Thursday

28th Jan 2021

Feminists target Polish churches in abortion 'revolution'

  • Scuffles between far-right vigilantes and women took place outside the Church of the Holy Cross in Warsaw (Photo: metaphox)

Feminists disrupted church services in Poland on Sunday (25 October) in a fourth day of "revolution" against new anti-abortion laws.

Women holding placards with slogans such as "We pray for the right to abortion" or "Fuck off, episcopacy" stood in front of altars and stopped mass in towns up and down the country.

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They painted slogans and Nazi symbols on church walls saying: "This is hell for women".

Thousands of mostly women also picketed church services and scuffled with police and with far-right vigilantes who had appointed themselves as church guardians.

Activists have promised to blockade Polish cities on Monday and to hold a nationwide women's strike on Friday,

The campaign was vilified in Polish state media, such as national broadcaster TVP Info, which led with the headline "Profanation of the churches" on Sunday and which quoted senior bishops on the "obscenity" of the activists.

But it was welcomed in liberal media, such as the TVP24 broadcaster and the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper, highlighting divisions in Polish society.

Sunday's events marked the fourth day of protests since the Polish Constitutional Court ruled, on Thursday, that it was illegal to abort foetuses even if they had defects, in line with Roman Catholic doctrine.

The court itself faced added criticism because the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party had previously stuffed it with political appointees.

The protests on Thursday and Friday saw a heavy police presence in Warsaw, including several arrests outside the residence of PiS chairman and Polish deputy prime minister-designate Jarosław Kaczyński.

The events, for some, invited comparison with neighbouring Belarus, where women have spearheaded pro-democracy protests for the past two months.

And they involved the daughter of former Polish prime minister and EU Council president Donald Tusk, Katarzyna Tusk, who published her father's personal words of encouragement on Instagram.

"This is your revolution. But watch out for yourself", Tusk had said.

Poland already has one of the strictest anti-abortion regimes in Europe.

It recently promised to renege on an international treaty, the so-called Istanbul Convention, aimed at countering domestic violence, prompting EU criticism.

The EU has also launched a sanctions procedure against Warsaw over judicial independence and taken it to court over its boycott of EU migrant-sharing quotas.

And it cut funding to a series of Polish towns, whose mayors had declared them to be "LGBTI ideology-free zones", in a symbolic defence of EU values.

Some pro-LGBTI groups also joined the weekend's protests in a wider culture war against Kaczyński's conservative vision for Poland.

Earlier last week, some 2,700 Polish academics signed a petition against PiS' new education minister, Przemysław Czarnek, on grounds of his overt homophobia.

"Before our eyes a symbolic rape of Polish education and science is taking place," Wednesday's petition said.

Czarnek outraged liberal feeling in Poland in summer when he said: "Let's protect ourselves against LGBT ideology and stop listening to idiocy about some human rights or some equality. These people are not equal to normal people."

But Duda, the homophobic Polish president, defended Czarnek on grounds that Polish schools, as well as courts, needed more people with conservative mores.

"In recent years, people trying to achieve higher ranks in scientific development ... have been brutally attacked for not having a worldview that is politically correct, that is, liberal-leftist," Duda said.

Opinion

Nationwide protests reveal awakening of Poland's youth

The impact of Covid-19 on the scale, demography and length of current protests cannot be underestimated. Newspapers have hailed them "the biggest demonstrations since the fall of communism in 1989".

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