New Legislation in Hungary Bans LGBT+ Related Content in Schools and TV
On Tuesday, the 15th of June, the Hungarian parliament passed a new law to protect children from pedophilia. However, the law also bans LGBT+ related content in schools, advertisement and TV. While the opposition boycotted the vote, 157 yes-votes and one dissenting vote enabled the new legislation to enter into force under the leadership of Viktor Orbán’s government. This renewed attack against the Hungarian LGBT+ community causes widespread national and international indignation – the day before the vote took place, thousands had gone to the streets in Budapest to protest against the law, which was drafted by the Fidesz party and which associates homosexuality and gender change with pedophilia.
With the support of the right-wing Jobbik party, the Christian-conservative Fidesz party succeeded in pushing through its new law last week to combat pedophilia. While the majority of the opposition in the parliament in Budapest has initially supported the draft bill, it vehemently boycotted the final vote due to a “last-minute” amendment to the bill banning LGBT related content at schools and TV. Any attempt by MPs of the opposition to change the discriminating article was blocked. The Hungarian LGBT+ community that demonstrated its outrage by initiating a largescale protest in Budapest did not succeed in preventing the homophobic law from entering into force either.
According to the new law, any content that portrays homosexuality and transsexuality to children and teenagers under the age of 18 is banned. Subsequently, LGBT+ related topics will no longer be taught in sex education at schools, thus withholding important information from minors in their formative years of exploring their own sexuality. Violations of the law will be punished with fines and even prison sentence. The anti-LGBT law further states that only individuals and organizations officially registered with the state will be allowed to teach sex education at school in the future. Advertisement, TV and literature are similarly affected by the law infringing human rights. TV shows and movies, such as Friends and Bridget Jones, which mention homosexuality, will presumably either be banned for minors or censored.
Orbán’s longstanding campaign against the Hungarian LGBT+ community
The amendment, which aims to protect children according to Orbán and his ultra-conservative Fidesz party, constitutes another attack against the LGBT+ community. The Hungarian Prime Minister utilizes the ban of homosexuality and gender change related content to further stigmatize members of the LGBT+ community. Katalin Cseh, Momentum MEP and Vice-Chair of the Renew Europe Group in the European Parliament, expressed her frustration on Twitter: “Orban’s new law would ban any content (art & education too) that it sees as “promoting” homosexuality. It is sickening that the law is framed as combatting child abuse, conflating the two.” Háttér Society, a Hungarian LGBT organization, even expects suicide rates to increase dramatically – particularly among minors – as a consequence of the new law.
In the past, Orbán repeatedly discriminated people of other sexual orientations and citizens that changed their gender. He restricted such individuals’ rights, for example by forbidding homosexual couples to adopt children. Accordingly, hostility against LGBT+ members is not a novelty in Hungary. In 2019, an advertisement campaign by Coca Cola that portrayed homosexual couples caused a stir among members of the Fidesz party. Some of the party’s MPs even called for a boycott of the US-American company. Orbán’s new law, which resembles the Russian “anti-gay propaganda” law adopted in 2013 that deliberately infringes the rights of the LGBT+ community, perpetuates and enforces prejudices against and discrimination of LGBT+ members in society. Underaged members of the LGBT+ community are particularly harshly impacted by the new law, as they find themselves denied access to crucial information, comprehensive sex education and important psychological support.
A political calculus
The discrimination and stigmatization of the Hungarian LGBT+ community is by no means arbitrary – it serves the political objectives of Orbán and his supporters. In order to polarize the own population and divert public attention away from political dealings which the Prime Minister wishes to keep unnoticed, Orbán utilizes minorities as scapegoats and advances their marginalization – a political calculus of the Hungarian politician. Consequently, topics, like the transfer of billions of euros in state assets to dubious foundations that are managed by Orbán’s supporters and that supposedly invest the capital in education, receive little attention by the media. Such questionable political actions serve Orbán’s grip to power; they secure the current Prime Minister influence, even after a potential defeat in the upcoming national elections 2022.
Nonetheless, the Hungarian LGBT+ community has reason to hope – Orbán’s abuse of human rights does not go unnoticed indeed. His new law triggered national and international turmoil and outrage. Didier Reynders, member of the European Commission, spoke out on Twitter about the adoption of the homophobic law: “I deeply regret the new law in Hungary that bans the portrayal of homosexuality to minors. When building their own identities, younger generations need to have access to information that reflects a modern and truly open society, in all its diversity. No one should be censored.” President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, is similarly appalled by the homophobia of the Hungarian Prime Minister.
The exact implementation and execution of the law that was adopted last week Tuesday and the effect of the legislation on the Hungarian LGBT+ community remains to be seen within the upcoming weeks. However, the protest of several thousands in Budapest last Monday made clear that the LGBT+ community is willing to fight for its rights.
Valerie Kornis is an intern at the office of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom in Prague. She graduated with a Bachelor in International Relations and Organisations from Leiden University in The Netherlands and will soon start a Master in Human Rights and Humanitarian Action at Sciences Po in Paris.