Two days ago, the Polish government voted on a bill that would criminalise teaching comprehensive sexuality education in schools, stop doctors from prescribing contraceptives for anyone under 18 and put carers at risk of imprisonment if they talk to youth about sexuality. The notion to drop further works filed by the opposition was denied. The bill has passed first reading and was moved to a governmental committee for further works.
The “Stop paedophilia” bill was prepared and introduced by an initiative of the same name, strongly tied to a fundamentalist Catholic organisation “Pro – the right to life”.
During the vote, there was a protest held outside of Polish Government in Warsaw, as well as in tens of other cities in Poland, with hundreds of participants chanting “Sexuality education”, “Get your hands off our children” and “You can’t lock us all up”.
As Ponton Group of Sex Educators, the biggest and oldest Polish organisation working with sexuality education and ASTRA Network member, writes in special statement on the proposed novelisation:
(…) According to the draft amendment to Art. 200b of the Penal Code, the provision is to be extended by three paragraphs. In addition to the concept of ‘paedophile behaviour’, provisions are added to cover ‘praise or promotion of sexual intercourse between minors’. Particular attention should be paid to the proposed Article 200b(4), which is worded as follows: Whoever promotes or condones engaging in sexual intercourse or any other sexual activity by a minor, while acting in connection with holding a position, exercising a profession or activity related to education, treatment or care of minors, or acting on the premises of a school or other institution or educational and care facility, shall be subject to the penalty of deprivation of liberty for up to 3 years .
The proposed amendment, and in particular the accompanying lobbying campaign, clearly indicate the intentions of the project implementers. The aim is both to prevent young people from exercising their right to reliable education, and to intimidate those involved in sex education and the provision of health care to people under the age of 18. As the Ponton Group, we are in constant contact with young people – they tell us about their problems, concerns, needs, and we listen to and support them. We can assure that the proposed amendment to the Penal Code will be detrimental to the youngest Polish women and men, depriving them of access to reliable education (sexual education), health care (gynaecological consultations, access to contraception or “after” pills) and the usual human support in the issues of sexuality, adolescence, growth, building healthy relationships.
We would like to stress that access to reliable education is one of the fundamental human rights which, however, may soon be seriously violated in Poland. Even more, Polish legislation also includes provisions to ensure that young people have access to knowledge about their sexuality! Article 4 of the Act of 7 January 1993 on Family Planning, Protection of the Human Fetus and the Conditions for Permissibility of Termination of Pregnancy stipulates that school curricula shall include knowledge about human sexual life, the principles of conscious and responsible parenthood, the value of family, life in the prenatal phase and methods and means of conscious procreation. In practice, it will be impossible to implement this provision without being subjected to accusations of “propagating” and “praising” manifestations of sexuality of young people. (…)
Katarzyna Banasiak, Ponton’s coordinator, adds: “That bill is an outright attack on basic human rights and will severly impact young people and their well-being. Inability to access evidence-based knowledge will affect in rise of STI and STD rates and more unwanted pregnancies. Not to mention deprived access to contraception – and Poland already has the worst access to contraceptives in Europe!”.
Ponton’s statement can be accessed here.