A war of the words has broken out between Hungary and the European Commission over a new anti-LGBT law introduced in the country.
Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said she was “very concerned” over this legislation which bans content promoting homosexuality and gender reassignment in schools, and with people under the age of 18.
However, Zoltan Kovacs, a government spokesperson, hit back saying “as the mother of 7 children, surely you understand the importance of being able to educate your children on these sensitive matters as you see fit. That’s what this law is about.”
The law was submitted to parliament by Fidesz lawmakers, and passed 157-1 after opposition groups boycotted the vote in protest. It punishes paedophilia, introduces a searchable data base for child sex offenders and says under 18s cannot be shown pornographic content or any content that promotes gender change or homosexuality. It also bans such material from appearing in television adverts, films and educational resources aimed at minors. Instead, a list of organisations allowed to hold sex education sessions in schools was proposed.
Csaba Domotor, Fidesz state secretary, said that “no one can get away with atrocities with light punishments and parole”.
Critics say the legislation is the latest attack that the ruling Fidesz party and prime minister Orban has made against the LGBT community in recent months, ahead of a vital election in 2022. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, Orban’s government has ramped up anti-LGBT rhetoric, has redefined marriage as the union between one man and one woman in the constitution and has severely limited gay adoption.
It also outlawed legal status for transgender people, including those who had transitioned. Since this action, the constitutional court has deemed this unconstitutional.
The Hatter rights group likened the new legislation to the Russia’s 2013 “gay propaganda” law, which sought to protect children from being exposed to homosexuality and prevent homosexuality from being considered a norm in society.
In a statement, the group argued that “the new legislation proposed by Fidesz would seriously curb freedom of speech and children’s rights”. They also added: “this move endangers the mental health of LGBT youngsters and prevents them from getting access to information and affirmative support.” They and six other rights groups, unsuccessfully, called on Orban to withdraw the bill before the vote.
In a statement, NGO and activist groups who opposed the law, which include Amnesty International Hungary, said “it clearly infringes the right to freedom of expression, human dignity, and equal treatment”.