The deputies say they were “appalled” that the participants of the Equality March - that took place for the first time in the Polish city of Bialystok on 20 July - were “victims of LGBTI-phobic hate speech and physical violence” exhibited by far-right groups and football ultra-fans.
A statement issued by the MEPs reads that “hooligans” tried to stop the peaceful march by throwing stones, eggs and firecrackers - as well as by beating up and verbally offending its participants - something widely reported in both traditional and social media.
This happened only a few days after the Polish Magazine Gazeta Polska incurred the wrath of many after announcing plans to distribute “LGBT-free zone” stickers.
The MEP statement goes on to say that for many months, the ruling Law and Justice (PIS) party in Poland has been portraying the LGBTI community as the “public enemy and a threat” to traditional Polish and Catholic values.
It says, “We are concerned to see such backlash stimulate anti-LGBTI sentiments in Poland and beyond.”
In the statement, the MEPs declare, “Freedom of assembly, the right to dignity and to non-discrimination are pillars of democracy.”
“Therefore, we strongly condemn such examples of LGBTI phobic hate speech and hate crimes and we encourage Polish authorities to do the same, in order to guarantee every citizen’s right to live a life free of discrimination and violence.”
“We strongly condemn such examples of LGBTI-phobic hate speech and hate crimes and we encourage Polish authorities to do the same, in order to guarantee every citizen’s right to live a life free of discrimination and violence” MEPs’ statement
It adds, “This is why, as the LGBTI Intergroup, we believe and will continue to push for the EU to finally close the gap in protection and guarantee full equality for all citizens, in line with EU values. We will also continue to advocate for the EU to adopt common rules on hate speech, including LGBTI-phobic hate speech.”
The members have now called on Polish authorities to protect the human rights of all its citizens, including LGBTI people, especially freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and the right to be free from violence and discrimination.
This includes, it states, prosecuting authors of LGBTI-phobic violence and hate speech, and providing appropriate compensation to their victims.
The MEPs said they also “count on” Polish authorities to provide full protection to any such marches in Poland “so they can take place in a safe and peaceful manner.”
They also demand that the European Commission brings forward the “long-awaited” Equality Directive so all EU citizens “can be granted the highest level of protection against discrimination, to facilitate the adoption of common rules on hate speech and to adopt an LGBTI strategy as soon as possible.”
Among those who have signed the statement are Sophie in’t Veld MEP, vice president of the LGBTI Intergroup; Malin Bjork and Tanja Fajon, both vice presidents of the Intergroup.
Speaking recently, EU Commissioner Věra Jourová called on Member States to do more in tackling such violence towards the LGBTI community.
She said, "The discrimination of the LGBTI community in the EU covers many aspects of life, such as employment, social security and protection, education and health. Public expressions of sexual orientation and gender identity, such as holding hands on the street or sharing a picture on social media, are too often met with biased and hateful remarks or even violence.”
“We have set up a series of actions at EU level, but Member States play a pivotal role in making these efforts effective. I therefore strongly encourage Member States to maintain and expand their own initiatives.”
In March this year, the Commission published its annual report on the implementation of the so-called “list of actions” to promote LGBTI equality.
This provides an overview of what it called the “ambitious” set of measures the Commission is implementing to combat discrimination against LGBTI people.