Sunday, August 16, 2020

Muzzle Law of Poland: An attack on the Independence of Judiciary

This article is by

Share this article

Andrzej Duda, the President of Poland | Source: Wojciech Grabowski via Wikimedia

On February 4, 2020 the president of Poland, Andrzej Duda signed a law that prohibits the country’s judiciary to question the appointment of judges by the President and bars them from being involved in political activities. The law also prohibits judges to seek guidance from the EU Court of Justice on appointments by the National Council of Judiciary (NCJ) of Poland.

Supreme court President Malgorzata Gersdorf | Source: Adrian Grycuk via Wikimedia

Opposition parties condemned the law and Supreme Court president Malgorzata Gersdorf termed it as “Muzzle Law”.

In December 2019, the Sejm, the lower house of the Polish parliament passed the bill that would penalize judges who criticize the judicial reforms of the ruling Law and Justice party. It was sent back by the upper house for further discussion and a vote. However Sejm, using its superior power, enacted the bill, which the president signed on February 4, 2020, making it a law in the country.

The SC of Poland had earlier ruled on December 5, 2019 that the NCJ is not an independent body. Again on January 23, 2020 the SC in a ruling termed the appointment of the judges by the NCJ as illegal stating their apprehension that they may not be free from political influence. The Justice Ministry, quite predictably termed the SC verdict as a “serious violation of the law”.

people rallying on road near buildings
Protests against Poland’s judicial reform | Source: Külli Kittus via Unsplash

The law has drawn criticism from lawmakers as well as legal scholars across Europe and the European Union. On 11th January 2020, hundreds of judges from across Europe marched in Warsaw to protest against the enacting of the controversial law. Thousands of lawyers and residents joined in with many waving Polish and EU flags as they marched from the SC to the parliament. "We have come here to support the Polish judges but we are not politicians. We are here about the rule of law, not about politics." John MacMenamin, an Irish Supreme Court judge, told reporters.

In February 2020, a group of 44 ICJ Commissioners and Honorary Members along with senior judges, lawyers and legal scholars from across the world released a statement in which they said, “it is clear that the separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary, and the capacity of Polish judges to uphold the rule of law are now severely compromised. Judges’ freedom of expression, association and assembly are under immediate threat.”

Ever since it came to power in 2015, The Law and Justice Party of Poland, has been working towards dismantling the independence of the judiciary, terming it  judicial reforms. There has been opposition to these actions by the opposition parties, judicial bodies as well as European Union.

EU flags at the European Commission Berlaymont building Brussels, Belgium | Source: Guillaume Périgois via Unsplash

Late in 2017, the European Union had initiated what it called “unprecedented proceedings” against Poland. The move was a response to the worrying reforms in the judiciary that were being enforced by the government. The EU had stated back then that these “systematic threats” could see Poland losing its EU voting rights.

On 29th April, 2020, The EU started a new legal case against the nationalist Polish government in response to the adoption of the “muzzle law”. The EU further added that it was giving Poland two months to address the issues pertaining to the law. “This is a European issue because Polish courts apply European law. Judges from other countries must trust that Polish judges act independently. This mutual trust is the foundation of our single market,” said Vera Jourova, the Czech member of the executive Commission who is responsible for upholding the EU’s democratic values at a news conference.

A few European legal scholars have warned that the developments in Poland are a threat to the entire legal system of the EU. Despite all the criticism and pressure from the EU, the Polish government is yet to respond meaningfully to the growing concerns over the assault on Poland’s judicial system and its potential EU exit.

Support us to bring the world closer

To keep our content accessible we don't charge anything from our readers and rely on donations to continue working. Your support is critical in keeping Global Views 360 independent and helps us to present a well-rounded world view on different international issues for you. Every contribution, however big or small, is valuable for us to keep on delivering in future as well.

Support Us

Share this article

Read More

October 23, 2020 3:57 PM

Male gaze, their female guardians and sports-wear

In Helen Cixous’ essay, ‘The Laugh of Medusa’, she urges women to redefine what their body means to them, not just physically but also socially, emotionally and politically. This could happen by re-writing about your body in a way you deem  fit, the expression you identify with and separating it from how your body has been written about by men. The expression could be how you view your body separate from the patriarchal lense.

It is no secret that a woman’s body is subject to critique. While clothing for men is just a tool to cover themselves as per the surrounding environment, clothing for women isa social and political narrative that dictates their life or as we affectionately call it ‘culturally appropriate’.

The clothing style could vary. It could be a woman covered head to toe in a Burqa, it could be a woman who decides to wear sports-wear in a park or it could be jeans and a top. Everything is critically evaluated by men and by women who work towards protecting the male gaze.

The male gaze is a heterosexual way of looking at female bodies that sexualises these bodies into an object. It is a gaze that runs on the self-affirmative notion that the bodies of women, and what they do with it, is directly linked to how they  appear in front of a man.

In a recent incident in Bangalore, India, popular Indian actress Samyuktha Hegde was abused and threatened by senior political leader of the congress party, Kavitha Reddy,  for wearing sports-wear, in Bangalore’s Agara Lake park. She was exercising with her friend.

Kavitha Reddy initially claimed she was in indecent attire and went onto morally police and then later abused the actress and her friend.  A supposedly progressive political leader gets uncomfortable by what women are wearing. It breaks into an argument and a fight where the politician is supported by five to six men. Later on, the police appear to be appeasing the politician instead of the women who were harassed. Although she did apologise, her apology came after her video went viral, and as a protection for her own political reputation.

To look at Samyuktha Hegde’s clothing as a threat is to view her clothing as an act of obscenity therefore bullying her identity and sense of agency and reducing her to sexual object, who, by putting her in public, apparently gives the men present a right to look at her? Nevermind that she was there to workout like everyone else, her actions were confused as to how men look at her. In the video posted by the actress, the politician is surrounded by men who are championing her on. The politician choses to side with the patriarchal figures in shaming these women. Asking to protect from the male gaze is a far stretch but punishing women for the male gaze is where we should draw a line.

What roles does Kavitha Reddy play? She is the guardian of the male gaze. We find her in our mothers, in our grandmothers, in aunties and sometimes our friends. She understands a woman’s body as an object that is there to be looked at by men. She gets angry at women for wearing certain kinds of clothing but she is not angry at men for looking. The agency in this case always belongs to men.

When Cixous asks women to re-define their identity, she urges us to strangle the moral police that comes alive in such instances. It is the moral police that shames women for wearing clothes that don’t flatter their bodies or clothes that do flatter them. She urges us to reflect upon the source of such vigilance. Do we shame other women because we believe in what we are saying or our identity is partially (or  wholly) shaped by the male gaze?

Whether we chose to wear a burqa, or a dress, or variations of the new type clothing produced everyday, the crux of the matter is that it should not worry anyone apart from the one wearing it. The identity of a woman, sexual or otherwise, has to be redefined to be separated from the men and their gaze. We have to draw a line otherwise people in power will continue to abuse their power and preserve patriarchy and male gaze.

Read More