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Poland Chairman Calls LGBT Rights Movement a Threaten to Polish Nation

Miroslawa Makuchowska thinks the party chairman's anti-LGBT message was meant to distract attention from corruption scandals

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FILE - The leader of the ruling Law and Justice party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, casts a vote in parliament in Warsaw, Poland, July 20, 2017. VOA

The chairman of Poland’s conservative ruling party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, has called the LGBT rights movement a foreign import that threatens the Polish nation.

Kaczynski, a member of parliament who wields tremendous influence as leader of the Law and Justice party, also said during a lecture on patriotism that “everyone must accept Christianity” in Poland and that questioning the Roman Catholic Church is unpatriotic.

The positions Kaczynski expressed Wednesday in the central city of Wloclawek came as Poland’s powerful Catholic Church is under scrutiny for child sex abuse by clergy and superiors who might have covered up for pedophile priests.

Poland also has two elections this year: the vote next month to elect the country’s representatives to the European Union parliament and a national election in the fall. With his remarks, Kaczynski seemed to be tapping into the belief held by some Poles that liberal values have been forced on them as a result of Poland joining the EU 15 years ago.

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FILE – People take part in the annual “Equality Parade” rally of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights supporters in Warsaw, Poland, June 3, 2017. VOA

Kaczynski’s Law and Justice party won the last general election in 2015, the height of Europe’s mass migration crisis. The party’s campaign included portraying Muslim refugees as a threat to Poland.

Greater visibility

In recent weeks, Law and Justice has described the LGBT rights movement as another danger to Polish families and children. LGBT rights have become increasingly visible as more Polish cities and towns hold gay pride parades, even places known as bastions of the church and conservative values.

Miroslawa Makuchowska, from the group Campaign Against Homophobia, said she thinks the party chairman’s anti-LGBT message was meant to distract attention from corruption scandals in the Catholic Church and in the Polish government.

“These are the same methods and same messages” used to demonize Muslim immigrants, Makuchowska said. “It’s appalling and frightening because it’s scapegoating.”

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Miroslawa Makuchowska thinks the party chairman’s anti-LGBT message was meant to distract attention from corruption scandals. Pixabay

The Catholic Church has long been revered as the institution that kept the language and spirit of Poland’s people alive during a long period of foreign rule, while also supporting the democracy movement under communism

But the church’s standing has taken a hit as sex abuse victims increasingly speak publicly about past crimes of accused priests. Public opinion surveys show falling support for having nuns and priests, or even lay educators, teach religion in public schools, as is now the case.

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A movie about the clergy abuse problem, Kler (Clergy), became a blockbuster hit last year. On Wednesday, Kaczynski called the film an “attack on the church” and alleged it’s the LGBT rights movement that puts Polish children at risk.

“We are dealing with a direct attack on the family and children — the sexualization of children, that entire LBGT movement, gender,” he said. “This is imported, but they, today, actually threaten our identity, our nation, its continuation and therefore the Polish state.” (VOA)

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Last Decade Had seen ‘Backlash’ Against Human Rights: UN Official

UN Official Decries Human Rights ‘Backlash’ in Last Decade

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Andrew Gilmour, U.N.assistant secretary-general for human rights, visits a Rohingya camp in Bangladesh. (VOA)

The past decade has seen a backlash against human rights on every front, especially the rights of women and LGBT communities, according to a top U.N. human rights official.

Andrew Gilmour, the outgoing assistant secretary-general for human rights, said the regression of the past 10 years hasn’t equaled the advances that began in the late 1970s — but it is serious, widespread and regrettable.

He pointed to “populist authoritarian nationalists” in North America, South America, Europe and Asia, who he said are taking aim at the most vulnerable groups of society, including Rohingya Muslims, Roma and Mexican migrants, as well as gays and women. He cited leaders who justify torture, the arrests and killing of journalists, the brutal repressions of demonstrations and “a whole closing of civil society space.”

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A Chinese police officer takes his position by the road near what is officially called a vocational education centre in Yining in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China. VOA

“I never thought that we would start hearing the terms `concentration camps’ again,” Gilmour told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview. “And yet, in two countries of the world there’s a real question.”

He didn’t name them but appeared to be referring to China’s internment camps in western Xinjiang province, where an estimated 1 million members of the country’s predominantly Muslim Uighur minority are being held; and detention centers on the United States’ southern border, where mostly Central American migrants are being held while waiting to apply for asylum. Both countries strongly deny that concentration camp-like conditions exist.

Gilmour is leaving the United Nations on December 31 after a 30-year career that has included posts in hot spots such as Iraq, South Sudan, Afghanistan, the Palestinian territories and West Africa. Before taking up his current post in 2016, he served for four years as director of political, peacekeeping, humanitarian and human rights affairs in former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s office.

Despite his dim view of the past decade, Gilmour — a Briton who previously worked in politics and journalism — said he didn’t want to appear “relentlessly negative.”

Not a straight line

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Jordan’s Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights gestures after a news conference at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva. VOA

“The progress of human rights is certainly not a linear progression, and we have seen that,” he said. “There was definite progression from the late ’70s until the early years of this century. And we’ve now seen very much the countertendency of the last few years.”

Gilmour said human rights were worse during the Cold War between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union, “but there wasn’t a pushback as there is now.”

He pointed to the fact that in the past eight years or so, many countries have adopted laws designed to restrict the funding and activities of nongovernmental organizations, especially human rights NGOs.

And he alleged that powerful U.N. member states stop human rights officials from speaking in the Security Council, while China and some other members “go to extraordinary lengths to prevent human rights defenders [from] entering the [U.N.] building even, let alone participate in the meetings.”

In March 2018, for example, Russia used a procedural maneuver to block then-U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein from addressing a formal meeting of the Security Council, the U.N.’s most powerful body, Gilmour said.

Zeid was able to deliver his hard-hitting speech soon afterward, but only at a hurriedly organized informal council meeting where he decried “mind-numbing crimes“ committed by all parties in Syria.

Gilmour also cited the United States’ refusal to authorize the council to hold a meeting on the human rights situation in North Korea, a move that effectively killed the idea.

Rights of women, gays

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U.S. United Nations Ambassador Kelly Craft address the U.N. Security Council after a failed vote on a humanitarian/human rights draft resolution and for Syria. VOA

The rights of women and gays are also at stake, Gilmour said. He said nationalist authoritarian populist leaders such as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have made “derogatory comments” about both groups.

He said the U.S. is “aggressively pushing” back against women’s reproductive rights both at home and abroad. The result, he said, is that countries fearful of losing U.S. aid are cutting back their work on women’s rights.

Gilmour also pointed out a report issued in September that cited 48 countries for punishing human rights defenders who have cooperated with the U.N.

“I feel that we really need to do more — everybody … to defend those courageous defenders,” he said.

Gilmour said the U.N. should also stand up when it comes to major violations of international law and major violations of human rights, but “I have found it extremely difficult to do so in all circumstances.”

He said he was happy to hear that the new U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Kelly Craft, feels strongly about ensuring human rights.

“And I do hope that she will be gently and firmly held to that high standard,“ he said.

Gilmour said that after his departure from the U.N, he will take a fellowship at Oxford’s All Souls College, where he will focus on the importance of uniting human rights and environmental rights groups.

“The human rights impact of climate change — it’s going to be so monumental,” he said.

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As he relinquishes his post, Gilmour said he is counting on younger generations to take up the mantle of human rights and fight for other causes aimed at improving the world.

“What gives me hope as we start a new decade is that there will be a surge in youth activism that will help people to get courage, and to stand up for what they believe in,” he said.  (VOA)