Poland: Case against women who stuck up Virgin Mary rainbow halo posters must be quashed

Ahead of the appeal, due to begin tomorrow, against the decision to acquit three women charged with ‘offending religious beliefs’ for having and distributing posters depicting the Virgin Mary with an LGBTI rainbow halo, Catrinel Motoc, Senior Campaigner in Amnesty International’s Europe Regional Office said:

“What is outrageous in this case is not the image of a rainbow but the fact that these women activists are back in the dock. What is shocking in this case is not the women’s promotion or protection of LGBTI rights but the fact that they face up to two years in jail for peaceful activism.”

“Instead of dragging these activists back through court, the Polish authorities should be promoting and protecting the rights of LGBTI people who face an increasingly repressive climate of state sponsored homophobia. This appeal smacks of harassment and intimidation and the case should be dropped.”

BACKGROUND

In March 2021, Elżbieta, Anna and Joanna were acquitted of ‘offending religious beliefs’ under article 196 of the Criminal Code (C.C.) in relation to the use of posters depicting the Virgin Mary with a rainbow halo symbolic of the LGBTI flag around her head and shoulders. The charge has a possible sentence of up to two years imprisonment.

They were acquitted by the first instance court, but the prosecutor’s appeal brought them to court again, with the hearing scheduled on 10 November 2021.

Article 196 provides overly broad scope for the authorities to prosecute and criminalize individuals, in violation of their right to freedom of expression. As such, it is incompatible with Poland’s international and regional human rights obligations.
In November 2020, Amnesty International, Campaign Against Homophobia, Freemuse, Front Line Defenders, Human Rights Watch and ILGA-Europe sent a Joint Public Statement urging the Prosecutor General to drop the charges and ensure that the three women are allowed to carry out their human rights work without harassment and reprisals.

The authorities arrested and detained Elżbieta in 2019 after she took a trip abroad with an Amnesty International campaign. The authorities opened an initial investigation against her in May 2019 and in July 2020, they officially charged the three activists. The Polish authorities alleged that the three activists pasted the posters on 29 April 2019 in public places in the city of Plock and have ‘publicly insulted an object of religious worship in the form of this image which offended the religious feelings of others’.

More than around 220.000 people have joined Amnesty International’s campaign urging the Polish Prosecutor General to drop the unfounded charges against the three women human rights activists.

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For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Stefan Simanowitz at [email protected] or +44 20 7413 5566


Or contact Sarian Jarosz, Amnesty Poland, +48 605 975 100