Today the Polish Parliament deliberates a bill that will endanger young people in Poland, threatening their emotional, physical and social wellbeing by censoring information on sexual and reproductive health and prevention of sexual violence. It is no surprise that the author of this morally bankrupt initiative is the fundamentalist organisation Ordo Iuris, as it will particularly hurt and harm young women and girls, consistently their target of attack.
The promoters of this medieval bill want to censor and punish those who care for children’s health and women’s safety. They would see 3-year prison sentences imposed on anyone who works to protect young people through educating them about healthy relationships, intimate life and prevention of violence.
This is an utterly irresponsible proposal in a digital era where it is not possible to control what information young people see and how they interpret it. Children as young as nine are getting their first information on intimate relations from internet pornography. Violence against women and girls is endemic all over the world; in Poland 4.5 million women experience psychological violence at the hands of their current partners or husbands; and 2 million women experience physical or sexual violence.
Parents everywhere want to protect their children as they grow into adulthood and ensure they have happy and healthy lives. In this they urgently need to be supported by the wider community, including schools. Various studies demonstrate that education addressing equality between men and women and focusing on consent can reduce intimate partner violence.
Yet, just when such support is most needed, this bill seeks to rip the rug from under the feet of Polish parents and enable the state to abdicate its responsibility to protect the health and safety of its citizens, particularly women and young people. The intention of the bill closely mirrors a Russian law from 2012 that has forbidden all information on sexuality education, making it impossible for teachers to help reduce teenage pregnancies and rates of HIV. This would be a tragic example for Poland to follow.
Irene Donadio, Senior Lead for Partnerships and Strategy at IPPF European Network, said:
“The ideologically driven progenitors of this punitive bill clearly don’t care at all about the real challenges that parents, children and society face. The times we live in are full of new dangers, and governments should be protecting and supporting young people to develop the skills needed for healthy intimacy throughout their lives, helping to stop an epidemic of violence directed at women. It sends a shiver down my spine that there are people trying instead to drive girls and boys back into a world of ignorance and fear.
It is also revealing that an initiative ostensibly intended to prevent paedophilia does not propose any measure that would tackle violence such as that perpetrated by the Catholic Church in Poland’s biggest child sexual abuse scandal.
IPPF EN urges the Polish Parliament to stand up for children’s health and wellbeing instead of ripping away essential protections."
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