Dutch City Cuts Ties With Polish Twin After Declaring Itself ‘Gay-Free Zone’
A Dutch city has cut ties with its twin in Poland after the Polish city declared itself an official ‘gay-free zone’.
Puławy – a city in eastern Poland 80 miles from Warsaw – is one of 100 municipalities across the country that earlier this year vowed to discourage tolerance and avoid providing financial assistance to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working to promote equal rights.
Upon hearing this news, the city council of Nieuwegein, south of Utrecht, voted almost unanimously to end its friendship with the city, with only one councillor voting to maintain the relationship.
The council was first made aware of the Polish city’s decision to become ‘free from LGBTI ideology’ in January this year, something it deemed ‘unacceptable’.
Marieke Schouten, the alderman of the municipality of Nieuwegein, previously condemned Puławy’s decision to become an LGBT-free zone, stating as per RTL Nieuws: ‘We are a rainbow city.’
‘We want to be a city where everyone can be who he or she is,’ Schouten continued. ‘It doesn’t matter what you are, what your gender or sexuality is. We think that’s really important. In Nieuwegein, but also in Puławy. So yes, here we are happy.’
Council members immediately made steps to reach out to Puławy officials to express their concerns, but it soon became clear the council wasn’t going to get a response – at least not a direct one anyway.
They did hear from the president of Puławy city council Bożena Krygier though, who told Polish media, as per The Guardian:
Poland is Poland with its own identity, its own history and its own ideas. This is why we believe that partner municipalities should not interfere with our resolutions.
As such, the Nieuwegein city council opted out of the relationship, with the motion backed by councillors this week formally proposing to ‘unfriend’ the two municipalities and terminate all contacts.
Following the vote, Schouten marked the decision to end the relationship by covering the Polish town’s name on Nieuwegein’s entry signs with a rainbow flag.
The council member said in a statement (translated to English):
It is precisely a friendship relationship between cities that gives room to enter into dialogue about these subjects. It is a pity that Puławy does not want a conversation.
I am pleased that the city council is drawing a clear line and that it is clearly speaking in favour of inclusivity.
The name Puławy is still on the access signs to the city – even if covered by rainbow flags – but will disappear from all communications by October this year.
Puławy isn’t the only Polish municipality to declare itself an ‘LGBT-free zone’; almost 100 Polish municipal or local governments have done so, covering around a third of Poland.
Despite the move being strongly condemned by the European Parliament, it seems to have had little effect on the rising tide of intolerance in the country, with homophobic chants and violence often witnessed at equality marches.
This is only made worse by the fact the Polish president, Andrzej Duda, vowed to ‘defend children from LGBT ideology’ during his election campaign. He managed to secure a new term just last weekend in a narrow victory.
If you’ve been affected by any of these issues and want to speak to someone in confidence, contact the LGBT Foundation on 0345 3 30 30 30, 10am–6pm Monday to Friday, or email [email protected]