(Bloomberg) -- Teaching a teenager the benefits of condoms or letting them know it’s okay to be gay might soon land you behind bars in Poland.
In their first move since winning a second term in Sunday’s election, lawmakers from the nationalist Law & Justice party backed the draft law to establish jail terms for promoting “sexual activity” to minors. The legislation will go to a parliamentary committee for further work.
While critics say the law would put teachers at risk, backers insist it’s needed to counter the LGBTQ community’s attempts to promote sex education and sow “depravity and demoralization” among young people.
Rights groups and youth activists protested in Warsaw and other cities to oppose the legislation. The bill follows Law & Justice’s election campaign, in which it vowed to defend Poland from “foreign ideologies,” including gay rights and gender education, and to return the country to its traditional Catholic roots.
“Welcome to the Middle Ages,” said Marcin Zaborowski, a senior associate at the Visegrad Insight think tank. “The party that just won the elections is now supporting a bill introducing five-year jail terms for sex education at schools.”
Repeatedly sued by the European Union for undermining democracy during its first term in power, Law & Justice tried to tighten what is already one of the bloc’s most restrictive abortion laws. Nationwide protests forced the party to abandon, or at least postpone, such plans.
The draft law drew condemnation from Amnesty International.
“In Poland, where access to abortion is only legal in limited circumstances, the importance of sexuality education is even more vital,” said Draginja Nadazdin, the group’s director for Poland. “This bill, which equates homosexuality with pedophilia, exposes the disturbing homophobia that underpins this law.”
Poland’s Supreme Court said in an opinion that implementing the new bill -- which was proposed by Catholic activists -- would force teachers to either reject the existing curriculum regarding sexual education or face arrests and potential jail for doing their job.
(Updates with lawmakers’ vote and comment from rights group from second paragraph.)
--With assistance from Maciej Martewicz.
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