Polish authorities earlier this week.
At the time, three regions in Poland voted to repeal resolutions calling themselves free of "LGBT ideology."
For years, authorities in the Catholic country have refused to respect the rights of people in the LGBT community. Therefore, this step at first glance seems like a gesture to the minority. However, the reason is not that three regions have suddenly renounced homophobia. The reason is hundreds of millions of euros.
From stickers to "blackmail"
Earlier in September, the European Commission warned five regions that if they did not give up their homophobic declarations, it would block their access to funds. The Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship was the first to annul its resolution against LGBT people, followed on Monday by the Podkarpackie, Lesser Poland and Lublin regions.
The areas that used to be or are currently "LGBT-free zones" make up almost a third of Poland's territory. And most of them are under the leadership of Law and Justice, the ruling party that has long used homophobia as a political tool.
These "zones" emerged after stickers with a scratched rainbow flag and the words "LGBT-free zone" began to be distributed in several of their cities in 2019, along with a local conservative newspaper.
The trend came in response to Warsaw Mayor Rafal Jaskowski, who signed a declaration in support of vulnerable sexual minorities and the fight against discrimination.
In 2020, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen described "LGBT-free" areas as "areas without humanity" and vowed that the Commission would take legal action.
A year later, 5 Polish regions received notifications that up to 126m euros earmarked for local government could be frozen.
This is the REACT-EU program, a package of additional funds from the cohesion funds, of which a total of more than 1.5 billion euros is planned for the whole country.
New resolutions and old policies
Faced with the prospect of losing these funds, LGBT-free zones have become "regions of established tolerance". At least that is the new resolution in the Subcarpathian region.
And this is not an isolated case. The Lesser Poland region, where Krakow is located, also adopted a new resolution "opposing discrimination against anyone on any grounds".
However, not all local government officials agree on the changes.
"We can't just deny what was said in 2019." This was stated in August by the leader of the municipal council Jan Duda, father of President Andrzej Duda, quoted by Reuters. He tried to defend the 2019 declaration, adding that he thought it was "misunderstood".
Therefore, many local members of the LGBT community fear that the government is only formally changing the resolutions and not really intending to change the homophobic environment.
"Politicians are playing with us.” They don't want to repeal the whole resolution, they just want to replace it with another," Bart Stashevski, an LGBT rights activist, told the BBC.
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