In the third of a series of reports on the rise of the right in Europe, Al Jazeera's Alan Fisher reports from Poland where comments by leading members of the right-wing government have left some minority groups feeling threatened and isolated.
|Greg Czarnecki says being gay in |
Poland is increasingly difficult
Greg Czarnecki became the new poster boy urging Poles to reject homophobia when his image recently appeared on posters in Warsaw, declaring "Faggot/dyke I hear it everyday. Hate hurts."
He says it has always been hard to be gay in Poland, but the attitudes of the current government headed by the conservative Law and Justice party are making it harder.
"The things that gays and lesbians experience every day - which is hate beatings on the streets, name-calling, the threat of being beaten up - that was always there," Czarnecki, the head of the Polish Campaign against Homophobia, said.
"But now I don't necessary feel I will have the institutions there to back me up if these things happen. I don't necessarily feel I can go to the police and feel safe or that the government will speak out when these attacks happen."
Czarnecki and other rights campaigners have stepped up their efforts to promote equality in Poland after several senior government figures made statements verbally attacking gays and their lifestyle.
The twins who run the country - Lech Kaczynski, the president, and his brother Jaroslaw, who was appointed prime minister last year despite earlier promises from the two that such an appointment would never happen - are among those government figures.
On a recent trip to Ireland, Lech proclaimed the human race "would disappear" if homosexuality "was freely promoted".
In June 2006, the Polish state prosecutor launched investigations in five municipalities across the country into the conduct of "homosexuals", and some gay bars and other organisations were later closed down.
Last year, Human Rights watch went as far as to say that anti-gay actions and comments by some officials constituted repression.
Yet it is comments by the deputy prime minister and leader of the government's far-right junior coalition partner that have generated the most criticism.
Jaroslaw Kacyznski was forced to summon Roman Giertych for talks after he reportedly angered the prime minister by asking the European Union to ban abortion and stop "homosexual propaganda".
Such comments led the European parliament to accuse Giertych's party, the League of Polish Families, of being responsible for a "rise in racist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-Islamic and homophobic intolerance" in Poland.
However, the country's equality minister says her boss is simply misunderstood.
Joanna Kluzik-Rostkowska said she doesn't "feel I have any problems doing my job on discrimination issues and I don't feel any pressure from outside".
"On the contrary, I am certain that the prime minister and the president don't have any negative feelings towards homosexuals."
Even as the Kacyznskis and the Law and Justice party they founded in 2001 have attracted much international criticism since coming to power, they continue to enjoy strong support domestically, especially in rural areas of Poland.
The party's supporters say they uphold traditional Polish values long neglected by previous administrations.
The divisions appearing in Polish society can be seen during simultaneous marches in Warsaw opposing and supporting a controversial plan proposed by the League of Polish Families to toughen Poland’s already tough abortion laws.
|Giertych and his League of Polish Families |
want a total ban on abortion [EPA]
Abortion is only currently permitted when the life or health of the mother is threatened by the pregnancy or when the baby is likely to be disabled or in the case of rape.
Al Jazeera spoke to Poland's youngest MP, 25-year-old Krzysztof Bosak, a right-wing politician from the League of Polish Families who is well known for his anti-abortion and anti-homosexual views.
"I don't think that equality means that we should accept everything that homosexuals say," he says. "So if they want to adopt children, I do not think that is equality.
"Equality in my opinion means that every child has a right to have a mother and a father, not two fathers or two mothers."
On the other side of the political spectrum, Aleksander Kwasnieski, Poland's former president, says the brothers currently running the country are making big mistakes.
"This team, the president and the prime minister, work on the basis of exclusions, not inclusions," he told Al Jazeera.
"They are not interested in organising bigger and wider support."
Source: Al Jazeera