Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s ruling government has yet again clashed with the LGBTQ+ community after passing a bill that has been critiqued for its homophobic implications.
The Fidesz ruling party which has landslide victories to its credit since 2010, has passed a bill that aligns with their Christian-conservative agenda. As the election of 2022 approaches, opinion polls have revealed the Fidesz opponents to be gaining on the right-wing party. Now the government is facing backlash for passing a bill that conflates paedophilia with homosexuality. It is essential to study the history of the country, as well as Orban’s government and their approach towards ‘non-traditional gender roles’, to gain an understanding of the controversial law.
Source – www.bbc.com/news/world-europe
Hungary and LGBTQ+ Rights
● Homosexuality, or rather homosexual activity for individuals above 20 years of age, has been legalized in the country since 1961. This age was reduced to 18 in 1978.
● The age of consent (14 years of age) remains the same for heterosexuals and homosexuals.
● In 2007, the Hungarian parliament passed a bill that recognized civil partnership for homosexual couples. This bill has been in effect since 2009.
● Homosexuals are permitted to serve in the military, but trans individuals are not.
● Gay marriage is not recognized in Hungary. Two statements are particularly concerning as the government has defined marriage as the “institution between a man and a woman” The heteronormative view of marriage is “the basis of the family and national survival” as per the amendment.
● 2018 saw the government withdraw state funding from gender studies programs. It also removed official accreditation for master’s degrees in the discipline.
● The issue of adoption remains widely discussed as lesbian couples do not have access to IVF or donor insemination, while single women do. Surrogacy is not available for gay men. In 2020, the Fidesz government passed a bill that made adoption exclusive for heterosexuals, stating: “the mother is a woman, the father is a man.” The bill also proclaimed that a child must be raised in alignment with the country’s ‘Christian values.’
● In May 2020, the Hungarian parliament banned changing one’s gender from what was recorded at birth. Transgenders or intersex citizens who do not identify with the gender assigned at birth cannot legally change their gender marker. The legal recognition of trans and intersex citizens was thus effectively outlawed. The Hungarian Constitutional Court overturned this law in March 2021; however, some challenges remain to be overcome.
● January 2021 marked the dispute of Orban’s government with Labrisz (an association of bi, trans, and lesbian women) over a children’s book titled ‘Wonderland is For Everyone.’ The book contained 17 stories that promoted acceptance of minorities and contained fiction relating to a same-sex union. The Fidesz party called for disclaimers to be printed on all publications of Labrisz, including Wonderland, which warned citizens that the book contained behaviors that were inconsistent with traditional gender roles. The book was touted as ‘homosexual propaganda’.
Source – www.theguardian.com/global-development
The Bill in Question
In view of the Fidesz party’s consistent aversion towards the LGBTQ+ community, the new bill has generated much alarm and doubt. The bill primarily punishes paedophilia and counteracts child abuse. No minor (an individual under 18 years of age) can be shown pornography or any content which promotes gender change.
The latter part of the ban is a red flag. Content which ‘encourages homosexuality’ or gender change includes LGBTQ+ literature, advertisements, talks by experts, etcetera. The wide umbrella term curbs the freedom of speech and expression of the community, and also poses a problem for children in the closet. Another clause of the bill has specified a list of organizations that are approved to impart sex education; there is little doubt that these organizations will provide education relevant to the heterosexual majority.
The bill’s initial agenda of increasing repercussions for paedophiles came after a former ambassador was involved in a scandal last April.
While this bill sparked mass rallies by the LGBTQ+ community, a few organizations appealed to US President Joe Biden. The US Embassy in Hungary has already voiced its concern, and the New York Times reported that tensions escalate between the European Union and Hungary.
A Hungarian government spokesperson defended the Bill in an interview with the Guardian. The individual explained that certain contents may mislead children or adversely affect their development because they cannot process it. The children may get confused as this content would threaten their ‘developing moral values’ or their ‘image of themselves in the world.’
Source – www.theguardian.com/world
The widespread criticism of the bill has pointed out certain similarities too. The Bill has been equated with Russia’s 2013 law which tackled ‘propaganda against non-traditional sexual relations.’ Poland’s ruling party (PiS), a close ally of Orban’s government, has taken a similar stance with the LGBTQ+ community. Poland and Hungary have already been at loggerheads with the EU for breaching rule of law canons.
With organizations like Budapest Pride protesting against the bill, and NGOs across the world expressing dissent, nation-states of the EU have begun discussions. It remains to be seen how the Fidesz government responds under global pressure.
Written By – Mudra Joshi
Edited By – Oishika Ghoshal