Poland’s first EU Presidency in July 2011 exported to Brussels Polish artists, brands, art, music and local cuisine. Adding a touch of colour to what’s usually gray sky, the Presidency also brought Brussels a 9 meter tall, 26 meter wide rainbow.
The rainbow, a public installation composed of 16 thousand artificial flowers, was created by Polish artist Julita Wojcik. The public statue decorated the Esplanade in front of the European Parliament until the end of the Presidency in December 2011.
On June 2012 the rainbow arrived at the Savior Square (Plac Zbawiciela) in Warsaw, where it’s currently standing. However it’s “welcoming reception” was somehow controversial.
What’s typically recognized as a symbol of the LGBT community, the rainbow has been set on fire four times and repeatedly came under attack by right-wing politicians and anti-gay sites since its arrival in the capital of Poland.
While Ms. Wojcik said her goal was to strip the rainbow of all its political meaning, leaving the interpretation open and making it a bridge of mutual tolerance, the reaction of some people in Poland to the rainbow highlighted once more the deep divisions in Polish society on issues concerning LGBTs.
As many countries in Western Europe and States of the US recognize civil partnerships and even gay marriage, the Polish constitution continues to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
Attempts to alter this reality were defeated earlier this year as Poland’s Parliament rejected proposal of laws that would have given limited legal rights to same-sex couples.
While economically thriving, Poland still preserves the image of a very conservative country. Comments made by Lech Walesa, former Polish President and Nobel Peace Prize winner, that gay lawmakers should be sitting in the back rows of the Polish Parliament, “or even behind a wall”, certainly do not help to improve Poland’s image of tolerance towards LGBTs.
I personally felt encouraged a little with the publication of a recent survey, conducted by the Homo Homini research institute, which showed that only 31% of Polish people agreed with Lech Walesa’s remarks compared to 59% of Poles who disagreed. This clearly shows that the majority of the Poles are tolerant and modern minded.
In my view, equal rights for LGBTs are not only a social matter, but also a human rights issue. Being a democratic country and member of the EU, Poland must take a liberal approach to dealing with these issues.
Greetings from the European Parliament,
Lidia Geringer de Oedenberg
More information about the survey conducted by the Homo Homini research institute is available here: http://www.thenews.pl/1/9/Artykul/129646,Poles-oppose-Walesas-stance-on-gay-MPs
Below are pictures of the rainbow at the square in front of the European Parliament