Education International
Education International

Successful Europride makes a stand for LGBT rights

published 20 July 2010 updated 20 July 2010

Trade unionists joined 10,000 equality campaigners from across Europe at the Europride in Warsaw, Poland. This was the first event of its kind in a post-communist country, and the largest European celebration of LGBT rights.

The pride march was the culmination of two-weeks of events that included films, debates, exhibitions, and social events. On 15 July, the Polish trade union OPZZ and the European Trade Union Congress also co-hosted a conference on ‘Extending Equality to Central and Eastern Europe’ which was attended by more than 100 unionists from 20 countries, including EI affiliate members. EI and its members have supported Polish education unions over many years and marching at the historic Warsaw Europride parade was a culmination of intense efforts for equality.

On Saturday, the government feared opponents of LGBT equality would create trouble so sent in almost 2,000 extra police members to protect the march. While there were a few incidents of trouble and the start of the parade was marred by ugly scenes of violence, during which police arrested eight people for trying to disturb the march – some anti-pride protestors threw eggs and one attacked a police officer. Otherwise the event was an overwhelmingly peaceful and successful event.

Poland has certainly come a long way since 2005 when its then Mayor of Warsaw, the late Lech Kaczynski, banned a pride march two years in a row, earning himself the disapproval of the European Court of Human Rights. While in power, in 2007, its coalition partners’ education minister proposed a law against "gay propaganda" in schools, which could have led to lesbians and gay teachers being sacked.

The weekend’s successful equality parade was the beginning of a long journey. A recent survey, conducted by the International Lesbian and Gay Journey Association (ILGA), noted that Cyprus, Latvia and Poland extend the fewest legal rights to LGBT people out of all the EU members. Countries further east, such as Belarus and Moldova, score even worse.

EI and its members, particularly the Polish ZNP union, are working together to pursue a determined effort in fighting against homophobia, challenging stereotypes in the classrooms and changing attitudes in unions and the education sector.