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5th Mar 2021

Hungary plans gay adoption ban, amid second corona wave

  • Hungarian premier Viktor Orban said, wihtout measures, there is a 50 percent chance the country's health care system cannot manage the pandemic (Photo: Council of the European Union)

Hungary's government has proposed legislation that would essentially ban adoption by same-sex couples and that rights groups say is an attack on the LGBTQI community.

The rightwing government late on Tuesday (11 November) presented several bills unrelated to the coronavirus as the country takes unprecedented measures against a worrying rise in Covid-19 infections.

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The government's proposal for a constitutional amendment says Hungary "protects children's right to the gender identity they were born with," and provides "education in accordance with the values based on Hungary's constitutional identity and Christian culture."

It also wants to put into the constitution that "the mother is a woman, the father is a man."

Prime minister Viktor Orban's government, in a separate bill, proposed that only married couples can adopt children and single people can only adopt with special permission from the minister in charge of family affairs.

The Hatter rights group said the legislation practically means a ban on gay adoption, which until now has been possible if one partner applied as a single person. Hungary does not allow gay marriage.

The rights group said in a statement that the timing is no coincidence, as Covid-19 measures prevent any demonstration.

It added that the government was targeting LGBTQI people to divert attention from "shortcomings" of the government's handling of the pandemic.

In May, Hungary banned gender changes in personal documents and has also taken issue with children's books that portray diversity positively, Reuters recalled.

"Once again the Hungarian government is using the pretext of the pandemic to undermine European values and attack people's rights," French Green MEP Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield, rapporteur on the situation in Hungary, said.

"The attempt to change the constitution in order to enshrine intolerance through defined gender roles is an attack on the LGBTI community and human rights. The Hungarian government should spend its time fighting the corona virus and not the LGBTI community," she added.

Electioneering

As part of the constitutional amendments, the government also set out a narrow definition of "public money", raising transparency concerns.

"Our country this morning woke up to the news to learn that the government is about to amend the constitution to make it easier to funnel public funds to oligarchs. They should be protecting lives, but they are protecting their own pocket," Hungary MEP Katalin Cseh, from the opposition Momentum party, said.

In a separate bill submitted on Tuesday night, the government also plans to tweak the election law in a way that would make coordination and cooperation of opposition parties more difficult in the 2022 general election.

In the 2018 local elections, cooperation between diverse opposition parties proved to be a working strategy for them to take on Orban's all powerful Fidesz party and their small ally, the Christian democratic KDNP party, which has a two-thirds command in parliament.

"Viktor Orban's government is trying to make it harder for opposition parties to get elected in a brazen attack on democracy," MEP Delbos-Corfield said.

50 percent chance

In the meantime, tough Covid-19 measures were announced late on Tuesday.

The government rolled out the details two hours before they came into effect on Wednesday, leaving citizens and businesses scrambling to find out how to operate from Wednesday morning.

Events, museums, cinemas, restaurants were shut down, a curfew from 8pm to 5am is being introduced, and wearing masks in some public spaces also becomes mandatory.

While during the spring, the numbers of infections stayed relatively low in Hungary compared to other EU countries, the second wave has hit the country hard with the government reluctant to take tough measures until now.

Some medical officials have been sounding the alarm, while last week 20,000 fans were still allowed to watch a UEFA football match.

On Tuesday, 101 people died of coronavirus, while 6,352 Covid-19 patients are hospitalised, 473 of whom are on a ventilators, officials said.

However, the government does not release the number of intensive care beds, and their rate of occupancy with Covid patients.

Nevertheless, Orban himself acknowledged on Tuesday that with the current rate of hospitalisations - without measures - there is a 50 percent chance that the health care system would be able to manage the pandemic.

The Hungarian GDP in the second quarter fell by 13.6 percent due to the pandemic, the Central Statistical Office (KSH) showed in August.

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