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Interview with Polish Vice Prime Minister

2005-11-16 20:37:24 / News read 2684 reading
"No matter what happens during these elections, I will surely not give up on my values, my understanding of human rights, women's rights and the rights of homosexual people. No matter where I will be working, you can count on me. I would also like to say that all of what I have done so far is of great thanks to your courage and activity. I would like to kindly thank you for being so courageous and active" says Izabela Jaruga - Nowacka - Polish Vice Prime Minister.

Artur Czerwiński,NEWW: What do you think of the activity of our Sejm in the passing term, during which the majority of the Parliament was represented by the left?

I.Jaruga-Nowacka: I find it sad that the left, which gained a great amount of votes, did not keep most of it's promises. What's more, I believe that the opposition was one of the worst that has ever been in the Parliament. They did nothing constructive, only continued to say "no" to everything without giving any arguments. They had no ideas of their own and would only block our bills without reason.
I do, however, bear a grudge against my friends from the left. How can one not understand that our fundumental value is the welfare of every human? We cannot allow discrimination, hypocrisy, xenophobia.
We in Poland (as I write in my 'Alphabet') have just celebrated the tenth aniversary of 'a lack of a good moment' to pass a bill concerning the equal rights of men and women, which could truly regulate, moniture and help to develop the equality so beautifuly stated in our constitution.

AC,NEWW: Does this mean that the left does allow discrimination, xenophobia and the disrespect of human rights?

Jaruga-Nowacka: There is a huge problem in this matter, because many left-winged people are not ready to fight for human rights. I had a friend in UP, who was convinced that there was no form of discrimination of homosexual people in his province - which shows his great lack of knowledge and contact with citizens, or, what's even worse - hypocrisy.
However during the past four years, also thanks to my creating a special bureau which counteracted discrimination of, for example, homosexual people, a lot of good things have been done, for example the action 'Let them see us.' This was the second time during my 15-year political career that I received numerous hate letters aimed at this action and at myself.
Two years later the prohibition of the Equality Parade, announced by the president Lech Kaczyński ended in a big victory of the people who respect democracy and human rights. The people who protested against this prohibition was not a small group, as it often happens during even very important events (such as the idea of paying for university). Three thousand people walked down the streets of Warsaw and proved that today there is no place for censorship and the lack of freedom of speech and demonstrations.
Therefore I think that although we have a long way to go before we achieve full tolerance, during the passed four years a lot has been achieved to change our society's way of thinking, which means that it will be easier for us to defend the rights of homosexuals.

AC,NEWW: Do you believe that these thousands of people who took part in the Equality Parade will be willing to once again trust in the left and vote for them in the upcoming elections?

Jaruga-Nowacka: Many left-winged people, including myself, have decided to try to be in Parliament with hope that the left will become more conscious and consistent in their declarations as well as for the reason that more and more people see the danger that PiS and PO bring. When I listen to what the probable future prime minister, Jan Maria Władysław Rokita, says about homosexuals and the Equality Parade and I see the behaviour and reactions of Lech Kaczyński - a president candidate, I think that we have a lot to be afraid of. There are some tough years ahead of us. Unfortunately, I believe that the defendence of homosexual rights will be very hard during the ruling of PiS and PO.

AC,NEWW: Many women's and gay organisations are proud of your activity in the bureau aimed at preventing discrimination. Magdalena Sroda is now in office at the bureau. What do you think of her work?

Jaruga-Nowaka: I have known Magdalena Sroda for many years now and I hope that her activity will be positively judged by women's and homosexual organisations.I would clearly like to state that this office was created in Poland thanks to NGO's and that is the reason for which 1/3 of the budget will go to them. I believe that these organisations truly know how to use the money in a good way and are able to help create a democratic and tolerant society. I hope that thanks to this office NGO's will feel safer and more confident.

AC,NEWW: For many years you were commited to the women's movement in Poland, you co-created it as the president of The League of Polish Women. While working in the office against discrimination you had a chance to see the women's movement and their problems from a new perspective. What do you make of the women's movement in Poland and it's impact on our society and politics?

