Dutch town Nieuwegein unfriends Polish twin after it creates "gay-free zone"

Dutch town Nieuwegein unfriends Polish twin after it creates "gay-free zone"

The Dutch town of Nieuwegein, located near Utrecht, has severed its twin-city status with the Polish city Pulawy after it established itself as a “gay-free zone”.

Nieuwegein stands against gay-free zones

Following the recent elections in Poland, 100 Polish municipalities have installed a number of anti-LGBTQ+ policies, establishing themselves as gay-free zones. The city of Pulawy, situated 130 kilometres outside of Warsaw, has enjoyed a partnership with Nieuwegein for 26 years, and was among the municipalities to register itself as gay-free.

On Monday, July 13, Nieuwegein severed the partnership at a city council meeting, when a motion to “unfriend” the Polish city was passed almost unanimously (26 votes to one).

Elected city council member Marieke Schouten said this decision makes a clear statement that setting gay-free zones is not tolerated: "We are a rainbow city, and we are both in Europe, where we believe that whoever you are, regardless of your orientation, you can be open and free in public. This does not include so-called gay-free zones."

The label of a gay-free zone means that, within it, LGBTQ+ people are not allowed to speak out about, or in defence of, their sexual orientation or gender. It also means the municipality will avoid providing financial assistance to organisations working to promote equal rights. Nieuwegein says this policy directly opposes the vision of its municipality, which aims for inclusivity.

Poland’s reaction to the “unfriending”

Schoutman moved quickly to place a rainbow sticker over Pulawy’s name on all welcome signs for Nieuwegein, in an attempt to make the town’s stance clear and visible. Via local media in Poland, politicians have made it clear that they don’t think Nieuwegein should interfere with Polish politics. 

The official twin-status shared by Pulawy and Nieuwegein ended in 2015 after more than 21 years; however the towns have continued to maintain an informal friendship. Recent political developments in Poland are said to have put strain on the relationship for some time. 

Nieuwegein is also twinned with Rundu in Namibia, where homosexuality is a criminal offence. The city council plans to discuss this relationship in meetings this autumn.

Victoria Séveno


Victoria Séveno

Victoria grew up in Amsterdam, before moving to the UK to study English and Related Literature at the University of York and completing her NCTJ course at the Press Association...

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