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We cannot move back to the XIX century.

Source of news: NEWW-Polska
2006-03-07 13:46:09 / News read 3350 reading
It has been three weeks since you have been appointed as under-secretary for women and family matters in the Ministry of Work and Social Politics. Is the name of your office and your competences already known?

Under-secretary Joanna Kluzik-Rostkowska: The tasks of my bureau have just been defined. I am responsible for the department of family benefits and the office ‘inherited’ from Magdalena Środa, which starting from the first of January will be called The Department of Women, Family and the Counteraction of Discrimination. A close cooperation with the European Union will surely be continued. I find it very important to make the most of European funds.

What exactly do you plan on doing while appointed at your office?

I would like to prevent abuse in the family and level out the chances of women and men, and what’s more – which is extremely important to me – I would like to take special care of orphanages. Western countries have coped with this problem long ago. The number of children’s homes is very small in those countries. Instead of them in Poland we should develop foster care. We should immediately secure children with foster care, which is surely cheaper and better for them.

The office of the Plenipotentiary to the Equal Status of Women and Men closely cooperated with non-governmental organizations. Are you going to pursue this cooperation?

Yes, I am an advocate of cooperation with non-governmental organizations. I realize that their situation is often complicated and that they have a problem with barely holding the elementary level. Due to their very important role I would like to help them maintain a higher level.

In that case, do you plan on giving grants (for example in contests) for these organizations?

We will be able to discuss this matter at the beginning of the upcoming year, because right now I have no idea whatsoever about our budget and in what way I will be able to use it. There is a Department for the Public Benefit in the Ministry and it is responsible for contact with NGOs. However, I find it significant to cooperate with NGOs and I know that I can’t do without them.

Which programs initiated by the Plenipotentiary do you plan to continue?

I am currently finishing a program along with Denmark, Bulgaria and Hungary concerning the presence of men in feminist jobs. Another program is being realized with Spain and concerns antidiscrimination training for prosecutors.

What is most important however is the website www.monitoring.rownystatus.gov.pl, which is already in use, but needs to be continued. This site is to monitor the equality of sex and is aimed at being scientific, not ideological. We want to show the situation in Poland by doing research. I strongly believe in contact via internet and that is the reason why I would also like to rebuild the site www.rownystatus.gov.pl.

When I was the plenipotentiary in Warsaw, I also had a website – we had a forum, questionnaires to fill out, people could write emails to me. Thanks to this I had good contact and was aware of the problems in Warsaw – I would like to do the same for the whole country.

Which area will be first-plan for you? Counteracting unemployment, abuse or making the situation of orphans better?

All of this is connected with one another, but most of all I would like to take care of women’s unemployment. Currently there is a problem in Poland, because a woman without children cannot find a job, and her future employer seems to assume that as soon as he hires her, she will take maternity leave.

Later on this woman has a problem with finding a job because she has children. There is still a stereotype (which, in reality, has nothing to do with the truth) that a women who has children will be a worse employee, because she will often have to take care of her sick children. Then there comes a time when a woman is 40 or 50 years old, her children are adults and although she could fully commit her time to work, she cannot find a job because of her age. I’m not saying that thanks to a permanent job all the problems of a woman would disappear, but surely if this woman have a husband who abuses her and their children, she will be able to better cope with the problem if she has a permanent job.

Another important problem is that many women, as research shows, have a problem with the decision to have children (that is, if they want to have children – because I don’t want to make anybody have them) because they are afraid of losing their job or not finding one. One can be more or less pro-family, that is a case of individual choice, but we must realize that the fact that less children are being born will have severe consequences and as a society we should do what we can to increase, not decrease, the birth of children.

Of course I don’t mean that now every woman in the name of patriotism should give birth to five children! However it is the responsibility of the country to make sure that families who want to have children will be encouraged to do so.

In what way would you like to encourage employers to hire women?

I don’t really believe in compulsion and I think that if we put pressure on employers by law then we will have an opposite effect than we assumed – they will be even more afraid of women. I would like to find out by research in what ways we could better encourage employers.

The experience of western countries shows that where there is a certainty of work, women decide to have children more eagerly. There must be a whole system of help, because for example in western countries jobs via internet and part-time jobs are very popular. However that may happen only if unemployment is much lower than right now in Poland, because in those areas in the country where unemployment is as high as 30% it is impossible to make an employer hire a woman for part-time, considering the fact that she may get pregnant, when there are 15 men ready to work full-time.