Jaruga-Nowacka: Poland will never become a truly democratic country if people do not engage in social activity. I'm pleased to say that in the last 15 years the women's movement has very much developed. As you probably know, at first it existed only in the academic surroundings, while today it has a more massive scale. If I were to look at these 15 years, I would surely say 'We've done it!' Most definately today in Poland we have a strong women's movement which is making a difference in our society.

AC,NEWW: Do you see any threat for this movement? Have there been any mistakes that we should look out for in the future?

Jaruga-Nowacka: There are very many mistakes. We have no act concerning the equal treatment of both men and women. I remember my meeting with Zosia Kuratowska 12 years ago, when we tried to write a project on this act (using the norwegian model), which could even out the rights of men and women. We have not been able to achieve this to this day.
You asked about threats. I am a politic who is highly concerned about these issues and that is why I see a true threat on PO's and PiS' side. Right-wing parties do not want to help women's organisations in the aim to even out the rights of men and women. Instead, they try to promote the traditional model of a family, and what that means we know quite well, when reminded of the ruling of AWS.
Right now in the medias there is the case of a 14-month old girl killed by her mother's partner. The baby was crying, the partner got angry and beat the child.
Now I hear politicians terrified by this story - the same politicians, who disagreed to have an act which would forbid the beating of children. These same politicians who now moarn over the death of this baby girl used to say that in order for a child to be properly raised to be an honest person, it must be beaten. I can't help but look at them with surprise and outrage.

AC,NEWW: How do you see your role as the opposition in the Parliament?

Jaruga-Nowacka: I believe that each one of us has the right to dignity, love, respect, developement and the right to choose our own way of life. That is one of the reasons for which I decided to work in politics and I will fight for the realization of these fundumental values in the Sejm.
One thing that really worries me is that if the right will have the majority, which will enable them to change the constitution, the rights of women and homosexuals as well as all human rights may be threatened in Poland.
I feel this danger very strongly and am determined to prevent such threatening right-wing ideas in the Sejm.

AC,NEWW: You are a candidate of the SLD list in the Gdynia-Słupsk district. How many women are there on this list?

Jaruga-Nowacka: I would have to check, but three at the least. Unfortunately, there are still not enough women and probably no more than 20% will go into Parliament.This worries me for many reasons. First of all, if we are to say that the Parliament should resemble our society, then it is obvious that over 50% of our society are women. They have never had a suitable resemblement. I'm glad that also the right-winged women enter into the Parliament. However it is sad that they don't understand that in the past women had no political rights and today when we talk about the rights of women they tell us to go home and take care of children, while they continue their careers in politics. This is not only a huge lack of knowledge, but also a lack of respect for those women, who used to fight for our rights. For the right-winged members of Parliament to have a voice today those women contributed their health, were often laughted at and devoid of money and sometimes even lost their lives.
That was my first observation. Secondly, if there will not be enough women in Parliament there will be no possibility to uptake certain subjects that women often bring into the political debate. Men never talk about the need to increase the number of preschools or about abuse in the family. The consider these things as 'private' matters; that they do not need to be taken care of. Women have brought into the political debates issues considered as politicaly incorrect.
The third argument is that women have a cultural identity that men do not see. In political debates women often give arguments needed to make the right decisions. When there are no women, half the arguments are forgotten, therefore decisions made only by men are flawed.

AC,NEWW: You come from the north of Poland, the Tricity, but for the last years you have mainly been in Warsaw or traveling between Warsaw and the Tricity. What place do you consider home?

Jaruga-Nowacka: I was born here - in Gdańsk. Even my grandfather has a street named after him here - Czyżewskiego - in recognition of his fight for the polish culture. My father-in-law has an auditorium in the Gdańsk Technical College named after him. This is my home - mine and my husband's.

AC,NEWW: Thank you very much for the conversation.

Jaruga-Nowacka: Thank you, too. To sum up I would like to say that no matter what happens during these elections, I will surely not give up on my values, my understanding of human rights, women's rights and the rights of homosexual people. No matter where I will be working, you can count on me. I would also like to say that all of what I have done so far is of great thanks to your courage and activity. I would like to kindly thank you for being so courageous and active.

Gdansk, September 21, 2005
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