source: (JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES), found on: http://nytlive.nytimes.com/womenintheworld/2015/12/23/amid-protest-legislation-passed-in-poland-that-severely-threatens-womens-rights/
Polish conservative government is not only imposing unfair laws against women, it is also looking forward to withdraw from international treaties related to women’s rights, such as the Council of Europe’s convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, known as the Istanbul convention. There is also a speculation that the government is looking at introducing a three-year prison sentence for doctors who perform illegal abortions.
It seems that not only the government is opposed to abortion in Poland, in May 2015, a petition has been signed by 3000 doctors against abortion. These doctors defend the “superiority of god’s law”.
It is unsurprising to find that the abortion debate has been introduced on the politicial agenda in ex-communist Poland. It is not actually the outcome of the new government. By looking back at the years of transition from the communist regime to democracy, catholic church had a strong presence and had pictured the abortion as a heritage of “godless communism”. Law and Justice party has always backed up the church position on abortion. The church actually sees that abortion is imposed by western Europe and is against religious beliefs.
Regarding the European Union’s position on the new polish government actions, in January, the European Commission had opened a formal inquiry to determine whether Poland’s new government had violated the democratic norms of the European Union.
Besides the law against the abortion, the Polish government has approved other legal changes that were judged undemocratic by the EU. It had for example approved a legal change that would give it a firmer hold on the nation’s public broadcasting system. Responding at the european inquiery, the polish government said that it would be “very happy” to welcome european official.
If the result of the inquiry reveal that Poland has acted contrary to the EU democratic norms, the EU said that some sanction would be imposed, such as depriving the country from voting rights.
European Union could impose sanction on member states breaching democratic norms, but could it really help in restoring the rights of women? Has it really ever helped women in Poland?
Despite the fact that Poland is the first beneficiary from EU funds, some polish people are not really satisfied about the role that EU plays in Poland.
The long-time feminist and peace activist Malgorzata Tarasiewicz doesn’t see how the EU has helped Polish women. In an interview to the Huffington Post, she said : “The EU has not helped civil society in Poland despite its claims to do so, the EU funding is so tempting because it involves big amounts of money. Sometimes people become too preoccupied with applying for projects, working with the bureaucracy instead of working on a social or political problem.”
It is interesting to know that drastic infrastructural changes have been brought to Poland thanks to the EU funds, but it is still worthy to raise questions about the real role of the EU and its funds in promoting gender equality and civil society in this country.
The Guardian, Protests in Poland as proposed laws curtail women’s rights, December 23, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/dec/23/protests-in-poland-as-proposesd-laws-curtail-womens-rights
Huffington Post, Building the Women’s Movement in Poland, June 10, 2015, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-feffer/building-the-womens-movem_b_7039784.html
Social Watch, Women’s Status in Poland, 2010, http://www.socialwatch.org/node/11595
Newyork Times, New Polish Government Faces EU investigation, January 13, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/14/world/europe/new-polish-government-faces-eu-investigation.html?_r=0