Polish legislators are set to debate a "Stop Pedophilia" bill that critics say is a thinly veiled attack on LGBTQ rights and school-based sex education, according to Reuters.
The law, if passed, would punish anyone who "promotes or approves sexual intercourse or other sexual activity by a minor" with up to three years in prison. The proposal, along with a similar "Stop Abortion" bill under consideration, received international condemnation.
"Given its track record of undercutting the rule of law, it is fitting that the government would move to pass abusive laws when the public demonstrations that have met these laws before are prohibited," Hillary Margolis, senior women's rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. "The Polish government's focus during the pandemic should be to protect people's health and rights, not diminish them."
Backers of the bill, however, claim they are only trying to protect children and preserve traditional, conservative values from outside agitators bent on corrupting and sexualizing the country's youths.
"The organizations and activists most involved in the promotion of sexual 'education' in our country are the LGBT lobby," backers of the bill said in an accompanying document. "In Western Europe, members of these movements involved in implementing sex education in schools were convicted of pedophilia."
The bills come against a backdrop of increasing hostility and attacks against LGBTQ and women's rights in the former Soviet satellite. Both the "Stop Pedophilia" and "Stop Abortion" bills were the result of petitions signed by 250,000 Polish citizens.
Additionally, a third of the country has declared itself as "LGBTQ-Free" and a Catholic archbishop claimed his country was afflicted by a "rainbow plague." In February a Polish judge refused to stop a homophobic campaign by the ultra-conservative NGO Fundacja Pro in which the group drove vans around Poland with banners and loudspeakers blaring, "Pedophilia is 20 times more common in homosexuals. They want to teach your children. Stop them!"
The proposed legislation is eerily reminiscent of the infamous 1978 Briggs Initiative in California. Officially known as Proposition 6, the ballot initiative sought to ban LGBTQ persons from working in the state's public schools. It was defeated after a concerted effort by a group of grassroots activists including Harvey Milk and Cleve Jones.
Ola Kaczorek, co-president of the Love Does Not Exclude Association, voiced concerns of educators from across Poland about the proposed legislation .
"This would make impossible for us as educators to come into schools and teach kids about humans, about what makes us us, and what's gender identity or sexual orientation," she told Reuters. "Usually school is not a friendly environment for non-heterosexual kids, but now it will be even harder."