Hungary anti-LGBTQ legislation sparks international outcry

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Hungary’s ruling coalition of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party and the Christian Democrats (KDNP) adopted legislation on Tuesday that was originally conceived to increases sentences for sex crimes against children, but last-minute tweaks hijacked it to restrict portrayals of homosexuality and transgender people that those under 18 might see. Far-right Jobbik party also endorsed the measure, while one independent MP voted against it, and all other opposition parties boycotted the voting session in protest. Critics say that (i) it was a political landmine planted by Orbán who is gearing up for crunch elections next year, and (ii) it is a blanket approval to treat LGBT people with discrimination, with hatred.
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“There are contents which children under a certain age can misunderstand and which may have a detrimental effect on their development at the given age, or which children simply cannot process, and which could therefore confuse their developing moral values or their image of themselves or the world,” said a Hungarian government spokesperson.

Under the new legislation, only individuals and organisations listed in an official register can carry out sex education classes in schools, a measure targeting “organisations with dubious professional background … often established for the representation of specific sexual orientations”, the government spokesperson said.

Companies and large organisations will also be banned from running adverts in solidarity with gay people, if they are deemed to target under-18s. The Guardian reminded that a Coca-Cola ad campaign featuring smiling gay couples and anti-discrimination slogans prompted some prominent Fidesz members in 2019 to call for a boycott of the company’s products.

The law means that TV shows and films featuring gay characters, or even a rainbow flag, would be permitted only after the watershed, say campaigners who have studied the legislation.

Commercial broadcaster RTL said in a statement that under the new law they will be able to air only after 10 P.M. movies and series like Billy Eliott, Philadelphia, Bridget Jones's Diary, some Harry Potter movies, Modern Family, and many episodes of Friends.

The law “causes significant economic damages to all local players of the media market, and it makes access to certain content difficult for every citizen. Even more importantly, the legislation practically crowds out sexual minorities from the mass media, making it impossible to combat the negative stereotypes existing in the society against them.”

The U.S. Embassy in Budapest has also issued a statement after the adoption of the new law, saying it is “deeply concerned by anti-LGBTQI+ aspects of a bill passed today by the Hungarian Parliament.”

The United States stands for the idea that governments should promote freedom of expression and protect human rights, including the rights of members of the LGBTQI+ community.

As President Biden noted to those advocating for LGBTQI+ rights in his Pride Month Proclamation on June 1, “We see you, we support you, and we are inspired by your courage to accept nothing less than full equality.”

Dunja Mijatović, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, issued a statement on Monday, saying “the proposed legislative amendments run counter to international and European human rights standards.”

It is misleading and false to claim that they are being introduced to protect children. This is not only an affront against the rights and identities of LGBTI persons but also curtails the freedom of expression and education of all Hungarians.

The Commissioner added that the broadly phrased amendments to the Child Protection Act, the Family Protection Act, the Act on Business Advertising Activity, the Media Act and the Public Education Act would outlaw any depiction or discussion of diverse gender identities and sexual orientations in the public sphere, including in schools and the media.

The European Parliament's rapporteur on the situation in Hungary, Greens lawmaker Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield, slammed the new law on Tuesday:

Using child protection as an excuse to target LGBTIQ people is damaging to all children in Hungary.

The ruling Fidesz party proposals echo similar legislation in Russia, aimed at singling out the LGBTIQ community. The General Affairs Council is due to discuss the ongoing Article 7 procedure for Hungary on June 22nd, she said.

“Once again, Fidesz is using censorship to stigmatise and scapegoat LGBTIQ people. Attacking freedom of speech, the right to education and media freedom is an affront to European values and has no place in the 21st century. Using child protection as excuse to target LGBTIQ people is damaging to all children in Hungary. Children and young people need to be able to access health information and diverse media content to be able to develop informed opinions. Children need real protection from abuse with efficient public policies and not to be instrumentalised for other purposes.“The Hungarian government must scrap this assault on fundamental rights. Any attempt to use child protection as an excuse to attack LGBTIQ rights should be addressed by other member states during the upcoming Article 7 hearings later this month."

