Arts leaders urge Europe to act on Polish LGBT+ rights

LONDON, Aug 18 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Leading arts figures including director Pedro Almodovar and writer Margaret Atwood have called on Europe to intervene on behalf of LGBT+ people in Poland, saying their rights are being “blatantly violated”.

More than 70 top arts figures signed the open letter to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, organised by Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk, winner of the 2018 Nobel literature prize.

“LGBT+ rights are human rights and must be defended as such,” said the signatories of the letter, sent after 100 Polish municipalities signed declarations saying they are free of “LGBT ideology”, fuelling concern in Brussels.

Critics have accused Poland’s Law and Justice (PiS) government of backtracking on LGBT+ rights and running a campaign laced with homophobic rhetoric in the run-up to last month’s presidential election.

The Polish government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“It appears that Poland is targeting certain communities, including the LGBT community,” Philippe Sands, professor of law at University College London and one of the signatories of the letter, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone on Tuesday.

“The (Commission) at some point is going to have to... ask itself at what point has Poland crossed a line that requires the European Union to take advantage of what is available to it, namely the suspension of certain rights of Poland,” Sands said.

The European Union has said it will withhold funding to towns accused of setting up so-called LGBT-free zones.

A Commission spokeswoman said von der Leyen had said at the end of July that the organisation’s treaties ensured “that every person is Europe is free to be who they are, live where they like and love who they want”.

"When I see such a letter, I think it is important, as it shows we are not alone in this battle and struggle in Poland," said Bartosz Staszewski, a board member of the Lublin Pride Association. (Reporting by Hugo Greenhalgh @hugo_greenhalgh; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit