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Poland's Criminalisation of Sexuality Education - an explainer

Poland's Criminalisation of Sexuality Education - an explainer

Background

Since coming to power, the recently re-elected right-wing government  led by Poland’s Law & Justice Party (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość, PiS) has
been propagating a misogynistic, anti-abortion, anti-contraceptive, homophobic and conservative ideology – using anecdotes, random
opinions and bizarre wording to support their stance. One such example is that they blame the addiction to pornography on
sexuality education.

Meanwhile, sexuality education classes in more conservative areas of the country tend to teach students how to ‘prepare for family
life’ based on misinformation and harmful stereotypes. However, schools in metropolitan areas with a more liberal leaning would
include sexuality education in their curriculum – and it is the latter that has now come under attack.

The PiS had previously claimed that any attempts to broaden sexuality education would ‘sexualise’ children. This is a lie because sexuality education
helps to protect children from sexual abuse, by teaching them to identify it and to seek help.

Who will be prosecuted under the proposals?

In short, anyone who ‘promotes sexual behaviour amongst minors’.

This puts teachers, doctors, psychologists, gynaecologists, NGOs & foundations, journalists, publishers, activists at risk – even parents, just for
providing information about sex to their children.

Some of the wording in the bill are extremely vague and cover a wide spectrum that can be interpreted in many ways. Anyone found to be advocating
for contraception, the prevention of teen pregnancy and the spread of STDs (including HIV & AIDS) amongst minors, providing non-judgemental
information about homosexuality, promoting equality, tolerance, countering discrimination, gender identity and violence could all face prosecution.

Similarly, a three-year sentence awaits anyone ‘guilty’ of disseminating sexuality education through books, websites, videos, films, theatres, teen
magazines, letters pages and even agony aunts.

Does this contravene any international law?

This PiS bill directly contravenes Poland’s international obligations on human rights.

The government has long ignored and dismissed the importance of sexual and reproductive health and rights, including for minors.

International bodies such as the World Health Organization and Council of Europe , the UN Committee on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights and the
Working Group on Discrimination Against Women have also stated that sexuality education is critical for future generations’ wellbeing, and is central to preventing the spread of STDs, unwanted pregnancies and maternal mortality.

Reproductive healthcare education is also a fundamental right, they say.

The reaction?

Many worry that generations of girls and boys will now be at risk of grow up in ignorance and fear.

Amnesty International has called the proposed legislation “recklessly retrogressive”. IPPF European network, which champions sexual and
reproductive health and rights for all, condemned the new law as ‘morally bankrupt’.

Meanwhile, in spite of such anti-paedophilia propaganda, no references have been made to the sex abuse committed by the Catholic Church in Poland.
Impact on women’s rights.

By limiting their access to information and education on sexual and reproductive rights, the rights of Polish women and girls have come under
unprecedented levels of attack under the PiS.

With 4.5 million Polish women said to have experienced psychological violence at the hands of their current partners or spouse, and another two
million victims of physical and sexual abuse, (IPPFEN), women’s rights NGOs have said the new proposals would further erode women´s and children’s rights their protection from violence.

Next step

The European Parliament debated the subject and voted in favour of a resolution on 14 November 2019. In Poland, an as-yet-unknown parliamentary commission will work on the bill and then make recommendations to the lower house, Sejm. It is hoped that they will react negatively to the approval and call for the bill to be scrapped in its entirety.

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