Photo 1. http://grupa-stonewall.pl/
The Polish Commissioner for Human Rights (https://www.rpo.gov.pl) has been receiving reports on the large scale of prejudice-based violence, including homophobic and transphobic acts of violence. As of now, the category of offenses penalized in accordance with the Penal Code includes offenses committed due to the victim’s nationality, race, ethnicity, religion, or lack of religious beliefs. In the opinion of the Commissioner, this catalog should also include premises such as: sexual orientation, gender identity, age, and disability. From the motions sent to the Commissioner it can also be concluded that the non-heteronormative persons’ right to equal treatment is commonly violated in many situations from everyday life, such as access to health care, use of goods and services, or during appointments at various offices.
Since 2008, the Polish LGBT+ associations, among them Kampania Przeciwko Homofobii [Campaign Against Homophobia] (https://kph.org.pl) and Lambda Warszawa [Lambda Warsaw] (http://lambdawarszawa.org), along with the political parties supporting this amendment, are fighting to change the Penal Code in this particular area.
A firm reaction of the state against such manifestations of violence would guarantee the implementation of international standards for the protection of rights and liberties of hate crime victims. Meanwhile, the existing legal loophole contributes to the exclusion of LGBT+ persons and constitutes a serious obstacle in the execution of their rights. Lawyers in Poland should be interested in the usage of international and European instruments for the protection of human rights in order to demand the highest level of protection for the groups and individuals exposed to discrimination.
Photo 2. Pride March, Wroclaw 2017.
It can be done on the international and state level (legislative procedures), but also in everyday practice of law firms through litigation, i.e. strategic legal action consisting in bringing to court socially significant cases, for instance those involving discrimination, with the aim of gaining as much publicity as possible, and consequently changing social awareness, and especially the awareness of the legal system.
Photo 3. Pride March, Wroclaw 2017.
Meanwhile, both the knowledge of those legal regulations in Polish courts, as well as the ability to use them properly are a far cry from the standards imposed by the EU legislature. What is important, the social awareness of the existence of regulations prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is also very low. As a result, in Poland there are very few recorded cases of legal proceedings initiated on the grounds of these regulations.
Photo 4. Pride March, Wroclaw 2017.
On June 27th 2017, the Minister of Justice Zbigniew Ziobro appointed a team for the prevention of crimes caused by religious or racial bias, whose task is to develop legal analyses and a draft of legislative solutions with the aim of preventing religiously and racially motivated hate crimes. The document ignores homophobic crimes. Only during the debate of the Human Rights Council in Geneva in September 2017 did the UN announce changes in the Polish Penal Code and inclusion of the homophobic crimes into the catalog of hate crimes. The Polish government pledged to amend the Penal Code after a heated social debate around another suicidal death of a gay teenager who was bullied at school because of his gender identity. This declaration gives us hope for actual legal amendments which would strengthen the legal protection of LGBT+ persons in Poland.