By Rachel Savage
LONDON, Feb 10 (Openly) - Poland's "LGBT-free zones" - nearly 100 regions, towns and cities that have passed anti-gay resolutions - could encourage hate crime and spur violence, according to a European human rights body.
The European Union has also criticised the zones, which began appearing in 2019 when Poland's nationalist government started campaigning against the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
"These resolutions are part of a broader attack against the LGBT community in Poland, which include growing hate speech by public and elected officials and public media," the report said.
The 94 local authorities have all passed resolutions opposing "LGBT ideology" - something Poland says has no legal ramifications - or have signed a "family charter", which activists says only supports heterosexual, married couples.
Advocates say the "LGBT-free zones" have bred violence, including attacks on two Pride marches in 2019, and contributed to poor mental health among young, LGBT+ Poles.
On Wednesday, a local-government body representing 820 million Europeans in 47 countries added its critique in a report for the Council of Europe, the continent's main human rights body.
"By naming people as an ideology, they dehumanise them," said Andrew Boff, who co-wrote the report for the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities.
"This then gives rise to violence and discrimination against that community ... What other reason is there for these resolutions?" he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.
Polish officials did not respond to requests for comment.
International pressure is growing on Poland's nationalist government, with regions that oppose "LGBT ideology" labelled "humanity-free zones" by EU president Ursula von der Leyen.
Reported hate crimes against LGBT+ people more than doubled to 150 in 2019, according to official data cited in the report. Only 16% of Polish LGBT+ people reported the latest homophobic attack they had suffered to police, a 2020 EU survey found.
Poland says the local resolutions have no legal standing.
"(They) are only opinions and do not affect rights and obligations of the residents," Poland's minister of funds and regional policy, Malgorzata Jarosinska-Jedynak, said in an October letter to Norwegian officials.
Some countries and international organisations have suspended funding for the conservative southern and eastern Polish regions that passed the resolutions.
Norway has suspended 3.5 million euros ($4.2 million) of funding for two cultural projects. In July, the EU rejected six applications for town-twinning grants of up to 25,000 euros from such authorities.
($1 = 0.8246 euros) (Reporting by Rachel Savage @rachelmsavage; Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. 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 http://news.trust.org)
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