An attack on the LGBTQI+ community in Hungary

The government in Hungary has conflating belonging to the LGBTQI+ community as pedophilia.

In the name of “protecting our children”, a law aimed tightening penalties for child sex offenders has included a clause: prevent the “promotion” of homosexuality to those under 18. Any art, literature, advertisements, or the like that contains references to gender change or homosexuality is now forbidden – to “protect the children”.

Now, sexuality in Hungary has been reduced to something that is a brainwashing tactic. A person’s orientation is now something children need “protection” from. Identity has been weaponized, and there is a new target: the LGBTQI+.

Minority communities always make for easy political targets, and it isn’t just Hungary. In the past few years alone, it’s been migrants in Spain, it’s been women’s bodies in Poland, it’s been Muslims in France. The narrative is insultingly simple: if you are not like us, you are the problem. If you are from the marginalized, you are our scapegoat. Everything that is wrong with our country is due to your presence, and you should be reminded of this every single day. Identity: the easiest battlefield.

In a country where 42% of the LGBTQI+have thought about suicide and 30% have attempted it, where marriage is only for heterosexual couples, and where adoption is banned for single-sex partners, the ruling party now wants to prohibit “promotion of homosexuality to those under 18”. 

The bill is similar to the anti-LGBTQI+ Russian law from 2013 known as the Propaganda Act, and is not only actively discriminatory but also makes inclusion work heavily inaccessible. With this law, sensitization trainings, inclusivity, and even sexual education become downright impossible. 

Last year, a children’s book that reimagined fairytales from the perspective of marginalized communities, including the LGBTQI+, already toed the line in the conservative country. It was torn apart at a press conference, and the Prime Minister himself had only one message: “Leave our children alone.” The controversy continued until eventually, the writers were ordered to put a disclaimer on it: that this book contains “behavior inconsistent with traditional gender roles”. 

Still, the book was celebrated in pockets of the country – for those tired of the relentless attack on identity, the book was a breath of fresh air in what so often feels otherwise like a hopeless situation.

This year, under the new law, that same book would be considered outright illegal.

The following is an anonymous account of a research participant

“When I was in my fifth grade, my classmates found out I was gay. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any acceptance. I was beaten, a ruler was broken on me, shoes were tossed. When I was in sixth grade, I went to another school where I was beaten on my way home. It also became a police case. So I went to another school again, but the threats from the boy who beat me continued in the same way. I have attempted suicide several times.”

Hungarians from the LGBTQI+ community share their perspectives in a video here, highlighting the cyberbullying and ostracism they have seen. This is a law that completely fails young children, and pushes them further into the margins – sometimes at the cost of their own lives. 

Statistically speaking, any abuse a child may face is overwhelmingly done by a heterosexual man, usually by a known relative. This government, which has previously gone to high lengths to hush up child abuse scandals over the last 10 years, has now attempted to disguise a clear and intentional attack against this minority community: the obvious effect of which – we can all predict it – is the state-sanctioned legitimization of hate crimes. 

We are in pride month: the Budapest pride parade is right around the corner. We are vigilant and prepared, because we know that with this law, the community will suffer more violence than it has in the recent past. 

Thankfully the world has taken note. Thousands have protested it in front of the Hungarian parliament in Budapest; they were joined by the community in Prague, Brussels, and Llubjana. Hungarian civil society has expressed outrage: Hatter Society has an open letter to the government, Hungarian Helsinki Committee has promised to take whatever legal route necessary, and Hungarian Civil Liberties Union has appealed to all. Pride Budapest has an ongoing petition which has gained over 100,000 signatures.  Local opposition politicians have spoken out against it. The European Commission has rebuked it. France and Germany have called the European Union to action, and will begin investigating the ban next week to see if it is in breach of EU law. In protest, there is talk of lighting the Munich stadium in rainbow colours for the Hungary-Germany football next week. Media industry giants have taken a firm stance against it. The ruling party may have tried to slip this law in, without due consultation, but in doing so have brought more people against them than before. This one law is an assault on human rights, equal treatment, and basic dignity, and cannot be left as is.

We wish strength to our LGBTQI+ friends, and express our solidarity. Together, we stand #UNITED with you.

If you want to take action, here is what you could do:

Refer to this wonderful guide by Tasz on non-legal tools for everyday situations: 

  • Protest, raise your voice against government incitement to hatred. Don’t let power think hatred is acceptable! There are many forms of protest. From demonstrations to letter-post campaigns to Facebook posts, you can express your condemnation in a myriad of ways. You can read more about this here .
  • If you see hateful posters, inscriptions, or witness a hate crime, report it to the police and the NGOs concerned, use the platform! Let the press know!
  • If you know someone who has been a victim of or witnessed a hate crime, encourage him or her to report the incident.
  • If you see or hear hate speech, report it to the National Media and Communications Authority and tell NGOs, let the press know!
  • If you see hate speech on the internet, report it to the provider of that page (Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, etc.)! These providers delete homophobic, racist, and xenophobic content within 24 hours, based on a code of conduct adopted in May 2016 at the initiative of the European Commission.
  • If the website does not respond to your report, please inform the NGOs concerned, as in many cases they have a reliable reporting status, meaning that the content they report may be taken more seriously.
  • Don’t go hate speech without a word, always express your opposition! One of the most effective tools in the fight against racism and other forms of intolerance is to make it clear that it is not just exclusionary opinion that exists. Hate speech may even be widely accepted, but it is just as harmful, which is something we need to bring to everyone’s attention!