Poland: Thousands march for LGBT equality in capital

Screenshot 2021-06-20 at 00.48.37

(Reuters) – Thousands marched through central Warsaw on Saturday in an ‘Equality Parade’, demanding an end to discrimination against the LGBT community, amid what campaigners say has been a rising tide of homophobia in Poland in recent years.

LGBT rights have become a central part of a wider struggle in the country, between liberals, who stress the need for a more tolerant and inclusive society, and religious conservatives, who denounce what they say is an attempt to subvert traditional values in the predominantly Catholic nation.

In a sea of rainbow flags, the symbol of the LGBT community, marchers gathered outside the towering neo-Gothic Palace of Culture in central Warsaw, as a DJ played dance music from a stage, before the start of the march.

“The Equality Parade is a celebration of LGBT people and all those who have to fight for their rights,” said 22-year-old restaurant worker Sylwester Cimochowski.

“Homophobia is a huge problem in Poland … there are lots of people who can’t cope with it, they kill themselves. The situation of LGBT people in Poland is tragic and that’s why I’m here – to support them.”

Both politicians and clergy have been accused of stoking homophobia in Poland.

Some conservatives say they have nothing against gay people; they only oppose what they call ‘LGBT ideology’.

Meanwhile, in Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s nationalist government, which is allied with Poland’s governing Law and Justice (PiS) party, has introduced a new law banning the “display and promotion of homosexuality” among under-18s.

“It’s getting more and more difficult … but at the same time there is more and more resistance,” said Marta Borkowska, a 37-year-old business consultant, referring to the situation of LGBT people in central and eastern Europe.

Asked what she would say to people who are opposed to the march, she replied:

“I would say ‘don’t be afraid'”.

Reporting by Alan Charlish, Additional reporting by Pawel Florkiewicz

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