ANTI-LGBTQIA+ BILL PASSED IN POLAND
18th January 2022
Poland’s lower house of parliament, the Sejm, has passed an education reform that has been coined as “Lex Czarnek” or, “Czarnek’s Law”. Named for their education minister Przemysław Czarnek, the reform would completely obliterate any semblance of LGBTQIA+-inclusive education in schools in Poland. The reform was passed with 441 total votes, 227 for and 214 against. The reform however, hasn’t passed through the senate, with experts predicting that it is likely to be rejected. However, if this is the case, then the final call will be made by the president Andzej Duda, who is famously anti-LGBTQIA+. This spells danger for inclusivity in Poland as it takes another monumental hit, raising the next generation with the same bigoted ideals as their parents generation. However, we’re always on the side of hope and believe this one measure won’t change the course of a generation's hopes and beliefs.
This reform will give school superintendents a huge amount of power over all aspects of the curriculum especially when it comes to the LGBTQIA+ aspects. They will now be able to veto teaching materials and dismiss school headteachers with no notice if they do not comply with the new reform.
Previously, large parts of the country declared themselves so-called “LGBT-free zones”, and with this reform looking set to come into effect, Poland’s general attitude to LGBTQIA+ rights and general move towards autocracy are becoming more and more evident. However despite this, Rémy Bonny, who is the executive director of ‘Forbidden Colours’, a LGBTQIA+ rights organisation, has asserted that all is not lost yet. In September 2021, four out of the five provinces in Poland that declared themselves “LGBT-free zones, backtracked after the European Commission threatened to withdraw their funding, proving to all that whilst Poland may seem steadfast in their attitude towards diversity and equality, they tend to cave under international pressure. This therefore provides some hope that even if the reform fails in the senate and is passed by the president, any sort of funding threat or mention of international sanctions, would lead to the reform being repealed.
GIRL’S DAY SCHOOL TRUST NO LONGER ACCEPTS TRANS PUPILS
18th January 2022
Two schools in the Merseyside area of the UK have said that they would no longer accept pupils based on their gender identity, and would instead only accept pupils based on their legal sex. This move in essence removes the ability for transgender girls to attend the “single sex” schools, harkening back to the dark ages of gender identity acceptance. Belvedere Academy, in Toxeth, and Birkenhead High School, in Birkenhead stated publicly that they would only be admitting pupils based on their “legal sex” instead of their gender identity.
The CEO of the Girl’s Day School Trust, Cheryl Giovannoni, said that the reasoning behind the move was to protect all their schools’ history of single-sex statuses. Considering that trans girls are girls, it is slightly contradictory to say that the move has been done to protect said statuses. Considering that the Girl’s Day School Trust runs 25 schools in England and Wales, this is a very concerning move. If this move is extended and becomes ubiquitous throughout their schools, then serious questions need to be asked (if they aren't already) of her leadership and her ability to keep the children under her trust’s care safe.
This decision has prompted a petition to be created called “Let transgender girls go to GDST schools” which at the time of writing has gained just under 3,800 signatures.
The most concerning thing about this move is that the trust has said that “young people exploring their gender identity need space and time to make decisions free of pressure”. However, the move to ban trans girls from their schools has pretty much done the exact opposite, creating a dangerous climate for any current trans or non binary students, or those questioning their gender, for fear of being discriminated against, and/or kicked out. It removes trans and non binary students from the ‘mainstream’ and sends a message to students, teachers, and parents that they have a choice whether to support being trans or not. Which is a horrifying thought given the state of trans acceptance in this country being as poor as it is, moves such as this will just make it all worse.
LGBTQIA+ ACTIVISTS CALL ON HOUSE OF LORDS TO VOTE DOWN POLICING BILL
18th January 2022
Dozens of LGBTQIA+ advocates and organisations have called on the House of Lords to vote down the oppressive policing bill that seeks to outlaw any protests, no matter how peaceful, if the home secretary deems them to be unlawful. The decision is purely opinion based rather than based on the merits of the protest or if it is peaceful or not.
