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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
09WARSAW626
2009-06-17 15:00:00
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Warsaw
Cable title:  

WOMEN'S ISSUES IN POLAND - SCENESETTER FOR AMBASSADOR VERVEER'S JUNE 20-22 VISIT TO WARSAW

Tags:   KWMN  PREL  KPAO  PHUM  SCUL  ELAB  PL  OIIP 
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VZCZCXRO6746
OO RUEHSL
DE RUEHWR #0626/01 1681500
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 171500Z JUN 09
FM AMEMBASSY WARSAW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8458
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHINGTON DC
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 WARSAW 000626 

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

G/IWI FOR AMBASSADOR VERVEER
STATE ALSO FOR EUR, DRL, G/TIP
LABOR FOR ILAB

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KWMN PREL KPAO PHUM OPPI SCUL ELAB PL

SUBJECT: WOMEN'S ISSUES IN POLAND - SCENESETTER FOR AMBASSADOR
VERVEER'S JUNE 20-22 VISIT TO WARSAW

WARSAW 00000626 001.2 OF 004




1. (SBU) SUMMARY. The political and economic transformation in
Poland over the last two decades has brought considerable
improvement in the lives of Polish women. Nevertheless, women
continue to face a number of challenges, including
underrepresentation in political life, discrimination in the labor
market, and gender-based violence. The June 20-21 "Women for
Poland, Poland for Women" Congress in Warsaw is an excellent
opportunity to assess women's contributions to Poland's economic and
political transformation. Congress organizers expect 3,000 women
from various social and professional milieus to participate. The
Congress will analyze Poland's development from a female perspective
and identify the most pressing issues related to the status and
rights of women. Your participation in the Congress and Secretary
Clinton's message send a clear signal that women's issues are a top
priority for the U.S. Government. END SUMMARY.

WOMEN IN THE POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC SPHERES


--------------------------





2. (SBU) Over the last twenty years, women have become increasingly
more active in public life. In the 2008 issue of the Global Gender
Gap Report released by the World Economic Forum last November,
Poland rose 11 places to 49th among the 130 countries evaluated in
the report. The rise was due to gains in the percentage of women
among legislators, senior government officials and managers, as well
as in ministerial level positions.



3. (SBU) Despite these gains, women are still underrepresented in
Poland's political life. 52 percent of the Polish population is
female, but there are only 94 women in the 460-seat lower chamber of
Parliament (Sejm), eight women in the 100-seat Senate, and five
women in the 20-member Council of Ministers. In 2004-2009, Poland
ranked 25th out of 27 EU member states in the number of female
members of the European Parliament (7 out of 54), followed only by
Cyprus and Malta. In this year's European Parliament elections, the
number of women rose slightly to 11 out of 50. The Women's Party,
established in 2007, has not developed into a significant movement
nor won any seats in the Polish or EU parliaments.



4. (SBU) Although active in economic life, Polish women still face a
number of challenges. Polish women run businesses, hold top
managerial positions in large companies, are well educated, and are
active in non-governmental organizations. According to Monika
Ksieniewicz of the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy, women run
one third of all companies in Poland. Nevertheless, Polish women
find it difficult to balance an active professional career with
family life. In addition, according to Malgorzata Tarasiewicz,

Director of the Network of East-West Women Association, women still
struggle with common stereotypes concerning the traditional social
roles of men and women -- public life is governed by men, and
women's role is centered on family -- which makes it difficult for
men to accept women in professional roles.

GENDER EQUALITY ISSUES


--------------------------





5. (SBU) The constitution provides for equal rights for men and
women in family law, property law, and in the judicial system;
however, in practice there are no laws implementing these
provisions. The 'equal pay for equal work' rule has not yet been
implemented, either. A report published in April 2009 indicated a
huge disparity -- on average 20 percent -- between remuneration
levels for male and female university graduates. In some areas,
such as the arts or freelance work, the gap was as large as 60
percent. Women often hold lower-level positions; they are fired
more readily, and are less likely to be promoted.



