Decriminalizing and Policing Homosexuals: Homophobia in Interwar Warsaw

Friday 25 January 2019, 3:00 PM – Seminar Room 1, Badia Fiesolana

Speaker: Kamil Karczewski (EUI Researcher, HEC)

Abstract: The new Polish penal code of 1932 decriminalized same-sex relations, opening new possibilities for homosexuals, especially in the upper echelons of society. At the same time, however, the criminalization of same-sex prostitution (both male and female) was aimed at policing men of the lower classes who met at Warsaw’s public toilets and railway stations. Using police records, the minutes of the Criminal Code Codification Commission, Polish newspapers and memoirs, this paper analyzes the relationship between the law and everyday life-practices of male homosexuals in the Polish capital. What were the motives behind the decriminalization? Did it produce fewer manifestations of homophobia? And how did the police behave towards homosexuals of different classes in Warsaw in the 1930s?

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