Introduction: The ‘LGBT Ideology’

Prior to the ascension of President Andrzej Duda and the right-wing, populist Law and Justice Party (PiS), Poland actually witnessed promising signs of increasing LGBT tolerance. Same-sex relations were becoming less taboo and marriage equality seemed possible.[1] Over the past five years, President Duda and the PiS have endeavored to reverse such progress by supporting anti-LGBT legislation, propaganda, and rhetoric. Evidently, their efforts were successful as the 2020 ILGA-Europe Rainbow Map ranked Poland as the most homophobic country in the European Union (EU) and the seventh most homophobic country in all of Europe.[2] Debates over LGBT rights have dominated the Polish political discourse for years, but only recently has it developed into a ‘culture war.’

In Eastern Europe, the ‘LGBT ideology’ is a popular anti-LGBT scaremongering tactic. Proponents of this so-called ‘ideology’ portray the LGBT movement as an oppressive Western dogma that threatens state sovereignty and individuality. Like most radical, right-wing populists, Duda and the PiS champion ardent nationalism and chauvinism. By inciting a moral panic about sexual minorities through such an erroneous narrative, Duda and the PiS are able to present themselves as fierce protectors of the Polish identity.[3] Correspondingly, their opposition to LGBT rights rests on the notion that homosexuality is inherently incompatible with Polish culture, particularly Polish religious practices and traditional family values.[4] Duda even denounced the LGBT community as representing a foreign ideology more dangerous to Polish society than communism.[5] Now, the fictitious ‘LGBT ideology’ has become a staple of homophobic rhetoric.

LGBT-Free Zones

Since 2019, over a hundred municipalities in Poland, covering approximately one third of the territory, have adopted resolutions attacking LGBT rights. Though such resolutions are non-binding and largely symbolic, they have had alarming socio-cultural ramifications. In declaring their ‘freedom’ from the ‘LGBT ideology,’ these self-proclaimed ‘LGBT-free zones’ have explicitly encouraged and intensified hostility towards anyone who does not identify as heterosexual or lead an overtly heteronormative lifestyle.[6] Verbal and physical attacks against sexual minorities have sky-rocketed over the past few years and are predicted to continue rising at an alarming rate. Many LGBT Poles have already fled the country in order to escape or avoid persecution.[7]

The Polish government’s vendetta against the LGBT community has garnered extensive international criticism. Diplomats from 50 countries, including other EU member states, the U.S., Israel, and India, signed an open letter condemning LGBT-free zones. This letter also called for an end to discrimination against sexual minorities in Poland and cited the government’s responsibility to protect the human rights of all individuals.[8] Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki publicly refuted the letter, insisting LGBT people were not being denied their basic human rights and that “tolerance is in Poles’ DNA.[9]” However, the recent upsurge in callously homophobic government-sponsored propaganda contradicts Morawiecki’s rebuttal.[10] It is clear the Polish government will make no effort to cultivate a more accepting environment for LGBT citizens. In fact, Polish authorities have established themselves as major proponents of intolerance by supporting LGBT-free zones.  

Polish Homophobia versus the European Union

Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union aims to ensure that all EU member states uphold and adhere to the common values of the EU. This includes tenets relating to the rule of law, human rights, and egalitarianism. Along with Hungary, Poland is now formally cited under Article 7 for frequent value violations.[11] The EU recently announced it would deny funding to several “LGBT-free zones” on the grounds that they violate EU equality standards.[12] European Commissions Head, Ursula von der Leyen, approved of the penalty, calling LGBT-free zones “humanity-free zones” that “have no place in our Union.”[13] This punishment, while better than nothing, has multiple defects in terms of practicality and effectiveness.

First of all, the amount being withheld by the EU is so small and insignificant that the Polish government can compensate the losses with federal funds. Second of all, these rare financial sanctions are placed exclusively on LGBT-free zones.[14] The reach of homophobia extends far beyond a select few municipalities. With Duda and the PiS in power, LGBT Poles are experiencing discrimination at the national level, not just at the local level.[15] To effectively combat value violations, the central government of Poland must be penalized. The EU should also institute a monitoring system to verify that European Commission funding is not being misused by the governments of aid-receiving states.[16] Such a system will prevent countries like Poland, where EU principles are blatantly ignored, from utilizing EU funds to perform rights abuses.

