POLAND – Polish bill undermines children’s safety and right to information

The Polish parliament was to discuss a so-called “Stop Paedophilia” bill (which is not about paedophilia at all) on 16 October 2019. The bill, supported by the governing conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, aims to criminalise sex educators, who are threatened with three or even five years in prison for teaching about sexual and reproductive health, human sexuality, healthy relationships, intimate life and prevention of violence. The authors and publishers of books or magazines for teenagers in which contraception and sex are discussed are also threatened.

Some 1,000 people demonstrated in Warsaw that evening against the bill, led by young people.

IPPF Europe writes: “This is an utterly irresponsible proposal in a digital era where it is not possible to control what information young people see and how they interpret it. Children as young as nine are getting their first information on sex from internet pornography. Violence against women and girls is endemic all over the world; in Poland 4.5 million women experience psychological violence at the hands of their current partners or husbands; and 2 million women experience physical or sexual violence. Parents everywhere want to protect their children as they grow into adulthood and ensure they have happy and healthy lives. In this, they urgently need to be supported by the wider community, including schools. Various studies demonstrate that education addressing equality between men and women and focusing on consent can reduce intimate partner violence. The intention of the bill closely mirrors a Russian law from 2012 that has forbidden all information on sexuality education, making it impossible for teachers to help reduce teenage pregnancies and rates of HIV. This would be a tragic example for Poland to follow.”

Irene Donadio, Senior Lead for Partnerships and Strategy at IPPF European Network, said:

“The ideologically driven progenitors of this punitive bill clearly don’t care at all about the real challenges that parents, children and society face. The times we live in are full of new dangers, and governments should be protecting and supporting young people to develop the skills needed for healthy intimacy throughout their lives, helping to stop an epidemic of violence directed at women. It sends a shiver down my spine that there are people trying instead to drive girls and boys back into a world of ignorance and fear. It is also revealing that an initiative ostensibly intended to prevent paedophilia does not propose any measure that would tackle violence such as that perpetrated by the Catholic Church in Poland’s biggest child sexual abuse scandal.”

SOURCES: Equal Eyes, 11 October 2019 ; RTE News/PHOTO, 16 October 2019 ; IPPF Europe Press Release, 16 October 2019