Polish plan to ban gay material from schools under fire


POLAND:Human Rights Watch has said plans by the Polish government to ban what it calls "homosexual propaganda" from schools will encourage intolerance, violate free speech and block access to information about Aids.

In an open letter, the group's gay rights director Scott Long called on Polish prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski to distance himself from the initiative by his junior coalition partner, the League of Polish Families (LPR), which controls the education ministry. "Intolerance, not openness, endangers democracy. To declare a whole segment of the Polish population a public menace is to divide the polity and erode a culture of human rights," the letter stated.

Last week, Poland's deputy education minister Miroslaw Orzechowski outlined plans to ban "homosexual propaganda" from schools and fire teachers who promote such a "culture".

Details of the law remain unclear but are understood to call for dismissal, fines and imprisonment for teachers, principals, visiting educational groups and student groups that violate the law.

Mr Orzechowski withdrew a threat to fire all openly gay teachers hours after he made it, saying his remarks had been taken out of context.

"Polish authorities claim to be protecting families, but in fact they are trying to deny children free speech and life-saving information on HIV/Aids," added the letter. "Schools should be training grounds for tolerance, not bastions of repression and discrimination."

Polish gay rights campaigner Robert Biedron said he was "embarrassed" by the proposed legislation and called on EU countries to act against Poland before "things go to extremes".

"What happens when a minister of an EU member state regularly practices hate-speech and encourages intolerance?" asked Mr Biedron, head of Poland's Campaign against Homophobia. "What else are we waiting for before we finally take action? Are we waiting for camps for [ gay] people?"

Last month, Polish president Lech Kaczynski told an Irish audience that homosexuality posed a threat to the future of humanity.