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14th Apr 2024

Hungary passes anti-LGBTIQ bill ahead of 2022 election

  • The European Parliament recently declared the EU a '"LGBTI freedom-zone", in response to attacks against the rights of LGBTIQ people by the Polish government (Photo: Greens-EFA Group in the European Parliament)

Hungary's parliament passed legislation on Tuesday (15 June) which bans what it deems the "promotion" of homosexuality among children, amid fierce criticism from human rights groups and most opposition parties.

Lawmakers from nationalist prime minister Viktor Orbán's ruling Fidesz party and opposition rightwing Jobbik party voted by 157 in favour, and one against, the legislation - originally designed to penalise paedophilia offenders, but which had been hijacked by anti-LGBTIQ elements.

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  • Many accuse Viktor Orban of trying to change the political topic, after a row over a Chinese university in Budapest, and split the opposition - ahead of elections next year (Photo: Council of the European Union)

The remaining opposition parties,- liberal, left and green - boycotted the vote.

According to the government amendments, under-18s cannot be shown any content portraying homosexuality, including advertisements and tv shows. It also aims to restrict civil organisations in providing sexual education in schools.

The education "should not be aimed at promoting gender segregation, gender reassignment or homosexuality", the legal text said.

Broadcaster RTL Klub Hungary said the law could mean that movies such as Harry Potter, or Billy Elliot could be seen as promoting homosexuality, and could be only shown at night.

Rights groups have likened the legislation to the 2013 Russian law that bans "propaganda" on non-traditional sexual relations.

On Monday evening, thousands of protestors demonstrated against the proposals in Budapest in front of the parliament, denouncing the Orbán government's efforts to conflate homosexuality with paedophilia.

The move was also immediately criticised by MEPs.

French Green MEP Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield, who oversees the situation in Hungary in the European Parliament, said: "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 [sanctions procedure] hearings later this month," she said.

Hungary will be on the agenda of the EU affairs ministers hearing next Tuesday (22 June) as part of the EU scrutiny over its democratic backsliding.

"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" said the human rights commissioner Dunja Mijatović of the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe, adding that the legislation "runs counter" to international and European human rights standards.

'Values'

The Orbán government has been portraying itself as the defender of Christian traditions and "normality", and vowed not to give into "LGBTQ lunacy".

It has been following its Polish allies in ramping up attacks against LGBTIQ people, last year banning gender change, and making it practically impossible for same-sex couples to adopt children.

In the meantime, Fidesz's then-MEP József Szájer, a key ally of Orbán and an architect of his illiberal system, was caught last December escaping a lockdown-breaking gay party in Brussels, by sliding down the drainpipe. It did not trigger any soul-searching in Fidesz.

In ramping up attacks against LGBTIQ people, Orbán has one eye on the general election next spring, as a united opposition has been polling neck-and-neck with his Fidesz party.

By mixing up paedophilia and homosexuality, Orbán hopes to drive a wedge between opposition parties and could use the boycott of the vote to accuse them of being lenient with paedophiles.

Meanwhile, Orbán's plans to build a campus of the Chinese Fudan University in Budapest with a loan from Beijing was met earlier this month with a 10,000-strong demonstration in the capital.

The outcry against the Chinese university forced the once anti-communist student leader Orbán to pause and offer a referendum on the university - after the 2022 elections.

Budapest mayor Gergely Karácsony, one of the chief rivals of Orbán ahead of next years's elections, wants the referendum to take place before the polls.

The LGBTI elements only made their way into the draft amendments to the package of measures punishing paedophilia - originally also supported by the opposition - after the demonstration against Fudan, with many accusing Orbán of trying to change the main political topic.

Amid the outcry over the anti-LGBTIQ attack, also on Tuesday, Fidesz MPs also approved a government proposal to donate state-owned land to the planned Chinese university.

Poland and Hungary battle to eradicate 'gender' in EU policies

The efforts by the two nationalist-conservative governments, which have both attacked LGBTIQ-rights and women' rights at home, is causing angst among several member states, who see it as a possible roll-back on gender rights.

MEPs to declare EU an LGBTI 'freedom zone'

The symbolic move is an attempt to buttress against right-wing governments' increased scapegoating of LGBTI people, particularly in Poland and Hungary.

Poland and Hungary sanctions procedure back after pandemic

The Article 7 sanctions procedure was initially launched against Warsaw in 2017 by the EU Commission and triggered by the European Parliament in 2018 against Budapest. Now it is back on the table, after the pandemic.

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