Thousands of Polish activists united and marched the streets of Warsaw to fight against LGBTQ+ discrimination. 

The Equality Parade, which took place on Saturday (19 June), was filled with marchers, rainbow flags and was led by the city’s mayor Rafal Trzaskowski. 

Due to the ongoing pandemic, the inclusive parade was postponed in 2020 but came back just in time for the 20th anniversary of the city’s first Pride event. 

Rafal Wojtczak, a spokesperson for the event, talked about his feelings surrounding the march in a statement. 

“The day of the parade is always a bittersweet moment for our community,” he said. Wojtczak then went on to explain that the sadness and helplessness the LGBTQ+ people feel by the anti-LGBTQ+ legislation from the government. 

Polish director and LGBTQ+ rights activist, Bart Staszewski, echoed the same sentiment saying that homophobia is on the rise due to the homophobic views of the government. 

“It has a chilling effect on the people living there, who are now even more scared to come out,” he said. “Those who bully LGBTQ+ people are emboldened by homophobic politicians.”

In recent years, the Polish government has targeted sexual minorities and supported organisations that spread homophobia.

The infamous “LGBT-free” zones came to fruition after the country’s ruling Law and Justice Party inspired several towns in Poland to be free from “LGBT ideology” – putting vulnerable LGBTQ+ citizens at risk of discrimination, prejudice and violence.

Ola Kaczorek, co-president of the LGBTQ+ rights group Love Does Not Exclude, spoke to Euro News and revealed that many of people within the LGBTQ+ community are fearful of what the future may hold. 

“On the one hand we are united and we stand in solidarity with each other, and we get much joy and happiness in knowing we are strong,” they said. “Yet we are afraid of what could happen next.” 

The Equality March comes days after Hungary passed legislation banning “content promoting gender change or homosexuality” within the school curriculum. 

The legislation was passed by 157 votes to just one in the National Assembly, despite leading human rights officials and activists in Europe criticising the bill as “an affront against the rights and identities of LGBTI persons”. 

The ruling national-conservative Fidesz party were joined by the right-wing Jobbik party in overwhelmingly voting in favour of the new measure, while an independent lawmaker voted against it.

Hungary’s legislation has been compared to the likes of Russia’s “gay propaganda” law, which was passed in 2013, that bans disseminating “propaganda on non-traditional sexual relations” among Russians.

Related: Hungary passes archaic law banning LGBTQ+ content in schools.