Saturday

10th Apr 2021

Hungary and Finland in uphill battle for gay rights

Gay communities in Hungary and Finland are facing uphill battles for equal rights with conservative politicians in both countries imposing barriers.

Hungarian children as young as 10 are being told homosexuality is a “deadly sin” in a state-backed religious textbook.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Onlookers at the Gay Pride march in Budapest last year, the next demonstration is set for early July (Photo: habeebee)

The courses on religion, introduced into the curriculum by the Hungarian government last year, are not compulsory.

But biology is.

Hungarian adolescents in a biology textbook are also being taught homosexuality is a mental disorder linked to HIV/Aids, venereal disease, and risky behaviour, according to the Budapest-based NGO for LGBTI rights, Hatter.

“This is biology, this is not religious education, this is what you get in core scientific subjects in the book the government recommends for schools,” says Tamas Dombos, a project co-ordinator and board member at Hatter.

The American Psychological Association declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1973. The World Health Organization followed suite in 1990.

A report on LGBTI rights in each member state out on Tuesday (13 May) by Ilga-Europe, a Brussels-based gay rights NGO, notes that Hungary’s commissioner for fundamental rights at the time, Mate Szabo, criticised the school curriculum for not mentioning sexual minorities.

Szabo also raised concerns that children opted into religious studies by their parents would not receive a proper education on human rights.

“Hungarian LGBTI people suffered from a general climate of increased fear and violence towards all minorities,” notes the Ilga report.

For the gay community in the country, the struggle for equal rights and recognition remains an uphill battle. Few dare wander about holding hands in Budapest.

Hungary’s radical nationalist Jobbik party may have scaled back their homophobic rhetoric at the political level but can still be seen shouting abuse at events like Gay Pride, notes Dombos.

Centre-right leader Viktor Orban, for his part, has largely succeeded in advancing conservative values, which tends to exclude gay people.

Over the years he has overhauled the constitution four times and amid much controversy. The constitution's new preamble makes reference to God, Christianity, family and the Holy Crown.

But while Hungary has registered-partnership legislation for same-sex partners, the latest constitutional iteration spells out marriage as one between a man and a woman.

It also restricts the notion of family by reducing the rights of same sex couples who live together.

Hungary is not alone when it comes to government-led limitations, which spin a conservative definition of marriage.

Finland isolated among more progressive countries

Surrounded by more progressive Scandinavian countries, Finland stands out as an anomaly.

“Usually what we say is that what happens in Sweden will happen in Finland in ten years or so,” says Aija Salo, secretary-general of the Helsinki-based NGO for LGBTI rights, Seta.

Same-sex marriage was legalised in Sweden in 2009, along with Norway. Denmark followed in 2012.

Despite high public support for equal marriage rights, the legal committee in the Finnish parliament narrowly rejected a marriage equality bill earlier last year.

Salo says most conservative politicians oppose the equal marriage measures, while other conservatives won’t take a stand in support in fear they’ll be voted out of office.

“Unfortunately there are opponents to equal marriage in all the bigger parties,” she adds.

A citizen’s initiative launched last March in favour of equal marriage rights collected some 170,000 signatures.

Finnish law requires the parliament to review any initiative with at least 50,000 signatures.

But the initiative is stuck in the legal committee and is not advancing.

“The more conservative members of the legal committee are trying to postpone it as much as possible so that it won’t come into vote before the next elections [April 2015],” said Salo.

EU court bars tests for gay asylum seekers

Authorities in EU countries can no longer impose controversial psychological tests to determine whether an aslyum seeker is telling the truth about their homosexuality.

LGBTI protection still lacking in EU

Despite some welcome advances, some legal rights for the LGBTI community are lacking in EU member states, and the rise of the populist right is making things worse, conference in Warsaw is told.

News in Brief

  1. Turkey blames EU for sexist protocol fiasco
  2. France to close elite civil-service academy
  3. Covid-19 cases in UK drop 60%, study finds
  4. White House urges 'calm' after Northern Ireland riots
  5. Italy's Draghi calls Turkey's Erdoğan a 'dictator'
  6. Slovakia told to return Sputnik V amid quality row
  7. EU risks €87bn in stranded fossil fuel assets
  8. Obligatory vaccination not against human rights, European court says

Opinion

The dangers of resurgent nationalism in Greece

Virulent nationalism in Greece has been stirred up in the context of austerity and renewed negotiations with Macedonia. Recent attempts by the government to address the inequalities suffered by LGBT persons have also been met with a reactionary backlash.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market

Latest News

  1. The Covid bell tolls for eastern Europe's populists
  2. Four deaths after taking Russian Sputnik V vaccine
  3. Post-Brexit riots flare up in Northern Ireland
  4. Advice on AstraZeneca varies across EU, amid blood clot fears
  5. Greenland election could see halt to rare-earth mining
  6. After 50 years, where do Roma rights stand now?
  7. Why Iran desperately wants a new nuclear deal
  8. Does new EU-ACP deal really 'decolonise' aid?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us