Saturday, April 16, 2011

Brody's Notes... Love Does Not Exclude Campaign- Problems With Small Cities In Poland?

Wojtek Szot
By Wojtek Szot (Warsaw, Poland) APR 16 | The past two weeks have seen plenty of activity regarding the ongoing "Love Does Not Exclude" campaign in Poland, which aims to promote wider acceptance of LGBTQ persons while advocating for civil partnerships legislation by the country's parliament. After a series of successful placements of billboards and advertising posters at bus stops in and around the Polish capital city of Warsaw, campaign organisers have now refocused their efforts to include the smaller cities and rural areas in the country.
This has stirred controversy in this heavily Catholic nation where there is not tremendous amounts of acceptance by the general population. Recently in the northern Polish town of Inowrocław, after campaign organisers approached the company that operates the town's  bus and trolley system, Inowrocławski’s MPK (public transport company) spokesperson Ireneusz Iwański said:
“Society is not ready to see such posters. People will destroy them and my company would lose business. I'd rather see a campaign that taught youngsters how to behave on public transport, for example. And please don’t push me to comment on my personal opinion of these posters.”
MPK's chief operating executive, Mariusz Kuszel, told the local newspaper, The Daily Gazeta Wyborcza:
“The public promotion of such scenes is not appropriate.”
In the city of Ełk MZK’s CEO (city bus company- from whose buses the campaign’s posters were later removed) had this to say:
“I have nothing against these posters. The people in them look fine. But we need to keep our passengers and these are mainly older, more conservative people. We cannot allow people traveling on our buses to fall into in a bad mood, become angry. The 'Love does not exclude' campaign was not the first one to be turned down. For example, buses in Ełk advertising parties with alcohol with invitations 'for naked people' was also deemed unsuitable.”
That city's leading paper, the Gazeta Współczesna, cited another MZK company official:
“We turned down [these ads] because we need to think about our passengers’ information [sic]. We want to avoid tension on the buses, tearing down of posters and that type of thing,” the source explained, adding: “previously we refused to use materials to promote alcohol. Either they would not appear at all or they had to change their content.”
In the township of Suwalki, Transit Director Lazarski announced that it will be impossible to run the campaign posters.
“The rules of transit procedures prohibit posters whose content could violate other people's feeling. In the Suwalczanie area, 90% of people are Catholic. They would definitely be offended.”
Dereniowa - Ciszewskiego Billboard
One Love Does Not Exclude activist stated:
So, a picture of a homosexual couple may offend someone's feelings? And this because of religion? Where is love thy neighbour? I have the impression also that recent weeks have seen some rather surprisingly homophobic articles in the Polish press. Perhaps linked to the forthcoming elections later this year?
However, we must recall that these posters were not torn down or destroyed in Warsaw, so the decision to move the campaign nationwide was a correct one. It turns out that we need to talk not only about legislation governing same-sex partnerships, but also to remind people that gays and lesbians also live outside the capital. The simple fact of their existence should not offend anyone, surely?
Speaking for the regional government, Arthur Widłak, minister for Social Affairs of Kedzierzyn-Kozle said:
"No matter what decision we make​​, it will raise a lot of controversy. - I do not see the need to promote such relationships, especially in this form - he explained."