Society

LGBT Rights In Poland: Anti-Gay Laws Are Destined To Die, Just Like Socialism

OpEd: Same-sex civil unions have been defeated in Poland's Parliament, thanks to a hard-right minority inside the ruling party. History tells us this will not stand.

The Warsaw Equality Parade
The Warsaw Equality Parade
Ewa Siedlecka

-Analysis-

WARSAW – Poland’s lower house of Parliament has rejected three draft laws that would have legalized same-sex civil unions.

Until the next term of office, these laws will not be discussed again. The members of Parliament have their preconceived opinion about same-sex partnerships and it’s unlikely anything will change their mind.

Those who want everyone in Poland – whether they are heterosexual or homosexual – to be able to legalize their relationship will have to vote for a different parliament at the next elections.

Those, who counted on the governing center-right Civic Platform party (PO) to be liberal-minded have to face reality. The reality is that conservatives are the minority in the party but they form a significant element of its identity, and nothing can change that.

Forty-six members of the party sided with the opposition in voting against the draft laws. The voters who support Platforma Obywatelska also support the party’s conservative wing, whether they like it or not.

Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, had spoken out in favor of same-sex civil partnerships right before the vote. He said that we could not ignore the fact that these kinds of relationships exist and that everybody deserved and better, and more dignified life. "You can't question the existence of such people and you can't argue against the people who decide to live in such way," Tusk said.

It was a beautiful speechm and it is a great sign that he decided to make it.

Many saw this emotional and remarkable speech as evidence that we are not dealing with some kind of whim, but with a serious social issue, a human rights issue. Donald Tusk is in good company – Barack Obama, during his second inauguration speech, spoke up in favor of gay marriage rights.

Poland, in refusing to legalize same-sex unions, is now in a minority of European Union countries. For 50 years the Polish People’s Republic (the official name of Poland from 1952-1989), was practicing a distinct social and economic model, along with other Soviet satellite states. Some say that it was more ethical because of its social justice system.

Today, the right wing talks about the supposed moral superiority of heterosexual relationships over homosexual ones. This will end in the same way that socialism ended. The only question is – when?

“A sense of aesthetics”

The right-wing Catholic-nationalist Law and Justice party (PiS) said the laws would "enshrine in law the moral downfall of society and exacerbate the crisis of the traditional model of the family."

PiS member Krystyna Pawlowicz said the bills sought to “exhibitionistically allow for displays, in the public sphere, of sexual inclinations that violate the sense of aesthetics and morality.” She added that “Society can’t fund a sweet existence to unstable, barren unions of people from whom it doesn’t benefit only because of the sexual attachment that binds them.”

Since the draft bills were defeated in the Polish Lower House, thousands of people have been sending emails to the 46 Civic Platform members to berate them for not voting the bill. In the first 24 hours after the vote, 220,000 emails had been sent.

It took 10 years in Sweden from the first draft law proposal in 1984 to the passage of same-sex civil partnerships bill in 1994. In 2009 the phrase “civil partnerships” was replaced by “homosexual marriages.” When the law was introduced in Sweden, the government was afraid and the conservatives, who opposed the bill, also talked about the death of the traditional family model. Today though, Sweden has a bigger birthrate than Poland, which is proof that economic and political freedom doesn’t destroy economy and social cohesion down and that civil partnerships do not destroy the family model.

Hopefully, Poland will not have to wait 10 years for same-sex civil unions. These partnerships exist inside the EU and Polish conservatism should not stand in the way of these partnerships. After all, if every 20th baby is born out of wedlock in this country, it means we are ready for civil unions.

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Society

Debt Trap: Why South Korean Economics Explains Squid Game

Crunching the numbers of South Korea's personal and household debt offers a glimpse into what drives the win-or-die plot of the Netflix hit produced in the Asian country.

In the Netflix series, losers of the game face death

Yip Wing Sum

-Analysis-

SEOUL — The South Korean series Squid Game has become the most viewed series on Netflix, watched by over 111 million viewers and counting. It has also generated a wave of debate online and off about its provocative message about contemporary life.

The plot follows the story of a desperate man in debt, who receives a mysterious invitation to play a game in which the contestants gamble their lives on six childhood games, with the winner awarded a prize of 45.6 billion won ($38 million)... while the losers face death.


It's a plot that many have noted is not quite as surreal as it sounds, a reflection of the reality of Korean society today mired in personal debt.

Seoul housing prices top London and New York

In the polished streets of downtown Seoul, one sees endless cards and coupons advertising loans scattered on the ground. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, as the demand for loans in South Korea has exploded, lax lending policies have led to a rapid increase in personal debt.

According to the South Korean Central Bank's "Monetary Credit Policy Report," household debt reached 105% of GDP in the first quarter of this year, equivalent to approximately $1.5 trillion at the end of March, with a major share tied up in home mortgages.

Average home loans are equivalent to 270% of annual income.

One reason behind the debts is the soaring housing prices. In Seoul, home to nearly half of the country's population, housing prices are now among the highest in the world. The price to income ratio (PIR), which weighs the average price of a home to the average annual household income, is 12.04 in Seoul, compared to 8.4 in San Francisco, 8.2 in London and 5.4 in New York.

According to the Korea Real Estate Commission, 42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s. For those in their 30s, the average amount borrowed is equivalent to 270% of their annual income.

Playing the stock market

At the same time, the South Korean stock market is booming. The increased demand to buy stocks has led to an increase in other loans such as credit. The ratio for Korean shareholders conducting credit financing, i.e. borrowing from securities companies to secure stock holdings, had reached 21.4 trillion won ($17.7 billion), further increasing the indebtedness of households.

A 30-year-old Seoul office worker who bought stocks through various forms of borrowing was interviewed by Reuters this year, and said he was "very foolish not to take advantage of the rebound."

In addition to his 100 million won ($84,000) overdraft account, he also took out a 100 million won loan against his house in Seoul, and a 50 million won stock pledge. All of these demands on the stock market have further exacerbated the problem of household debt.

42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s

Simon Shin/SOPA Images/ZUMA

Game of survival

In response to the accumulating financial risks, the Bank of Korea has restricted the release of loans and has announced its first interest rate hike in three years at the end of August.

But experts believe that even if banks cut loans or raise interest rates, those who need money will look for other ways to borrow, often turning to more costly institutions and mechanisms.

This all risks leading to what one can call a "debt trap," one loan piling on top of another. That brings us back to the plot of Squid Game, "Either you live or I do." South Korean society has turned into a game of survival.

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