Hundreds of protestors were out in the streets in the UK over the weekend of the 15th/16th of January, ahead of the bill being heard and considered in the House of Lords on Monday the 17th. The Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts Bill will grant the police the powers to ban protests that they deem to be “seriously disruptive” or that they deem to be too loud. The bill won’t just affect protests such as the BLM ones seen recently, it will also affect events such as PRIDE, potentially dealing massive damage to the furtherment of LGBTQIA+ rights and celebrations. People deemed to be ‘protesters’ will also be put at risk of lengthy prison sentences and massive fines if they are found to have obstructed roads, cause damage to statues or memorials, or attach themselves to another person and/or object. Police will also have their powers of stop and search extended to target any vehicles suspected to be carrying anything that could possibly be used in protests, or anyone suspected of being a protester.
More than 80 activists, celebrities and organisations have called upon the House of Lords to vote down the bill in order to uphold protest rights and protect the march towards LGBTQIA+ equality. The letter, that’s been coordinated by Liberty has been signed by many queer actvists such as Olly Alexander from It’s a Sin and Years and Years, trans activist Munroe Bergdorf, Lady Phyll, and Peter Tatchell. In said letter, the advocates urged peers to “stand against the protest provisions” and “ vote against government amendments that will make the proposals more oppressive”, especially for members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Alongside the letter from the advocates, hundreds of psychologists and clinical psychiatrists have also called for the bill to be dropped, warning that the bill will have a “profound negative impact on young people’s mental health”. The fear of coming out and being accepted by their friends and family, as well as wider society, is already a massively difficult hurdle for many young people to overcome, and this bill will add an extra hurdle past the original one as the government is basically stating that they don’t support LGBTQIA+ rights with this bill. Pride was and will also be a protest against the treatment of LGBTQIA+ people and the denial of their rights, from the first brick thrown at the Stonewall Inn, to the modern day colourful marches that celebrate individuality and acceptance.
This bill is a modern day Section 28 (the legislative designation for the crimilisation of homo sexuality), and yet most people look back on that and say it was archaic and oppressive, and yet can’t see how history is repeating itself.
LGBTQIA+ MILITARY BAN - 20 YEARS ON
19th January 2022
LGBTQIA+ veterans have welcomed, although cautiously, a review into the impact that the ban on them serving in the military has impacted their lives, over 20 years later. Until the turn of the century, it was illegal to be gay and serve in the British military, a rule that is considered to have affected around 5,000 people in the armed forces. On example of this is David Bonney who served in the RAF as a medic and was dismissed and the jailed in a military prison in colchester for four months following a conviction for “homosexual conduct”. Even though homosexuality was decriminalised in 1967, the military ban on being LGBTQIA+ continued for another 33 years. Showing the archaic mentality that is ubiquitous in the military to this day. This is also evident by the fact that women weren’t allowed to serve in frontline roles until 2016.
The armed forces minister James Heappey commented that the review must understand how the “wrong-headed” ban impacted service personnel. Said personnel want to get compensation for how they were treated. Those veterans also want to be offered various kinds of support that they were denied, yet entitled to, at the time such as mental health support, the aforementioned financial compensation and the pensions that they were stripped of due to their dishonourable discharges. James Heappey told the BBC that “The review needs to understand what the consequences were of that extraordinarily wrong-headed policy.” He also added, “We are so sorry for the fact that that was ever the case, the people who had the courage to serve in our nation’s armed forces were then thrown out because they loved someone of their own sex.” Whilst an apology is always welcomed, it isn’t enough. The veterans who were horribly discriminated against need to have their benefits restored and support offered so that they can finally get closure. However, pardons should not be offered as they never committed a crime, their records should be completely expunged. This still won’t be enough as the damage done to their wellbeing and career prospects has already been done. James Heappey however, would not comment as to whether compensation would be offered, but did say that “it may be that compensation matters more” (than apologies).
The most concerning part of the ban being repealed however is that it only happened when four servicemen and women, formerly dismissed for being gay, won a case in the European Court of Human Rights. This is concerning because the ban wasn’t lifted due to a change in attitude, it was lifted because the government didn’t have a choice. The scope of the aforementioned review hasn’t been announced but a military spokesperson has said that the details would be set out “in due course”. As reported by the BBC, it’s expected to cover three main points:
The potential impact the ban may have had on LGBT+ veterans, including the consequences for their future lives
The accessibility of veterans' services for LGBT+ people
How to ensure that LGBT+ veterans are recognised and fully accepted as members of the armed forces