Polish MPs back bill to criminalise 'promoting underage sex'

Move is seen by critics as a government effort to court conservative support and an attempt to ban sex education.

    Critics accuse the ruling PiS of fomenting homophobia, with party officials calling LGBT rights an invasive foreign influence [Kacper Pempel/Reuters]
    Critics accuse the ruling PiS of fomenting homophobia, with party officials calling LGBT rights an invasive foreign influence [Kacper Pempel/Reuters]

    Polish MPs have voted in favour of a bill to criminalise "the promotion of underage sexual activity", amid protests against the move.

    As protesters on Wednesday gathered outside the Parliament and in cities across Poland, politicians from the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) voted for the bill to go to a parliamentary commission for further work.

    The move is seen by critics as a government effort to court conservative support, which outraged liberals who say the bill aims to ban sex education.

    "Disgrace for the deputies ... who referred for further work a project punishing sex education with prison," tweeted opposition MP Joanna Scheuring-Wielgus, who had earlier raised a motion to have the bill thrown out.

    Outside the Parliament, hundreds of protesters had assembled, brandishing placards such as "Education protects against violence" and "Banning sex education is rape".

    Polish schools do not offer formal sex education, instead teaching students how to "prepare for family life." Some cities run by more liberal parties have allowed sexual education programmes in schools, prompting a backlash from the PiS and the Catholic Church.

    Far-right candidates in Parliament

    The PiS won parliamentary elections in Poland last Sunday, but far-right and staunchly Catholic voters also managed to introduce candidates to Parliament.

    191014183653018

    Critics accused the PiS of fomenting homophobia during the election campaign, with party officials calling lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights an invasive foreign influence that threatens Poland's national identity.

    "They are trying to impose a narrative that we are in a culture and civilisation war," Scheuring-Wielgus said, adding the bill is aimed at intimidating and silencing educators and activists.

    But newly elected PiS MP Marcin Ociepa said fears that educators may end up behind bars are just an "overinterpretation of the bill" and that he saw nothing bad with the legislation.

    "This only says that it is not allowed to encourage a person younger than 15 ... to have sex or to conduct other sexual activities," Ociepa told private radio TOK FM.

    SOURCE: News agencies