6. (SBU) Poland has failed to adopt an EU-mandated comprehensive
anti-discrimination law, although it was obliged to do so by 2007.
In February 2009, 32 Polish NGOs which promote women's rights sent a
complaint to the European Commission pointing out the lack of GOP
action on anti-discrimination. In May, the European Commission
referred Poland to the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) for not codifying
Community rules prohibiting gender discrimination in access to and
supply of goods and services. If the ECJ finding shares the
Commission's conclusions, Poland may face huge financial penalties.
Work on the new legislation is underway.



7. (SBU) There are currently two central government institutions
that monitor and combat discrimination in Poland. The Ministry of
Labor and Social Policy Department for Women, Family and Combating
Discrimination is responsible for incorporating gender equality into
governmental policy, and monitoring implementation of government
programs to promote gender equality. The Government Plenipotentiary
for Equal Status established by Prime Minister Tusk in March 2008

WARSAW 00000626 002.2 OF 004


monitors all types of discrimination.



8. (SBU) The Government undertakes measures to combat various types
of discrimination. Between November 2008 and January 2009, the
Ministry of Labor implemented an EU-funded project aimed at raising
awareness among public administration employees on gender equality
issues. The project consisted of a series of training sessions on
gender equality for public administration employees. In February
2009, the Government Plenipotentiary for Equal Status announced that
all public administration institutions at the central and provincial
level, including regional labor inspections and law enforcement
agencies, will over the next three years appoint their own
plenipotentiaries for combating discrimination and will undergo
specialized EU-funded training.



9. (SBU) Despite these efforts, women's organizations are critical
of the current Government and institutions for failing to prioritize
gender equality issues. NGOs are particularly critical of Elzbieta
Radziszewska, the current Plenipotentiary for Equal Treatment, whom
they accuse of a lack of commitment to deal with women-oriented
discrimination. Radziszewska has been strongly criticized by the
opposition Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) for failing to implement
EU projects on gender equality, which has resulted in a considerable
loss of EU funds designated for such activities. Radziszewska
asserts that while she is responsible for monitoring discrimination,
individual ministries are responsible for promoting gender equality.


VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN


--------------------------





10. (SBU) Violence against women continues to be a serious problem
in Poland. Over the last 10 years there has been an increase in the
number of domestic violence cases reported. This is in part
attributable to heightened police awareness, particularly in urban
areas, as a result of media campaigns and NGO efforts. However, the
number of women affected by domestic abuse is still underreported,
particularly in small towns and villages. The NGO Women's Rights
Center reported that police were occasionally reluctant to intervene
in domestic violence incidents if the perpetrator was a member of
the police or if victims were unwilling to cooperate.



11. (SBU) Poland adopted legislation on combating domestic violence
in 2005; however, numerous NGOs report that it has failed to provide
adequate protection to victims. The main problem lies in the lack
of an effective restraining order mechanism to isolate perpetrators
from victims. Also, there is insufficient financial assistance to
victims when the victims are economically dependent on the
perpetrators. NGOs observe that women are often reluctant to open a
case because the investigation, pretrial proceedings, and trial can
last for two to three years, during which time victims often remain
financially dependent on perpetrators and thus vulnerable to further
violence, coercion, and other forms of pressure. Some proposed
revisions to the law combating domestic violence are under
consideration.



12. (SBU) Sexual harassment continues to be a serious problem in
Poland. Social awareness also continues to increase as more cases
are reported by the media. Under the criminal code, persons
convicted of sexual harassment may be sentenced to up to three years
in prison. According to Center for Women's Rights, sexual
harassment was a serious and underreported problem. Many victims do
not report abuse or withdraw harassment claims in the course of
police investigations out of shame or fear of losing their jobs.
According to Dziennik, a leading Polish daily, in 2008 only 20 women
filed sexual harassment complaints with the Labor Inspection Office,
while a recent public opinion poll revealed that every tenth Polish
woman may have experienced unacceptable behavior from her
supervisor.



13. (SBU) In November 2008, Dziennik revealed that the Polish Labor
Inspection Office is unprepared to deal with the problem of sexual
harassment. A Dziennik reporter called 16 Labor Inspectorate field
offices claiming to be a victim of sexual harassment. In several
cases, Labor Inspectorate personnel told the reporter that such
behavior is typical for some men, that she is probably very
attractive and should take such a behavior as a compliment. Chief
Labor Inspector Tadeusz Zajac promised to take concrete measures to
improve the situation. The results of a Labor Ministry January 2009
survey were similarly striking: 20 percent of women working at the
Ministry reported a hostile work environment. In addition, 60
percent of the women said they did not know whom to turn to when
facing sexual harassment or a hostile work environment.



