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GAZETA WYBORCZA

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

In Northern Kenya, Where Climate Change Is Measured In Starving Children

The worst drought in 40 years, which has deepened from the effects of climate change, is hitting the young the hardest around the Horn of Africa. A close-up look at the victims, and attempts to save lives and limit lasting effects on an already fragile region in Kenya.

Photo of five mothers holding their malnourished children

At feeding time, nurses and aides encourage mothers to socialize their children and stimulate them to eat.

Georgina Gustin

KAKUMA — The words "Stabilization Ward" are painted in uneven black letters above the entrance, but everyone in this massive refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya, calls it ya maziwa: The place of milk.

Rescue workers and doctors, mothers and fathers, have carried hundreds of starving children through the doors of this one-room hospital wing, which is sometimes so crowded that babies and toddlers have to share beds. A pediatric unit is only a few steps away, but malnourished children don’t go there. They need special care, and even that doesn’t always save them.

In an office of the International Rescue Committee nearby, Vincent Opinya sits behind a desk with figures on dry-erase boards and a map of the camp on the walls around him. “We’ve lost 45 children this year due to malnutrition,” he says, juggling emergencies, phone calls, and texts. “We’re seeing a significant increase in malnutrition cases as a result of the drought — the worst we’ve faced in 40 years.”

From January to June, the ward experienced an 800 percent rise in admissions of children under 5 who needed treatment for malnourishment — a surge that aid groups blame mostly on a climate change-fueled drought that has turned the region into a parched barren.

Opinya, the nutrition manager for the IRC here, has had to rattle off these statistics many times, but the reality of the numbers is starting to crack his professional armor. “It’s a very sad situation,” he says, wearily. And he believes it will only get worse. A third year of drought is likely on the way.

More children may die. But millions will survive malnutrition and hunger only to live through a compromised future, researchers say. The longer-term health effects of this drought — weakened immune systems, developmental problems — will persist for a generation or more, with consequences that will cascade into communities and societies for decades.

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