What’s more, we should make child care possible. For example in Portugal there are at least 20 different ways of taking care of preschool aged children. In Poland we have only one – kindergarten.

The office of the Plenipotentiary had its local representatives in provinces. Do you want to continue this policy?

I’d like to have such representatives in boroughs. A person who lives in a city such as Gdańsk knows the problems of that city much better than I do and therefore can help more effectively. My office should give such a person the tools he or she needs. I’m not sure however if I will have a budget for all this. I will have to fight for it with Minister Dorn , who is the Minister of Public Administration.

Will you also counteract discrimination of other sorts than sexism? For example discrimination against age, ethnic minorities and sexual minorities?

Yes, counteracting discrimination will be my responsibility.

Do you intend to cooperate with homosexual organizations which help the victims of discrimination?

First of all I would like to know that exact scale of the discrimination of sexual minorities. I recently asked the office of the Plenipotentiary to give me details – how many people reported any problems and what these problems concerned. It turns out that information on this matter is very small, even though the office is the perfect place for these reports.

When there was a Gay Parade in Warsaw, I said that in fact Warsaw is probably the least homophobic city, because there are many clubs here. I also publicly declared that I will help anybody who reports having been a victim of homophobia and nobody came. I believe that this problem most likely concerns mainly small towns and villages.

Maybe people who have been touched with homophobia refuse to seek help because of their fear of further discrimination?

I would like to examine the real level of discrimination. The equality of all citizens and the prohibition of discrimination is stated in our Constitution, so surely there are reasons to do something, but first lets define the situation.

Reports on discrimination have been made by Lambda Warszawa and Kampania Przeciw Homofobii.

I have read these reports and they clearly state that most homosexual people do not feel discriminated. I don’t believe that discrimination does not exist and if anybody feels touched by it, then I respect that. However too much attention is being paid to this problem, compared to for example abuse in the family. The difference is that victims of family abuse do not organize parades. That is the rule of democracy – he, who shouts louder, is heard.

If you asked me if I am an advocate of gay parades, I would say no, because in my opinion these parades only involve both sides of the conflict and cannot help a person discriminated in a small town.

Are you a feminist?

If you asked me whether men and women are treated equally, of course I would say no, and facts make this quite clear. Women are better educated, and yet receive smaller pay. What differs me from feminists is that I am not an advocate of abortion for request. I am of this opinion not because I am a conservative, but because of my experiences. When I was about 19 or 20 years old, abortion was legal and many of my friends had an abortion in fear of telling their parents about their pregnancy. Later they went through a lot of pain.

On the other hand, I know some women who despite of these same reasons contemplated abortion, yet decided to give birth and their children are adolescents right now. What’s more, today telling parents about one’s pregnancy is not such a problem anymore. That is why I believe that abortion for request may bring a lot of pain.

But the current act does not fulfill its function. It is being used to limit women’s access to prenatal tests.

I don’t have the qualifications to change this, it lies in the competence of the Ministry of Health, but if you ask me, I think that many people do not really know what prenatal tests really are. Moreover, many people seem to think that if a women finds out that her child is severely ill, she will have an abortion even if she is in her seventh month, which is a complete nonsense.

A prenatal test is every test that checks the health state of the fetus, so blood tests and USGs are also prenatal tests, not just tests of the amniotic fluid. A women in the third month of pregnancy may find out that her child doesn’t have one arm, that his head isn’t growing fast enough or that he has an injured heart. During every stage of pregnancy a woman can find out that her child is ill. I am not enthusiastic about tests of the amniotic fluid, because they risk miscarriage. Such a decision should be consulted with a doctor, because these tests may cause harm. However it is hard to imagine today that a woman who cares for her child doesn’t undergo tests.

Thanks to discovering errors in the fetus a child’s life can be saved. It is now possible to undergo therapeutic treatments before a child is born.

To refuse letting a woman go through prenatal tests in fear of her wanting to have an abortion is as if we didn’t allow people to find out that they have cancer because they might commit suicide. We cannot move back to the XIX century and pretend that when it comes to pregnancy, medicine does not exist.

Thank you very much for the interview.

By Artur Czerwiński, NEWW-Polska
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Tytuł informacji: We cannot move back to the XIX century.
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