Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Budapest on Wednesday, demanding the cancellation of a newly adopted law which effectively bans all content on homosexuality and gender change from the Hungarian school curriculum and television shows for children under 18.
With less than a year to go before the country’s next parliamentary elections, the legislation is the latest in a series of discriminatory and anti-minority reforms initiated by the ruling conservative party Fidesz, under the leadership of Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Introducing the legislation to parliament on Tuesday, the party claimed that the purpose of the law was to ensure âthe protection of children,â AP reported.
Human rights groups and gay activists have since denounced the law, accusing the Hungarian administration of discriminating against sexual minorities to promote their conservative Christian agenda ahead of the elections.
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So what do we know about Hungary’s new anti-LGBT + law?
The latest Hungarian legislation prohibits the dissemination of information aimed at children which is considered to promote homosexuality or gender change. “There is content that children under a certain age may misunderstand and which may have a detrimental effect on their development at the given age, or which children simply cannot assimilate, and which therefore could confuse their developing moral values ââor their image of themselves or the world, âa government spokesperson said.
The law also limits who can teach sex education in schools. Now only individuals and organizations listed in an official government registry can take these courses. This measure aims to target “organizations with questionable professional backgrounds … often established for the representation of specific sexual orientations”.
The limits imposed on content are not confined to the school curriculum alone. It also bans television shows aimed at children, which feature gay characters or LGBTQI + themes. Hungary’s biggest broadcasters have criticized the law, saying it could even have an impact on screenings of popular films like the “Harry Potter” series, as well as classy shows like “Friends,” Reuters reported.
“The exclusion of sexual minorities from the mass media hampers responsible and colorful portrayals of the world” consistent with the values ââof tolerance and acceptance, “the Hungarian Association of Advertisers (MRSZ) said in a statement.
The law also prohibits businesses and organizations from serving advertisements in favor of the LBTQI + community, if they target minors, reported The Guardian. This is not the first time that advertising campaigns in favor of sexual minorities have suffered a backlash in Hungary. In 2019, several prominent Fidesz members called for a boycott of a Coca Cola campaign featuring same-sex couples.
Is this the first time that the Fidesz party has taken an anti-LGBT + position?
No, the Hungarian government led by Orban has already introduced measures to prevent transgender and intersex people from changing their gender marker on official documents. It has also virtually banned same-sex couples from adopting children.
The government also defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman in the constitution, thereby completely excluding same-sex marriage. A similar government-led LGBTQI + movement is taking place in neighboring Poland, where local authorities pass laws against âLGBT ideologyâ. The two countries, close allies, have been criticized by their partners in the European Union for their regressive policies.
However, despite criticism, Orban’s popularity in the country has long gone unchallenged. Since 2010, he has won three electoral landslides. Today, the opposition parties have joined forces for the first time and are finally catching up with the ruling Fidesz party in the opinion polls.
The recent legislation was passed by 157 votes to 1, after several opposition leaders boycotted the vote. Their presence, however, would have made little difference, given that Fidesz enjoys a healthy majority in the Hungarian parliament.
How have activists and political leaders reacted to the new law?
In addition to the protests outside the parliament in Budapest, the law has also drawn widespread criticism from political leaders, activists and human rights organizations around the world.
In a letter, Amnesty International Hungary said the law “clearly infringes the right to freedom of expression, human dignity and equal treatment”. Human Rights Watch noted that the law could have “far-reaching consequences for health providers, educators, and artists, among others,” in addition to having a negative impact on children.
Opposition leaders, including Anna Donath, called on the EU to intervene and take immediate action against the Hungarian government. EU ministers have been urged to raise the controversial law at an upcoming meeting in Luxembourg next week.
Ahead of Tuesday’s vote, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja MijatoviÄ called the legislation a “front against the rights and identity of LGBTI people” that would restrict freedom of expression in the country.