BLOG: An Institute for Family and Demography could possess legal authority to intervene directly into divorce and child custody proceedings of individual families.
Blogpost by Neil Datta, Secretary of the European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights and research partner at the Centre for Research on Discretion and Paternalism, University of Bergen.
Gilead, Margaret Atwood’s authoritarian dystopia in The Handmaid’s Tale where women’s role is reduced to forced procreation, has served as powerful symbol for progressive groups around the world in denouncing the erosion of human rights, specifically women’s rights. And Poland has perhaps more than any other country edged closer towards achieving a real-life Gilead in recent years.
«European Parliament and other human rights bodies have unambiguously condemned the descent towards authoritarianism»Neil Datta
The pseudo-judicial ruling of 2020 instituting a near complete ban on abortion has already led to the death of a woman, while the infamous “LGBT-Free Zones”, a Polish adaptation of Atwood’s ‘Gender Traitors’, provide near impunity for society’s darkest homophobic demons. Recognizing the gross human rights violation these represent, the European Parliament and other human rights bodies have unambiguously condemned the descent towards authoritarianism which both measures represent.
“Poland has perhaps more than any other country edged closer towards achieving a real-life Gilead in recent years.”Neil Datta
However, the abortion ban and LGBT-Free Zones are but two of the very visible regressive measures adopted in PiS-ruled Poland as a plethora of less spectacular and harder to implement measures also made it onto the books (such restricting mail-order emergency contraception or curbing LGBT parental rights). This is where a new invention comes in, the Institute for Family and Demography. Far from being a GONGO (Government Organised Non-Governmental Organisation) charged with producing politically friendly ‘evidence’ for an illiberal government, the indications suggest that the Institute for Family and Demography is destined for a novel and ambitious role.
“The Institute will have the power to intervene directly in divorce and child custody proceedings of individual families.”Neil Datta
First, the Institute’s President will dispose of special prosecutorial powers and, to accompany these special powers, a generous budget of PLN 30 million (€6.5 million). Marta Lempart, the leader of the Polish Women’s Strike, provides a chilling analysis of what such an Institute could do in Poland. According to the parliamentary bill, in addition to prosecuting doctors who perform the rare, legal abortions in Poland, the Institute will have the power to intervene directly in divorce and child custody proceedings of individual families. In the current political context, Lempart warns, this could result in the Institute acting to delay divorce proceedings where there are allegations of domestic abuse; argue that the State should take children away from their LGBT parents or deny custody to ‘insufficiently patriotic’ parents (a label conferred onto human rights protesters). As Lempart states, “because this will happen on a case-by-case basis – state oppression will be targeted but dispersed”.
«there are several pending cases in family court contesting the custodial rights of parents for actions which are not aligned with the current ultra-conservative government.»Neil Datta
While this may seem too far-fetched for a modern European country to contemplate, there are several pending cases in family court contesting the custodial rights of parents for actions which are not aligned with the current ultra-conservative government, such as taking part or allowing minors to participate in the public demonstrations. While the Polish Parliament adopted this bill in first reading in December 2021, the PiS government has decided to place it into the ‘legislative freezer’ rather than oppose it or move it forward. This means that at any moment, the PiS government can revive the the bill creating Poland’s Institute for Family and Demography.
Poland’s government has already severely restricted women’s rights and LGBTQI rights, limited press freedoms has compromised the independence of its own judicial system according to the EU. Should the Institute for Family and Demography see the light of day, Poland will reach another milestone on the road to Gilead, that of creating an entity eerily similar to the “Eyes of God”, Gilead’s secret police, with the legal authority to intervene directly into the intimacy of every household in Poland and possibly rip children from their families.
 Polish Constitutional Tribunal Judgment, trybunal.gov.pl/postepowanie-i-orzeczenia/wyroki/art/11300-planowanie-rodziny-ochrona-plodu-ludzkiego-i-warunki-dopuszczalnosci-przerywania-ciazy, 22.10.2020
 Protests after the death of a woman who was refused an Abortion, https://www.rp.pl/polityka/art19064841-protesty-po-smierci-kobiety-ktorej-odmowiono-aborcji, 10/01/2022
 LGBT-free zones: more than 50 local governments have adopted similar resolutions, https://konkret24.tvn24.pl/polska,108/strefy-wolne-od-ideologii-lgbt-ponad-50-samorzadow-przyjelo-podobne-uchwaly,1031974.html, 10/01/2022
 See: European Parliament: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/TA-9-2021-0439_EN.html (Rule of Law); https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/TA-9-2021-0455_EN.html (Abortion); https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/B-9-2021-0166_EN.html (LGBT) and Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights: https://www.coe.int/en/web/commissioner/-/poland-should-take-immediate-action-to-protect-the-human-rights-of-people-stranded-at-its-border-with-belarus (Abortion) and https://www.coe.int/en/web/commissioner/-/poland-should-stop-the-stigmatisation-of-lgbti-people (LGBT)
 Shipments with emergency contraception and pharmacological abortion kits are lost. Polish Post is responding to the allegations, https://oko.press/poczta-polska-gubia-przesylki-antykoncepcja-awaryjna-zestawami-aborcji-farmakologicznej-poczta-polska-odpowiada-zarzuty/, 10/012022. Divorces will be difficult, alimony will be faster, https://www.rp.pl/prawo-rodzinne/art19122551-rozwody-utrudnione-alimenty-beda-szybciej, 10/01/2022
 Institute of Family and Demography, or new defenders of life in court, rp.pl/prawo-dla-ciebie/art19157571-instytut-rodziny-i-demografii-czyli-nowi-obroncy-zycia-w-sadzie, 10/01/2022
 This week, the Sejm will deal with the Family Institute and the ban on abortion. “The state will step into divorce cases, track rainbow families and pill prescriptions the day after, https://wyborcza.pl/7,162657,27855985,po-co-pis-owi-instytut-rodziny-panstwo-wkroczy-w-sprawy-rozwodowe.html, 10/01/2022
 https://nczas.com/2021/02/07/koronaterror-sluzby-chcialy-ograniczyc-ojcu-prawa-rodzicielskie-za-udzial-w-protescie-przedsiebiorcow/ and https://nczas.com/2021/02/07/koronaterror-sluzby-chcialy-ograniczyc-ojcu-prawa-rodzicielskie-za-udzial-w-protescie-przedsiebiorcow/