Hungary: Reject Bill Banning Discussion of LGBT Issues

Hungary’s parliament should reject a bill that would prohibit discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation, and violates Hungary’s international legal obligations, Human Rights Watch said today. The law targets content “promoting” or “portraying” sexual and gender diversity and could have sweeping consequences for health providers, educators, and artists, among others. The draft “Laws enabling stricter action against pedophile offenders and the protection of children” bans the “portrayal and the promotion of gender identity different from sex at birth, the change of sex and homosexuality” aimed at people under 18. The bill, sponsored by Fidesz, the ruling party, is due for a vote in parliament on June 15, 2021. “Hungary’s ruling party is cynically deploying a ‘protection of children’ narrative to trample on rights and try to render LGBT people invisible,” said Neela Ghoshal, associate LGBT rights director at Human Rights Watch. “Children do not need to be protected from exposure to diversity. On the contrary, LGBT children and families need protection from discrimination and violence.” The draft law is the latest in a series of attacks on LGBT equality under Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government. In May 2020 the government rushed through an omnibus bill that included provisions preventing transgender and intersex people from changing their gender marker on official documents, in defiance of their obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). In December, parliament adopted an amendment to the constitution effectively banning same-sex couples from adopting children. Orban’s government has sought to scapegoat LGBT people as part of a wider strategy to sidestep human rights obligations and cement Orban’s brand of authoritarianism. In the case of the current bill, Fidesz members of the legislative committee added language on “portrayal and promotion” of diverse gender identities and sexual orientations at the last minute to an existing draft bill on pedophilia. The bill already contained provisions hostile to LGBT people, including one that the state should protect “family relations based on parent-child relations where the mother is a woman, the father is a man,” and another aimed at “ensuring the right of children to an identity in line with their sex at birth.” The new provisions take aim at any discussion of diversity, and seem to stem in part from efforts by artists and advertisers to promote inclusion and acceptance of sexual and gender minorities. In 2019, Fidesz threatened a boycott in response to Coca-Cola advertisements featuring same-sex couples sharing a soft drink. In 2020, when Labrisz, a lesbian, bisexual and transgender women’s organization published a fairy tale anthology entitled “Wonderland is for Everyone” featuring some LGBT protagonists, the government forced it to attach stickers to the books with the disclaimer that they contained “behaviour inconsistent with traditional gender roles.”