Monday February 15, 2010

“Unprecedented” Threat to Parental Rights in Poland

By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

WARSAW, February 15, 2010 ( – A controversial bill that critics say would significantly infringe on the rights of parents to bring up their children according to their values has passed first reading in the Polish parliament.

Incorporated into the bill, titled “On the Prevention of Family Violence,” which deals with a variety of issues, is a clause that says, “It is forbidden for persons holding parental power over children to implement corporal punishment, cause psychological pain or to humiliate them in any other form.”

According to the Polish Labor and Social Policy Ministry guidelines, psychological violence includes, “making the child ashamed, imposing one’s own opinions on the child, criticizing the child continually, controlling the child, restricting the child’s social contacts,” as well as “criticizing the child’s sexual behavior.”

Furthermore, the bill would give social workers authority to take children from families if someone suspects parents are in contravention of these guidelines or if it is believed there is a danger they may in the future “harm” their children this in way.

Prominent Polish radio personality and pro-lifer Joanna Najfeld is one of the most outspoken figures against the bill in its current form.

“The bill is an unprecedented threat to the family,” she told (LSN).

“It practically abolishes the rights of parents to bring up their children according to the values they hold. It gives the state unprecedented power to take away children from parents, on the basis of one unconfirmed report (e.g. by an ill-intentioned neighbor) or the decision of one state official (e.g. an NGO worker). On top of that, it is a gag law against Catholic and conservative activists – in fear of having their children taken away by the state, we will not risk voicing unpopular views in public.”

She also criticized the bill for not differentiating between families where the parents are married and those that are co-habiting.

“Although most real abuse cases happen in unmarried households, they did not want to call it ‘prevention of domestic violence’,” Najfeld observed. “The title ‘Violence in the family’ negatively stereotypes families. The language of the bill suggests that it is the traditional family that is abusive by definition, has to be watched and controlled by the state.”

“According to the new law, in order to take the child away from his parents, it is enough for one social worker to make such a decision,” Najfeld explained to LSN. “The decision can be based on a single unconfirmed report, for example, from a neighbor. It is only later that the court can uphold or cancel this decision. The child is supposed to wait for the court ruling at a state institution, together with really troubled children.”

“Every Catholic family is potentially abusive, if you define abuse as ‘making the child ashamed, imposing one’s own opinions on the child, criticizing the child continually, controlling the child, limiting the child’s social contacts,’ as well as ‘criticizing the child’s sexual behavior’,” Najfeld said.

“Catholic activists need not say anything – they already qualify as potential abusers and can have their children taken away from them because there is a threat they may ‘abuse’ children by trying to bring them up as Christians.”

The bill was passed by the ruling Civic Platform party members together with the openly leftist part of the opposition, and awaits second reading in the parliament. If it passes through parliament it must still be approved and signed into law by the President.

Contact information:

Polish President Lech Kaczynski

E-mail: [email protected]

Prime Minister Donald Tusk

E-mail: [email protected]

Labor and Social Policy Minister Michal Boni

E-mail: [email protected]

Ombudsman Janusz Kochanowski

E-mail: [email protected]

The Polish Conference of Bishops

E-mail: [email protected]

The Parliamentary Committee for Social Policy and Family

Online form:


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