Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Campaign for Civil Partnership Law in Poland Grows Stronger

The grassroots "Love Does Not Exclude" campaign in Poland is continuing to gain momentum. Here's an article that was recently published in “Gazeta Wyborcza,” a local paper that interviewed the campaign's founder, Wojceich Szot:

Wojciech Karpieszuk: Where did you get the idea for the campaign from?
Wojciech Szot, campaign spokesperson: We thought about an awareness campaign about
civil partnerships. We didn’t want it, however, to concern tolerance or respect, but everyday problems of gays and lesbians – the ones that the state creates for us, only because of our sexual orientation.

You placed on the posters images of gays and lesbians when they were kids. First we published billboards with such photos and the slogan: „When they grow up, they won't have equal rights”. After two weekend we changed that into photos of the same persons as adults, with their partners. And a new slogan: „We demand civil partnerships law”

Why did you come up with the idea of photos with kids?
Most people have kids, or siblings, or their friends have children. Everybody can stop in front of the poster and think „These can be my kids.”

Originally the billboards were to be only in Warsaw.
Yes. Our first idea was that the posters would direct people to the website explaining the idea of civil partnerships. We knew we couldn’t afford to much because billboards are expensive in Warsaw. We literally begged for money, donations. We asked companies that advertise, e.g., on gay portals. Some money was donated by an Internet bookshop, some by a travel agency. [...]There was a significant response on our website, both from LGBT and straight people. We received a lot of e-mails from outside Warsaw, from smaller towns.

So you thought about getting with the campaign to smaller towns?
On one hand, yes. And on the other hand we realised that Warsaw was too expensive when it came to billboards. The posters would hang for a month and nobody would notice. So we decided to go „into Poland”. We organised an Internet voting to select the towns where our posters would appear. The assumption was that in each administrative region (województwo) we would select one location of 20-100 thousand inhabitants.

So you went into Poland to educate people. And?
In the town of Inowrocław (northern Poland) our posters were to be placed on buses. They haven’t, because the outdoor company refused our materials. Their argument was that because of our posters, buses would be demolished. They were mainly worried about their cheap plastic poster frames... Local media got interested in the situation; when interviewed by a radio station about the campaign, the head of the outdoor company asked the journalist, And you, do you advertise escort agencies in your radio?”. I was struck dumb.

But you managed to get through in Inwrocław.
We did! Our advert was published in the local paper, Express Inowrocławski. It’s a weekly with loads of advertisements about selling houses, or buying chickens. And there we were, half-a-page advertisement” six same-sex couples with our slogan, We demand civil partnership law.”

What do people write to you?
The rule of „as you’ve made your bed so you must lie in it” seems to work. Many young gays and lesbians are out in their environments in small towns, people know about them at home, in schools. In Inowrocław a radio station made a small street poll, asking passers-by what they thoughts about civil partnerships. Half of the respondents were positive. They didn’t mind the poster. Negative opinions came from fear of difference – „fags!”, no arguments. It’s the decisionmakers that are afraid – mayors, school headmasters. But in Inowrocław no authority protested. Maybe the political correctness worked?

What will your campaign change?
I guess I’m supposed to say „of course we have to fight, the campaign will change a lot,
etc.”. But, realistically speaking, changes depend on politicians, and this social group is non-reactive, they don’t notice the reality around them. As long as those politicians who should lobby for civil partnership act adopt the ostrich-like policy, nothing will change. I’m afraid the LGBT community will once again be treated instrumentally, because parliamentary election is close. And I wish those political parties that are so vocal about civil partnerships now, returned to the topic after the elections.

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