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"The results are alarming! Poland is consistently drifting away from the EU and moving ever closer to Russia, Belarus, and Armenia - countries with the most homophobic and transphobic laws in Europe" - warns the Polish LGBTI rights organization Campaign Against Homophobia.

What is the daily reality of non-heteronormative people in Poland? - Stop holding hands, not in front of the children! – a man shouted at a gay couple walking down the street in Warsaw before stabbing one of them with a knife. Several Catholic organizations protested against classes teaching about discrimination and homophobia in one of the schools in Tarnów, southern Poland. Despite the fact that same-sex marriage is not even recognized under Polish law, the Minister of Justice Zbigniew Ziobro has already announced a statutory ban on the adoption of children by LGBTI couples. 

LGBTI rights. The situation in Poland resembles that in Russia

For many years now, Poland has consequently remained somewhere at the bottom of the Rainbow Europe index prepared by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association (ILGA). Last year, however, it dropped to the very last place, scoring the fewest points among all EU countries. The latest ranking shows Poland doubling down on its shameful position.

The ranking does not consider public opinion, but only the legal situation in individual countries. Equality is measured in six different areas: equality and non-discrimination; family; civil society space; hate crime and hate speech; legal gender recognition and bodily integrity; asylum.

Out of 100 possible points, Poland received only 13, scoring 3 points less than last year. Among 49 European countries, only non-EU states such as Belarus (12 points), Monaco (11), Russia (10), Armenia (8), Turkey (4), and Azerbaijan (2) ranked even lower.

With a score of 33, Hungary received more than twice as many points as Poland.

"Our civil liberties are shrinking at an alarming rate"

The fact that Poland scored even worse than last year only confirms that the situation has become dire. Among several other reasons, the country had lost 3 points due to what happened in August. Back then, the police detained 48 people protesting in solidarity with Margot, an LGBTI activist associated with the Stop Bullshit (Stop Bzdurom) collective.

Of course, also the so-called LGBT-free zones, adopted by ever-more local governments, have contributed to Poland’s woeful position. Already last year, activists who created the "atlas of hate" - an interactive map documenting such places - warned that 31% of the country's population lives in “LGBT-free” zones.

- Our civil liberties are shrinking at an alarming rate. We must say it loud and clear: if the trend continues, we will fall to the level of Russia. For another year in a row, we lose points because of the "LGBT-free zones" which have a real impact on the lives of LGBTI people and take away their basic rights to freedom of speech and expression. Poland, wake up! Look where you are! - says Justyna Nakielska from the Campaign Against Homophobia.

LGBTI people in Poland are facing systemic discrimination

While there were also some positive developments, such as the ruling of the District Court in Warsaw which confirmed that transgender people cannot be discriminated against in their workplace, they were of little use, considering the overall situation.

- The only positive change for transgender people is the possibility to legally change their name. This can now be done before the age of 18 at the request of a legal guardian. But that's something that applies to everyone, not a positive legal change made with transgender people in mind. As of now, we don't expect such changes - says Emilia Wisniewska, president of the Trans-Fuzja Foundation providing support to the Polish transgender community.

Poland is still a far cry from the leaders of the Rainbow Europe ranking, such as Malta (94 points), Belgium (74), Luxembourg (72), Portugal (68), or Norway (67). However, the authors of the index draw attention to the global scale of the problem: for the first time since 2009, in the 12 months preceding its publication in Europe, there were practically no positive legislative changes concerning LGBTI people.

Karolina Gierdal, a lawyer associated with the Campaign Against Homophobia: - Poland's low position in the ranking reflects the legal grey zone in which LGBTI people have to live on a daily basis. The law does not protect us, does not recognize us, and is blind to our very existence. This situation turns into systemic discrimination in which our rights are only partially protected.

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