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Poland’s twin or sister cities could help stop the LGBT Free Zones

Poland’s twin or sister cities could help stop the LGBT Free Zones

  • Could your twin be anti-LGBT+ without you even realizing it?
Protestor holds a sign telling the LGBT+ community to go away.

Campaigners are calling on towns and cities which are ‘partnered’ or ‘twinned’ with places in Poland to help end the country’s LGBT Free Zones.

Last year municipalities and districts across Poland started to declare themselves free of so-called ‘LGBT ideology’.

Now 100 municipalities and five voivodships or provinces, the largest administrative unit in Poland, had declared themselves LGBT Free Zones. Together they cover a third of the country and make up an area around the size of Hungary.

But a new campaign hopes to use the power of Poland’s relationship with its ‘twin’ or ‘sister’ towns and cities to fight the anti-LGBT+ hate.

Town twinning is popular across Europe where towns, cities and villages often have multiple ‘partners’ across the world.

Initially ‘twinning’ was a way to foster friendship, peace and reconciliation after the Second World War – both between former enemies and allies.

However it also encourages trade and tourism and partner towns form strategic international business links.

That means many municipalities take their partners seriously, says LGBT+ digital campaign organization All Out and democracy and human rights campaigners at Pulse of Europe.

The two organizations have combined to launch the new campaign. They want partner cities to address concerns with Polish twins who have adopted the LGBT Free Zones.

Is your twin anti-LGBT+?

All Out said: ‘Partner cities around the world have long-running relationships with their Polish twins.

‘They constantly engage in cultural exchange, visits, and mutual support. If they ask their partners to respect the rights of their LGBT+ citizens, their message will not go unnoticed.

‘We are calling on these cities to join forces and to use their position to support LGBTI groups in Poland and address the issue with their working contacts.’

There’s a good chance LGBT+ people living in other countries may not even know they are twinned with a city or district with one of the anti-LGBT+ zones.

For example, do American citizens of Tinley Park, Illinois and Columbia County in Georgia realize they are twinned with the city of Nowy Sacz? And do the people of Fountain Hills in Arizona know what is going on in their twin – Zamość?

Many of the ‘LGBT free’ municipalities have multiple twins. For example Świdnik was one of the first to reject ‘LGBT ideology’ in March last year. 

It is twinned 11 times, including with Welwyn Hatfield in England, Aalten in the Netherlands, Béthune in France and Brindisi in Italy.

Łódzkie voivodeship is of the larger provinces to pass an anti-LGBT+ resolution. This area is twinned with the West Midlands of England, Baden-Württemberg in Germany and the Piemont region in Italy.

Meanwhile its central city of Łódź has 20 partners. They include Murcia in Spain, Lyon in France, Tel Aviv in Israel, Stuttgart in Germany and both Chengdu and Guangzhou in China.

Sign in Świdnik which was one of the first to reject ‘LGBT ideology’.
Świdnik was one of the first to reject ‘LGBT ideology’. Wikimedia Commons

What partner cities can do

All Out and Pulse of Europe have worked with Polish LGBT+ campaigners to come up with a list of recommendations for partner cities.

Firstly, they want partners to advocate for the LGBT+ community.

They ask partners to raise the issue and show how they support the LGBT+ community in their home town or city.

When partners visit their Polish twin city, they should meet with LGBT+ citizens or organizations. If possible, they should take the Polish municipal officials to the meetings too. Likewise when Polish partners visit the partner city, they should encourage them to meet with LGBT+ people.

Moreover, the campaigners want them to invite journalists to cover the meetings and share them on social media.

Secondly, they suggest using the cultural and social exchanges between the twins to support LGBT+ projects.

They ask twin towns to sponsor an LGBT+ project and get their Polish partners to join in. Queer singers, artists and other performers should be encouraged to perform in both countries at LGBT+ events. A town could host LGBT+ movie screenings in the Polish partner city.

More ambitiously, they suggest a partner may organize a joint exhibition with LGBT+ themes.

Finally, they call on twins to support LGBT+ and Pride events in the Polish partner city.

The campaigners want partners to visit Prides in Poland. And they want them to invite Polish representatives to come to LGBT+ events in their own cities. Twin cities can help by supporting LGBT+ groups and performers to attend Polish Prides.

Meanwhile, they should also share events in the media and social media.