The town of Wolin in Northwest Poland became the scene of a landmark court case, when a judge recently fined one of its residents heavily for being homophobic.
After six months of abuse from the woman named Anna S, 44, 25-year-old Ryszard Giersz announced: “I’m a normal person and I just want to live with my partner in peace. The last six months have completely knocked us out.”
Giersz lives with his partner, Tomasz and the two have received constant abuse from their neighbour. Finally, they took the case to court and won.
The Pink Paper, an online gay rights magazine, reports that Anna S. has been fined 15,000 zloty – the equivalent of £3,100.
Gay activist group Campaign Against Homophobia have assisted Giersz financially, legally and emotionally through this battle. Spokesperson Robert Bierdon stated: “It might be a kind of a symbol for Polish society for a change and I hope it will change people’s attitudes towards us.”
Homosexuality was made legal in 1932 in Poland; however homosexuals are not allowed to marry or adopt.
Agnieszka Graff, a writer, documents the struggle for acceptance that homosexuals have faced in Poland. In an article for Feminist Studies magazine, she writes: “Although we are experiencing a massive outburst of homophobia in a deeply conservative Roman Catholic country, we are also witnessing the birth of lesbian and gay identity and movement in a place that has long aspired to be seen as ‘modern’ and ‘Western.’”
The news is not all bad, however. Aside from this incident, very few reports of homophobia have been reported in Poland. The country legalised homosexuality in an age when women had just been allowed the right to vote – Britain had recognised voting equality handful of years before; and several European countries had yet to give this most basic of human rights to its people.
Poland joined the EU in 2004 and the zloty is now 0.244 to the Euro. With these facts in mind, it becomes easier to understand this incident as an isolated one rather than as part of a wave of discrimination.