Poland: Pride march kicks off, as LGBT rights concerns loom
Thousands of people in Warsaw demonstrated for LGBTQ rights. Poland's ruling right-wing party often uses anti-LGBTQ rhetoric to appeal to conservative voters
People poured into the streets of Warsaw on Saturday to demand equal rights for LGBTQ communities.
Tens of thousands of Poles are expected to attend the march. June is Pride Month, and people all over the world celebrate LGBTQ communities.
In Europe, Poland, however, is one of the worst places for the community because it has practically no measures to safeguard an individual's identity.
In an EU report published in 2023, Poland ranked last with regard to marriage equality and adoption for gay couples, gender identity, gender recognition and anti-hate crime measures.
But organizers of the event are hopeful they can be the change. Alicja Herda told Reuters news agency that despite the narrative against the community, she "is not very worried because we are a very strong community and we will not be easy to stop from doing our Prides (marches) because it's okay to be who we are."
Ruling Law and Justice Party under fire
Poland is due to hold elections later this fall, with the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) seeking a historic third term. The party won in 2014 and then again in 2019.
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the party, has taken aim at the community frequently, speaking out against LGBTQ education in schools and his party canceling or banning pride marches.
"Children should be subjected to practices that are certainly harmful to them and can lead to psychological changes that will negatively affect them in adult life," Kaczynski said in May.
In 2019, several municipalities in Poland began declaring themselves as "LGBT-ideology-free" zones, with the leaders of PiS saying they were promoting family values.
The zones were scrapped after the European Commission intervened.
Poland down the path to autocracy?
Critics have accused the PiS of eroding basic democratic rights, and the party has consistently been embroiled in battles with the European Union over the rule of law, press freedom and minority rights.
The ruling right-wing party has found a popular formula of combining higher social spending with socially conservative policies to win over its base.
The party's support for the church also finds favor in the mostly Catholic and largely conservative nation.
While there are fears that the PiS will further tighten the noose around rights for the LGBTQ community to muster votes, others say the only way to change the scenario at the moment would be to elect a new government in elections later this fall.