LGBTQ rights groups and other progressive sections in Hungary are protesting a bid by the right-wing government to discriminate against the LGBTQ community by conflating pedophilia with homosexuality. On June 15, Tuesday, the Hungarian parliament passed a legislation allegedly aimed at curbing pedophilia, but the law also prohibits dissemination of materials talking about homosexuality and transgender identities to minors. The ‘Pedophilia Act’ was supported by right-wing groups, including the incumbent Fidesz party led by prime minister Viktor Orban.
On June 14, Monday, several rights groups such as Budapest Pride, Hungarian LGBT Alliance, Labrisz Lesbian Association, Prism Community, and others, had protested against the bill at Kossuth Square in Budapest. The protesters accused the government of using despicable methods to deny sex education to teenagers who may not be certain about their sexuality.
According to reports, the pedophilia act contains several openly homophobic and transphobic provisions. It calls for a ban on “exposing minors to any content that depicts sexuality for its own sake” and prohibits depiction of homosexuality or deviance from gender identity based on birth sex, including in advertisements, education, and any media content. Any school programs related to sex education require special permission from the authorities. Under the provisions, LGBTQ and feminist groups fear that they will not be permitted to organize such discussions for youths.
The government initiated the law purportedly to curb pedophilia following widespread accusations of child abuse against several people in positions of power, including diplomats and politicians. However, the conservative Fidesz party has used it as an opportunity to repress LGBTQ community rights by conflating pedophilia with homosexuality. The targeting of LGBTQ community in the garb of curbing pedophilia is widely perceived to be a continuation of Orban’s policies to consolidate his right-wing conservative vote base ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections scheduled for next year.
LGBTQ activist Rita Béres-Deák opined in LeftEast that the law is likely to be used by the Hungarian authorities to ban the annual pride march in Budapest, which is supposed to take place in July. There is a high chance of censorship or ban of children’s and youth literature with LGBT+ content, as well as websites and social media platforms run by LGBT groups. “There will be no space for public advertisements featuring same-sex couples, and any public discussion on LGBT+ youth or diversity education,” she warned.
The Workers Party of Hungary 2006-European Left said that “the text of the law echoes the far-right’s international history of onslaughts on leftism, feminism, the Me too-movement, Black lives Matters, LGBTQ, and all other progressive ideologies. It is clear that these communities are oppressed and their exponents are being targeted and persecuted.”
The LGBTQ community in Hungary and across Europe has condemned the enactment of the homophobic law – especially in the LGBTQ pride month of June – as a stepping up of Orban’s war on LGBTQ rights and the community. In December 2020, the Hungarian government had legally prohibited non-married couples from adopting children, and in 2021, the government tightened its control over all fertility centers in the country with a possible intent of excluding lesbians from fertility treatment and assisted reproduction.
Earlier, in 2019, Orban’s government had courted controversy by enacting the Vocational Education Act to censor “sensitization programs in schools which may harm the children’s sense of morality.” While the government has targeted LGBT activism through official channels, far-right fringe groups and political parties have attacked LGBTQ events and gatherings in Hungary.
As LGBTQ activism advances in regions across the world braving repression and persecution, far-right regimes are placing new hurdles in the path of emancipation of sexual minorities, as can be witnessed in countries like Poland, Hungary and many others.