Polish activist raises awareness with "LGBT-free zone" photo campaign

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TVN24 News in English, Reuters, PAP
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An activist has begun photographing members of Poland's LGBT community next to a fake "LGBT-free zone" sign outside towns that passed motions rejecting what they call "LGBT ideology" or defending traditional family values.

Bartosz Staszewski, a 29-year-old filmmaker, has taken portraits of five people so far, and plans another 32 that would target towns he considers took the strongest stance against the gay community.

His action is in protest against what he calls a "hate campaign" by Poland's ruling Law and Justice party (PiS), which says lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) "ideology" is an invasive foreign influence that undermines traditional values in the staunchly Catholic country.

In Poland, which doesn't recognise any form of same-sex union, parades to celebrate LGBT life became violent flashpoints last year in the buildup to October elections.

The self-funded artistic project, which is published on social media, involves Staszewski photographing local members of the LGBT community in front of a sign saying "LGBT-free zone" in four languages. He removes the sign after each photoshoot.

Bartosz Staszewski launched his campaign to protest against what he calls a "hate campaign" by Poland's ruling Law and Justice party (PiS)
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"I'm visualizing, encouraging a debate," Staszewski told Reuters, as he prepared to photograph Jakub Przybysz, 26, a former resident of the eastern Polish town of Trzebieszów and a gay man.

Fine line between reality and absurd

Mirosław Szekalis, the mayor of Trzebieszów, where a motion to reject "LGBT ideology" was passed last year, defended the town's decision. "Neither I, nor any of the council members... have a reason to be ashamed," he told Reuters.

While the motions are largely symbolic, they can be intimidating for members of the LGBT community. Municipalities and regions that have rejected LGBT "ideology" cover nearly a third of the country.

When Staszewski first published the pictures on social media, some members of the European Parliament and a Polish presidential candidate, Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska, criticised the signs which they thought had been put up by towns.

"False accusations appearing in the EU institutions directed at the Polish government create a false picture," PiS members in the European Parliament said in a statement on February 6th. They did not mention Staszewski's project specifically.

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TVN24 News in English

Staszewski, who has been accused of spreading fake news and received threats on social media, changed the captions accompanying his pictures to explain the project better.

"I thought... we live in such a time that people will understand that this is an art project," he said. "(But) we are living in a time when there is a thin line between what is absurd and what is reality." 

EU funding rules violation

Parliamentary groupings on equal rights for LGBT+ community and on cities vowed they would ask EU institutions to examine anti-LGBT resolutions adopted by some Polish local councils - MPs of the Left said on Tuesday. In their opinion, the resolutions may be in violation of the principles of EU funds granting.

The Left also called upon the voivodes (overseers of self-governing local councils) to quash such resolutions.

Hanna Gill-Piątek (the Left) underscored the rules of equal opportunity and non-discrimination issued by the Minister of Development pertain to all EU funds in Poland granted to municipalities, counties and voivodeships.

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Źródło: TVN24 News in English, Reuters, PAP

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