30th Jan 2023

Lesbian conference planned for Budapest to defy Orban

  • Organisers worry that the anti-LGBTI narrative of the Hungarian government is spreading across Europe, starting in Serbia (Photo: PES)
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Rights defenders are planning a conference in Budapest, amid concerns that the anti-LGBTI sentiment of the Hungarian government is spreading across Europe.

The European Lesbian Conference is expected to take place in Budapest at the end of September. The event was held in Vienna and Kyiv in previous years.

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But the conference comes as the government of prime minister Viktor Orbán is facing legal action by the EU Commission over controversial legislation adopted last year targeting the LGBTI community.

Orbán has been stressing gender issues at the centre of his nationalist, conservative politics to rally his supporters.

While Hungary recently elected Katalin Novák as the country's first female president, Orbán's government is promoting a conservative vision for society with shrinking space for women.

Hungary's state audit office recently issued a report about the risks of the country's education system being "too feminine", saying it could hurt the development of boys and create demographic problems.

Ilaria Todde, advocacy and research director at the EuroCentralAsian Lesbian* Community (EL*C ) told reporters on Thursday (1 September) that the Budapest conference is an "empowering moment for us, and an opportunity to denounce the discrimination and celebrate our existence".

Todde warned that the anti-LGBTI narrative of the Hungarian government is spreading elsewhere. She cited Serbia, where president Aleksandar Vučić's said that the so-called EuroPride scheduled for September would be "cancelled or postponed" over security concerns.

Some 145 MEPs across the major political groups in the European Parliament on Wednesday (31 August) wrote to Vučić and prime minister Ana Brnabić asking them to reconsider and to deploy security at the event.

However, most of the lawmakers of the centre-right European People's Party (EPP) refrained from signing the letter.

Swedish MEP Malin Björk from the Left party, a vice-president of the European Parliament's LGBTI Intergroup, called it a "shame" that EPP president Manfred Weber and the president of the parliament, Roberta Metsola, herself from EPP, were not among the signatories.

"They have their homework to do," she said, adding: "I am not impressed".

A spokesperson for Metsola said that as a general rule the president does not co-sign letters, or vote in the plenary, but "is and has always been a vocal supporter of LGBTI rights".

The spokesperson added that at Metsola's initiative rainbow flags were hoisted at the parliament's buildings for the International Day against Homophobia.

On the conference, Björk added that "it is more important than ever that we stand up for human rights,' as the extreme right is attacking LGBTI, and women's rights".

French Green MEP Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield added it was difficult to be an LGBTI person in Hungary.

"When the government claims on a daily basis that LGBTI people are a threat to children, it creates an atmosphere which is threatening [to LGBTI people]," she said.

Delbos-Corfield is in charge of a draft resolution on Hungary's state of democracy, which is to be adopted by the plenary in mid-September.

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