By Rachel Savage
LONDON, April 16 (Openly) - Poland's parliament voted on Thursday not to kill a law that compares gay people to paedophiles and which critics fear would lead to a ban on sex education.
Protestors skirting the coronavirus lockdown in cars or supermarket queues had demanded the ruling party reject the citizens' initiative, along with another proposal to tighten abortion laws, but both were sent to parliamentary commissions.
Activists criticised the Law and Justice Party (PiS) for voting on "Stop Paedophilia" bill at a time when mass gatherings are banned to limit the spread of the new coronavirus.
The nationalist, right-wing PiS, which has been fighting corruption allegations and waning popularity since coming to power in 2015, targeted LGBT+ rights as a dangerous foreign idea in national elections last year.
"I'm afraid (it was) a very cynical move by the members of parliament," Draginja Nadazdin, director of Amnesty International Poland, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone on Thursday.
"Instead of listening to tens of thousands of people who defied (the) COVID lockdown, participated in protests both online and offline, they decided to continue working on it."
Poland's Government Information Centre did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Other advocates saw the move to send the bill to a parliamentary commission as a positive sign.
"It's a tradition for bills that the government don't want to pass, but still won't outright vote 'no' for, so as not to enrage some lobby groups," said Ola Kaczorek, the co-president of the Love Does Not Exclude Association, an LGBT+ group.
"We can relax for the time being, then."
The authors of the "Stop Paedophilia" bill, which would jail people who promote underage sex for up to three years, said sex educators were often people who "groom and familiarise children with homosexuality".
"The organisations and activists most involved in the promotion of sexual 'education' in our country are the LGBT lobby," the backers of the bill said in a document submitted to parliament with the proposed law.
"Our biggest fear, of course, is that even discussion around these bills is really damaging for young people," said Nadazdin.
"Sexual education is crucial in informing young people about their bodies and the importance of things such as health and the right to health, healthy relationships, consent, contraception."
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(Reporting by Rachel Savage @rachelmsavage; Editing by Hugo Greenhalgh and 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 http://news.trust.org)
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