This article has been written by Shraddha Girish Bide.
A protest is not at all new thing for Poland and polish people, but 2020 made itself a year of protests for Poland. Protests like abortion ban, or LGBTQ+ community rights are happening in full swing in Poland. But if we take a closer view on these protests then it can be seen that these protests are just reasons for gathering a huge crowd and rather there are so many more or less focused reasons behind all these protests. Some protests have just started and some have history back in time but the way they reflected during this year was definitely awful. This article aims to give a basic idea about those protests and ideology and reasons behind those protests.
Protest and Poland – An overview
Poland and protest is not a new relationship, since the fall of communism polish people are protesting for some or other reasons. But this year was very special for Poland in terms of protest as a lot of protests happened this year. Reasons for protests were different. Some had history and some were new. but there was always a common thread among all those reasons. Let’s consider them one by one.
Abortion rights protests
This is not a newborn protest in Poland. This has been there for the past four years. But the energy and unity shown by the protesters during this year was unbeatable and incomparable.
By taking advantage of pandemic and lockdown situation right wing and conservative party government of Poland tried to introduce new proposition to strict the abortion laws in Poland (which are already strict as compared to other EU countries). This proposition restricts abortion even if foetus has severe congenital defects. And 98% legal abortions in Poland happens due to foetus abnormality. This same government tried doing the same thing back in 2016.At that time polish public or more specifically women responded in huge numbers. Lot of rallies and protests happened at that time. That time women went on strike to protect their rights. This time proposition was almost the same or rather aim i.e., to curb women reproductive rights was almost the Same. But the situation was altogether different due to spread of coronavirus and lockdown.
At the current scenario present law of Poland gives permission to legal abortion when mothers’ life is in risk, foetus has severe defects and when pregnancy is result of rape. On 22 oct 2020 Polish Constitutional Tribunal (CT) held unconstitutional a statutory legal provision, which had previously allowed women to access abortion on the grounds of fatal foetal abnormality. After that result many people showed their opposition through various platforms like twitter or other social media as there were limitations on gathering crowds and health risks. But when these options didn’t affect much, huge protests were held. In spite of the lockdown these protests got huge responses from all polish citizens out there. Several men and women took to the streets and showed their opposition through rallies and banners.
Tomek Wierzejski one protester says, ”organising protests was a slightly crazy thing to do” as they were not even allowed to gather. At that time protesters used some creative ways for protesting. They tried queuing protests like, standing two meters apart in the que outside the shop close to the parliament building while holding signs and umbrellas or interrupting traffic and blocking Warsaw’s main square for about an hour as car protests and many more. Protests happened in several cities in Poland including capital Warsaw. In spite of pandemic and lockdown and other health risks energy and enthusiasm shown by protestors in Poland definitely deserve a round of applause.
Speciality of these protests was the huge response from the youth. Most of the people in that crowd were in their early 20s demanding their rights for their better future. One survey after the election decisions showed a generational divide among polish population in votes. 2/3 percent of 18-29-year-old people voted for the liberal rival of the current ruling party. Participation of youth in such overwhelming numbers in that protest is nothing but depiction of their vigilance for their better future which brought a new and positive vibe into that protest. Youth protesters are now organising bike and bicycle rallies as a new form to protest. Slogans like “THIS IS WAR”, “I WISH I COULD ABORT MY GOVERNMENT” are trending. “Red lightning bolt” (sign of strength) has become a symbol of protest.
LGBTQ+ rights protests
With the wave of protests for abortion rights of the women, LGBTQ+ community rights protests were started in Poland after the arrest of activist Margot for flag dropping. She was arrested for insulting religious feelings and disrespecting Warsaw’s monuments. But this arrest was just the trigger point which called for protest. Main problem and root cause were actually in the ideology of the ruling “Law and Justice” party.
Situation of LGBTQ+ community’s rights have become worse over the period. The President of Poland calls LGBTQ+ community as “ideology”. At the present situation gay couples are not allowed to get married or adopt any children. The charter also includes ban on propagation of LGBTQ+ community ideology in schools. The President of Poland himself calls LGBTQ+ community values a threat to family values and not only that; LGBTQ+ community attacks are not considered as a hate crime by law in Poland. The arrest is the boiling point of protests, heat is ideology of rulers. And to fight against that ideology many activists and protesters took to the streets, organised rallies, showed banners as opposed to the ruling party’s ideology.
According to many protesters, behaviour shown by police during protest was unacceptable. Police started moving people violently from site. In all that hustle some were pushed against walls and thrown on the ground by police. This conduct purely shows the way of hiking of rulings party towards LGBTQ+ community which is very wrong.
Dimensions to these protests
If we consider Abortion rights protests or LGBTQ+ community rights protests’; common link between them is human rights. Basically, Poland is right now demanding their fundamental human rights. As conservative party being the ruling party it is curbing the freedom of polish people. It has already limited freedom of press, media and TV.
Government is also now being criticized for managing constitutional tribunal. Ruling party also has put forth the proposition to withdraw itself from Istanbul convention which is being considered as important when it comes to women’s rights.
Ruling law and justice party’s chairman Jarslaw said in one interview that, “In the cases of very difficult pregnancies when the child is certain to die, very deformed” the mother will be still forced to give birth “so that the child can be baptized, buried and have a name”. This statement is nothing but wrong ideology towards women rights and if this mentality is going to run the country then protests are an obvious and spontaneous thing to do. This mentality and ideology are the reason for such a huge protest.
In Poland, Huge crowd gathered for any particular protests is not just asking for any particular demand for which the protest is organized but it is demanding basic human fundamental rights which everyone needs to get.
Poland protests show exactly how revolutionary protests look like and Afterall it is just a start. it has a long way to go. Poland has set an example that protests are the best way to revolt if they are built in the right direction and way. For any protest to build up requires clear aim, sufficient number of supporters and right direction and polish protest have all three. These protests definitely will be a ray of hope for all over the world.
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