Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Teletubbies as ‘threat’ to nation

Europe = Tolerance?

Polish authorities completely lost it. Now they are fighting against… cartoon character!

A senior Polish official has ordered psychologists to investigate whether the popular BBC TV show Teletubbies promotes a homosexual lifestyle (BBC).

The spokesperson for children's rights in Poland, Ewa Sowinska, singled out Tinky Winky, the purple character with a triangular aerial on his head (picture by BBC).

Reuters quoted her as saying: "I noticed (Tinky Winky) has a lady's purse, but I didn't realise he's a boy... Later I learned that this may have a homosexual undertone." Ms Sowinska wants the psychologists to make a recommendation about whether the children's show should be broadcast on public television.

However, in an apparent attempt to distance government from this ridiculous situation, the Polish Parliamentary Speaker Ludwig Dorn said he had warned Sowinska against making any comments which would "turn her department into a laughing stock" (PinkNews). And many people in Poland agreed with him. In fact, as BBC reported, she already turned herself into a “laughing stock”: one Polish radio station asked its listeners to vote for the most suspicious children's show. Some e-mailed in, saying that Winnie the Pooh had only male friends. :)

Tinky Winky from Teletubbies was once attacked by American ultra-conservatives suspecting the character in being gay and prompting worldwide debate over his sexuality. US preacher Jerry Falwell claimed that Tinky Winky must be gay because he is “wearing woman’s handbag”, “he is purple and has a triangle on his head; both of which are symbols of gay pride” (PinkNews).

A month ago, the European Parliament has called on Poland to stop public leaders inciting discrimination against homosexuals (BBC). The resolution followed a statement by a deputy education minister that Poland was drafting a law to punish teachers who "promoted" homosexuality. MEPs repeated an appeal to EU anti-racism experts to look into "the emerging climate of racist, xenophobic and homophobic intolerance in Poland".

Human rights organisations said it would prevent lessons promoting tolerance towards homosexuals, and the dissemination of lifesaving information about Aids.

"It was not just any person who made this dreadful statement, it was a member of the government, helping to contribute to a climate in which hatred is regarded as normal," said Dutch MEP Sophia in't Veld, who was at Moscow pride last Saturday supporting Russia’s gay rights activists.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) made its warning in an open letter to Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski. It said the bill "would create a climate of intolerance" in schools.

All persons, including children, have a right to free speech, freedom from discrimination, and to seek, receive and impart information
Human Rights Watch

Recently, more than 10,000 teachers marched in the capital, Warsaw, protesting against the government's education policy and demanding pay rises (BBC). The demonstrators demanded the dismissal of Education Minister Roman Giertych, accusing him of ignoring teachers' groups and increasing intolerance.

As always, instead of solving real problems faced by society, politicians used one of their now increasingly favourite methods - inciting homophobia to turn the attention from real problems into the aspects of ‘moral values’.

Along with Poland, recent incidences of extreme intolerance towards gay people in Baltic states, especially Latvia and Lithuania (all EU members!) have proved that something got wrong with the EU values. They joined the club (EU) but did they take the values?

EU should apply stricter rules on new member states; acceptance should be conditional on protection of human rights. Full membership should be granted after ensuring that new member states are ready and devoted, institutionally, to protect human rights which include rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Instead, they were motivated by political reasons to enter Poland and Baltic states into the EU as quickly as possible, without enough work to ensure that human rights values shared are the same. I hope EU will acknowledge its mistakes and will act differently in case of any other potential member states, including those involved in European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), which includes Armenia too, to make sure that closer cooperation with Europe or prospects of membership are linked to human rights records without any exclusions.

There is need for EU-wide anti-discrimination policy, compulsory for member-states and those involved in ENP, which along other forms of anti-discrimination measures, will include protection of gay rights. I wanted to say “we need UN-wide policy”, but at this stage, unfortunately, UN is a weak institution, with some of its notorious member states being a part of its Human Rights Commission, almost useless in dealing with human rights abuses.

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