Religion, Politics and Gender Equality in Poland

The prestige and the influence of the Polish Church is closely linked to the role it played historically when Poland was occupied by foreign countries throughout the 19th century. It then appeared as the only centre of stability and resistance against the invaders, giving force to the equation: ‘Polish = Catholic’. Even if religion plays a more limited role today in the everyday life of Polish people, religious arguments remain strong, particularly on reproductive and sexual rights which take a central place in the public debate on moral values. This explains in part why women's groups, submitted to the pressure of public debate, have focused much of their energy on reproductive rights for the past two decades and why their criticism of persistent forms of gender discrimination has been less audible within society.

Given the centrality of reproductive rights in the battle waged by the Church to assert its authority on Polish society over the past two decades, the authors Jacqueline Heinen and Stephane Portet have chosen to broadly focus their analysis on this question, which is at the same time also central to women’s autonomy. They provide also a more detailed analysis of the debates on reproductive rights and abortion, and the positions taken by various political actors.

The paper is based on document analysis embracing diverse aspects of the issue and has been completed by interviews conducted in January 2008 with a diverse set of actors, including deputies, journalists, and feminist activists and scholars.

The report can be downloaded here (pdf, 39 pages, 460 KB).