14. (SBU) In March 2009, the Office of the Plenipotentiary for Equal

WARSAW 00000626 003.2 OF 004


Treatment published a comprehensive manual for victims of sexual
harassment. The manual explains what sexual harassment is, how to
identify it, and how to combat it, how to collect evidence against
perpetrator, and who can provide assistance.

TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS


--------------------------





15. (SBU) In the Department's 2009 TIP Report, Poland was ranked in
Tier 1 (the best ranking). Poland has long been a source and
transit country for women and girls trafficked primarily to Western
European countries for the purpose of commercial sexual
exploitation. As a result of its increasing economic prosperity,
Poland has also become a destination country for purposes of
commercial sexual exploitation and labor exploitation. As in many
countries, traffickers target young, unemployed, and poorly paid
women, particularly those with weak family ties and support
networks. Traffickers attracted victims with false promises of
lucrative jobs, arranged marriages, fraud, and coercion. Traffickers
threatened victims with violence, and those who resisted or tried to
flee were raped, beaten, or injured. In 2008, 315 victims of
trafficking were identified by Polish authorities. La Strada, the
major Polish NGO which combats human trafficking, provided
assistance to victims, 85 percent of whom were women.

WOMEN'S HEALTH ISSUES


--------------------------





16. (SBU) Poland has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in
Europe. According to the 1993 law on family planning, protection of
a human embryo and conditions for terminating pregnancy, abortion is
allowed only in three instances: when pregnancy poses a threat to
the life or health of the mother, when pre-natal examinations
indicate a high probability of severe birth defects or incurable
disease, and when pregnancy was the result of rape. As women's
rights NGOs point out, even those entitled to legal abortion under
the strict anti-abortion law are often denied. Under Polish law, a
doctor has the right to deny an abortion if it is in conflict with
his/her conscience (so-called conscience clause).



17. (SBU) According to official statistics, 322 legal abortions were
performed in 2007 compared to 340 a year earlier. Women's
organizations estimate the number of illegal abortions at between
80,000 and 120,000 per year. Polish women also travel abroad to
undergo procedures that are prohibited in Poland. In May 2009,
Anand Grover, United Nations special envoy on health issues,
criticized Poland for limited access to contraceptives, prenatal
tests and abortion. He stated that in cases when abortion is
allowed, it should be made available and conducted safely. He also
appealed for the provision of unbiased sexual education and better
funding for contraceptives.

MISSION POLAND'S EFFORTS


--------------------------





18. (SBU) Mission Poland regularly monitors developments on women's
issues in Poland and often engages in outreach programs to promote
the rights of women in the country. The following are some recent
examples:

-- In December 2008, Embassy Warsaw actively participated in the
2008 international campaign "16 Days of Activism Against
Gender-based Violence" by raising awareness of the problem through a
series of profiles posted on Embassy Warsaw's website of individuals
and institutions actively working against gender-based violence in
Poland.

-- In September 2008, the Embassy provided funding of an Interior
Ministry and IOM co-sponsored campaign to raise awareness of the
problem of trafficking of women through a series of displays in
major train stations around the country.

-- In March 2008, the Mission sponsored the visit of veteran TV
journalist Susan Spencer of CBS News, who spoke at the International
Women's Day event hosted by Ambassador Ashe, met with leading women
in business and journalism at an event hosted by the Consul General
in Krakow, and participated in speaking programs in Warsaw, Krakow
and Wroclaw.

-- In February 2008, the Embassy organized a visit by Cindy Dyer,
the Director for the Office on Violence Against Women in the
Department of Justice, who attended a conference on victim
assistance and protection organized by the Polish Ministry of
Justice. She also met with Polish governmental officials, members of
parliament and representatives of NGOs.

WARSAW 00000626 004.2 OF 004



-- In December 2007, Embassy Warsaw organized a DVC on Combating
Violence against Women with US experts from the Department of State,
Department of Justice and US-based NGOs, and representatives from
the Polish government ministries and NGOs.

ASHE