Human rights in Poland
Human rights in Poland are guaranteed by the second chapter of the Constitution. Poland is a party to all important international agreements relevant to human rights, including the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Helsinki Accords, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Elements of what is called now human rights may be found in early times of the Polish state. The Statute of Kalisz, the General Charter of Jewish Liberties (issued in 1264) introduced numerous right for the Jews in Poland, leading to an autonomous "nation within a nation". The Warsaw Confederation of 1573 confirmed the religious freedom of all residents of Poland, which was extremely important for the stability of the multi-ethnic Polish society of the time. Gathered at Warsaw, all nobles signed a document in which representatives of all major religions pledged mutual support and tolerance. The following eight or nine decades of material prosperity and relative security witnessed the appearance of "a virtual galaxy of sparkling intellectual figures."
In recent history, human rights have vastly improved only after the fall of communism in 1989 and the replacement of the old repressive norms of the pro-Soviet communist regime with the modern, democratic government guaranteeing first class civil and political rights, confirmed by the Freedom House.
Poland has ratified the International Criminal Court agreement. Corporal punishment is entirely prohibited since 2010. Death Penalty is abolished for all crimes as noted by Amnesty International. Modern Poland is a country with a high level of freedom of expression, guaranteed by the article 25 (section I. The Republic) of the Constitution of Poland which reads:
Public authorities in the Republic of Poland shall be impartial in matters of personal conviction, whether religious or philosophical, or in relation to outlooks on life, and shall ensure their freedom of expression within public life.
The article Article 54 (section II. The Freedoms, Rights and Obligations of Persons and Citizens) states:
1. The freedom to express opinions, to acquire and to disseminate information shall be ensured to everyone.
2. Preventive censorship of the means of social communication and the licensing of the press shall be prohibited.
The status of women
The state of women's rights in Poland is moderately good. Feminism in Poland started in 1800s in the age of foreign Partitions marked by the gross abuse of power especially by the Russians, which impacted the rights of women as well. However, prior to the last Partition in 1795, tax-paying females were allowed to take part in political life. Poland's precursor of feminism under Partitions, Narcyza Żmichowska who founded a group of Suffragettes in 1842, was jailed by the Russians for three years. Since 1918, following the return to independence, all women could vote. Poland was the 15th (12th sovereign) country to introduce universal women's suffrage. Nevertheless, there is a number of issues concerning women in modern-day Poland such as the abortion rights (formally allowed only in special circumstances) and the "glass ceiling".
Domestic Violence, according to 2011 report by TheNews.pl website run by the Polish Radio, is perceived by one in five respondents as a problem. Thirty eight percent of Poles know at least one family where physical violence occurs, and seven percent claimed to know of at least one family where sexual violence took place, according to a survey carried out in November by research centre SMG KRC on behalf of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy. The survey revealed that 27 percent of respondents were reluctant to act against apparent abusers for fear that the violence might be transferred onto themselves, while 17 percent felt that raising the matter would exacerbate the problem for the initial victim. One in four of those surveyed felt that there is no obligation on neighbours or acquaintances to act when domestic violence is brought to their notice, believing that it is difficult to judge which party is in the right. Forty three percent of those surveyed declared that interventions in family matters is only permissible when someone asks for help and 14 percent of third parties said there was no point in reporting such as case, as the victim would inevitably withdraw from legal action regardless. Some 13 percent said that such abuse is a private family matter. At the same time, 16 percent said that there are situations when violence is justified in the home. Some 26 percent of Poles claim that they have been victims of physical violence.
Rape is illegal and punishable by up to 12 years in prison (including spousal rape). Sexual harassment is under-reported due to societal views. In January 2014, a reform was introduced to both simplify the procedure as well as make it a criminal offence pursued by the state, rather than a private act of accusal. An abortion is very difficult to obtain in Poland by official means.
Poland country signed the UN LGBT rights Declaration, but same-sex unions are not recognized in Poland. However, Poland is not on the list of countries with state-sponsored homophobia, and homosexuality in Poland was never criminalised under Polish jurisdiction. Homosexuality was confirmed legal in 1932, and Poland also recognises gender change and requires no sterilisation of its transgender citizens. Anna Grodzka became an MP in the 2011 Polish parliamentary elections, and currently is the only transgender MP in the world.
A 2010 report by United States Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor noted that "Poland's government generally respects the human rights of its citizens"; it did however note problems, mainly police misconduct, lengthy pretrial detention, laws that restricted free speech (although rarely enforced), corruption in the government and society.
Opinions of NGOs
According to the 2014 "Political Terror Scale" report generated by Mark Gibney of the University of North Carolina at Asheville, Poland was ranked among countries with the highest levels of human rights.
Freedom House Research Institute has classified Poland as a country of first class political and civil rights. According to the Global Peace Index, Poland is the 23rd most peaceful country in the world.
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