For weeks, Hungary has been sliding deep into a public health crisis. New cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in record numbers day after day, often with as many as over 100 people dying every day in a country of not even ten million. On 9 November, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced a set of new restrictions which would enter into force if Parliament passes a Bill granting his government extraordinary powers to effectively fight the pandemic. Parliament passed the Bill on 10 November, with support from opposition parties as well.
Before the Government Decree regulating the life of the country for the coming weeks was published in the official gazette, late at night, a set of three new Bills were uploaded to the Parliament website. None had been part of the Government’s legislative agenda and they therefore took the country by surprise. One of them is a proposal for the 9th Amendment to the Fundamental Law, Hungary’s constitution.
The Bill would add a new sentence to Section L) of the Fundamental Law to, as follows:
“Hungary shall protect the institution of marriage as the union of a man and a woman established by voluntary decision, and the family as the basis of the survival of the nation. Family ties shall be based on marriage or the relationship between parents and children. The mother is female, the father is male.”
The Bill would further amend Section XVI (1) of the Fundamental Law as follows:
“Hungary shall protect the right of children to their identity in line with their sex at birth, and shall ensure an upbringing in accordance with the values based on our homeland’s constitutional identity and Christian culture.”
Another late night Bill would complement the amendment of the Fundamental Law by severely limiting the possibility of single adults to adopt children. This Bill would amend the Civil Code and the Child Protection Act so that non-married adults can only adopt children if they are granted a special permission by the Minister responsible for family policies. Katalin Novák, Minister for Family Affairs has been one of the big faces of Hungarian state-led homophobia. She has given frequent homophobic statements in the past years and regularly participates in the Russian far-right radical event World Conference of Families. She even gave a speech at WCF one time, next to Matteo Salvini. Whether a single adult can be allowed to adopt would be tied to the decision of Novák, who could overrule the opinion of professionals on a person’s fitness to adopt a child. That permission shall be granted on a case-by-case basis. Hungarian human rights groups are certain this measure would be used to prevent LGBTQI individuals from adopting children.
The new set of amendments fit in well to the Government’s consistent campaign against the LGBTQI community. In May, Parliament passed legislation to ban the legal recognition related to transgender and intersex people. Prominent members of the governing parties have been using inflammatory language against the LGBTQI community, often following the examples of PiS, the ruling party of Poland. While the proposed legislation would have a negative impact on the rights of LGBTQI people alone, paired with the consistent messaging of the Government - obediently echoed by their propaganda machine, including the State television - it can have a truly damaging impact on the everyday life of all LGBTQI people in Hungary.
We believe that it is inherently incompatible with the values of a democratic society, and therefore the core values of the European Union, that a Government is actively promoting ideas and legislation that would harm the fundamental rights and quality of life of people living in the country. Budapest Pride is concerned that the current attack on LGBTQI people is yet another step to take Hungary further away from the principle of the rule of law, to which respect of human dignity and due process is essential.
The Bills would have a detrimental impact on children’s rights as well. Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Hungary is bound to take the best interest of the child as a primary consideration in all actions relating to children. By creating unnecessary additional hurdles in adoption procedures, the Government would doom many children to stay longer in state care, the quality of which has already been criticised by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in February this year. The UN body further called upon Hungary to take extra measures to protect children belonging to minorities - including LGBTQI children - from harassment and intimidation. It is not hard to see that Government-mandated homophobia and transphobia would encourage discriminatory attitudes towards children belonging to these groups (even if only by association), who are especially vulnerable members of society.
One would believe that in the midths of a ranging pandemic, which killed over 600 people in the past week alone, with the ratio of positive tests well above the 5% threshold set by the World Health Organisation to effectively control the virus, the Government would focus on enacting measures to guarantee the wellbeing and safety of all people. But the Government of Viktor Orbán never fails to disappoint. Just like in May, they are again proposing legislation to curb the rights of LGBTQI people at a time when demonstrations are banned and people fear for their life and the lives of their loved ones.
Budapest Pride and its allies will continue to fight against these measures aiming to further humiliate LGBTQI people.
This note was based on the Hungarian Helsinki Committee’s Flash report of 12 November 2020