The Polish Stonewall

Ever since the reelection of President Duda in July 2020, clashing agendas over social policies have resulted in widespread discontent. #PolishStonewall started trending on Twitter (in reference to the Stonewall Uprising of 1969 in New York City) following the arrest and pretrial detention of prominent LGBT rights activist Malgorzata “Margot” Szutowicz. In August 2020, Margot was detained and placed in solitary confinement for allegedly participating in a riot and draping pride flags over religious statues in Warsaw. Polish authorities have described the latter charge as offensive to “religious feelings” and “insulting to Warsaw monuments.”[17] Margot’s activism methods were unorthodox, but they did not warrant imprisonment.

Under Article 169 of Poland’s penal code, offending “the religious feelings of others by publicly insulting a religious object or place of worship” is a criminal act subject to a two-year prison sentence. Simply put, this law means people can face jailtime for blasphemy.[18] Although the Polish government defends its targeting and mass imprisonment of LGBT rights activists with Article 169, it technically conflicts with international human rights laws. According to the UN Human Rights Committee, only “laws that protect against incitement to violence, discrimination, and hatred can justify criminal sanctions.” Likewise, freedom of speech and/or expression in acts of protest are guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights.[19] Blasphemy is not only a severely outdated offense, but laws condemning it as a criminal act actually violate freedom of speech.

Final Remarks

Consider how sexual minorities are being vilified by government propaganda, ousted from their homes, ostracized by their communities, accosted in the streets, and incarcerated for protesting against it all. In many ways, the persecution of LGBT people in contemporary Poland echoes the persecution of Jewish people in 1930s Europe. The likelihood of an LGBT genocide is minuscule, but with Poland’s culture war becoming increasingly violent, precautions should be taken — if only to ensure human rights standards are met. It is also worth noting how, as a consequence of globalization, social regression in one country inevitably compromises the socio-political climate of others. The spread capacity of homophobic culture, along with its incitement of human rights violations, qualifies the current situation in Poland as a global security threat. For the welfare of LGBT Poles and international society, efforts to neutralize Polish homophobia must be immediately and extensively exercised.  


For more information on how to support the LGBT community in Poland, click the link below.


[1] “Amid growing hostility, some in Poland’s LGBTQ community make a difficult choice: Leave,”, The Los Angeles Times, August 6, 2020,

[2] “Rainbow Europe Map 2020,”, ILGA-Europe, 2020,

[3] Anne Applebaum, “Poland’s Rulers Made Up A ‘Rainbow Plague,’”, The Atlantic, July 14, 2020,

[4] Cyryl Ryzak, “The Law and Justice Party’s Moral Pseudo-Revolution,” Dissent 67, no. 4 (2020): 138-147, doi:10.1353/dss.2020.0077.

[5] Phillip Ayoub, “Attacking LGBT Life Helped the Right-Wing Polish President Win Reelection – Barely,”, The Washington Post, July 21, 2020,

[6] Claudia Ciobanu, “A Third of Poland Declared ‘LGBT-Free Zone,’”, Balkan Insight, February 25, 2020,

[7] “Amid growing hostility, some in Poland’s LGBTQ community make a difficult choice: Leave,”, The Los Angeles Times, August 6, 2020,

[8] “Poland LGBT: Diplomats From 50 Countries Call for End to Discrimination,”, BBC News, September 28, 2020,

[9] Vanessa Gera, “After Ambassadors Push Poland To Protect LGBT Rights, Its Leaders Push Back: ‘Nobody Needs to Teach Us Tolerance,’”, The Chicago Tribune, September 28, 2020,

[10] Natalia Ojewska, “Poland’s Culture War: LGBT People Forced to Turn to Civil Disobedience,”, Euronews, October 6, 2020,

[11] Veronica Anghel, “Together or Apart? The European Union’s East–West Divide, Survival 62, no. 3(2020):179-202, doi: 10.1080/00396338.2020.1763621

[12] Monika Pronczuk, “Polish Towns That Declared Themselves ‘L.G.B.T. Free’ Are Denied E.U. Funds,”, The New York Times, July 30, 2020,

[13] Ojewska, “Poland’s Culture War,” Euronews, October 6, 2020,

[14] Pronczuk, “Polish Towns Denied E.U. Funds,” The New York Times, July 30, 2020,

[15] “Amid growing hostility, some in Poland’s LGBTQ community make a difficult choice: Leave,” The Los Angeles Times, August 6, 2020,

[16] “Poland: Crackdown on LGBT Activists,”, Human Rights Watch, August 7, 2020,

[17] Madeline Roache and Suyin Haynes, “#PolishStonewall: LGBTQ Activists Are Rallying Together After Police Violence at Protests in Warsaw,”, Time Magazine, August 11, 2020,

[18] “Poland: Crackdown on LGBT Activists,” Human Rights Watch, August 7, 2020,

[19] Ibid.