Michael Roth, Deputy Foreign Minister of Germany, tweeted the new law is “another severe state discrimination against LGBTIQ people. This law goes against everything we regard as our common European values. Full solidarity and support for LGBTIQ people in Hungary.”

Director of Amnesty International Hungary, Dávid Víg said:

This is a dark day for LGBTI rights and for Hungary. Like the infamous Russian ”propaganda law” this new legislation will further stigmatise LGBTI people and their allies. It will expose people already facing a hostile environment to even greater discrimination.

“Tagging these amendments to a bill that seeks to crack down on child abuse appears to be a deliberate attempt by the Hungarian government to conflate paedophilia with LGBTI people.

“Yesterday, more than 10,000 people flooded the streets of Budapest to protest against these hateful amendments and show solidarity with the LGBTI community. But solidarity alone will not be enough.

“The EU and its member states must take urgent steps by raising this issue at the next General Affairs Meeting in the Council and ensuring that the EU is a safe place for LGBTI people.”

On the 22 June, the EU General Affairs Council will hold its next hearing regarding the Article 7 procedure against Hungary and Poland.

The new legislation comes as Orbán gears up for elections, promoting a strongly conservative Christian agenda, The Washington Post reported. In nearby Poland, the ruling Law and Justice party has made similar moves, with local councils passing legislation against “LGBT ideology.” Concern over the erosion of human rights protections has put both countries on a collision course with European Union officials in Brussels, the paper added.

Orbán has increasingly portrayed himself as a protector of traditional Christian values, although the image has been somewhat undermined in recent years by the sex scandals involving officials and allies of his Fidesz party, reported Nation World News.

It recalled that in 2020, Gábor Kaleta, a Hungarian diplomat of the ruling Fidesz party in Peru was convicted of possession of child pornography and fined USD 1,800 and a suspended prison sentence after being brought home to Hungary and charged.

The case, which fueled public pressure on the legislature to carry out stricter sentences for pedophilia crimes, was just one in a series of scandals that have publicly believed in Orbán’s government has undermined, the paper added.

Human rights groups, including the Foundation for Rainbow Families, which promotes legal equality for all Hungarian families with children, added last-minute criticism.

“Fidesz is doing this to take away the public discourse from major events in the country,” said Krisztián Rózsa, a psychologist and board member of the foundation, referring to corruption and the government’s responses to the pedophilia scandal and the coronavirus pandemic.

Content providers like RTL Klub, Hungary’s largest commercial television station, and the Hungarian Advertising Association came against the new law and said that the rules restrict it to portray the diversity of society.

Children need no protection against exposure to diversity

, said Lydia Gall, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch. “On the contrary, LGBT children and families need protection from discrimination and violence.”

Bálint Ruff, a political strategist, said the move to the LGBT community was a ‘cynical and vicious trap’. He added: “This is a method used in authoritarian regimes to target their citizens for their own political gain.”

It is not uncommon for someone who has spent their entire lives in rural Hungary to never meet an openly gay person, Ruff said, adding that Orbán found by flooding rural voters with conspiracies over gay propaganda taking over the world. an effective tool for mobilizing voters.

“The theme of the campaign is liberal gay Budapest towards the normal people,” he said.

And here’s how the news programme of state television M1 depicts the protest of about 10,000 people against conflating a heinous crime against children with the free love of adults.

The headline says: “Demonstration at Parliament against the tightening [of laws] on paedophilia.” The lead says “several gay rights organisations have organised a demonstration to Kossuth square in front of Parliament against a law on stricter action against paedophilia.”

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The Guardian cited András Léderer, at the Hungarian Helsinki Committee Europe, as saying:

This is a blanket approval to treat LGBT people with discrimination, with hatred. The idea that being gay poses a risk in itself to people under 18 is such a horrible vicious concept … It will have tragic effects on the mental wellbeing of young LGBT people.

Anna Donáth, a member of the Hungarian opposition, who sits in the liberal group in the European parliament, called on EU authorities to take immediate action, without specifying what she had in mind.

“The law is incompatible with the fundamental values of European democratic societies as well as the values of the Hungarian citizens and is only the latest of many shameful attacks on LGBTIQ rights by Viktor Orbán’s government,” she said.

“We need more European examples and more acceptance instead of Russian examples of propaganda laws.”

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