Hungaryâs parliament has passed a law banning gay people from featuring in school educational materials or TV shows for under-18s, as Viktor OrbÃ¡nâs ruling party intensified its campaign against LGBT rights.
The national assembly passed the legislation by 157 votes to one, after MPs in the ruling Fidesz party ignored a last-minute plea by one of Europeâs leading human rights officials to abandon the plan as âan affront against the rights and identities of LGBTI personsâ.
Despite a boycott of the vote by some opposition politicians, the outcome was never in doubt, as Fidesz has a healthy majority and the plans were supported by the far-right Jobbik party.
The measures have been likened by critics to Russiaâs 2013 law against âgay propagandaâ that independent monitors say has increased social hostility and fuelled vigilante attacks against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the EU countryâs eastern neighbour.
The Hungarian legislation outlaws sharing information with under-18s that the government considers to be promoting homosexuality or gender change.
âThere are contents which children under a certain age can misunderstand and which may have a detrimental effect on their development at the given age, or which children simply cannot process, and which could therefore confuse their developing moral values or their image of themselves or the world,â said a Hungarian government spokesperson.
The law also means only individuals and organisations listed in an official register can carry out sex education classes in schools, a measure targeting âorganisations with dubious professional background â¦ often established for the representation of specific sexual orientationsâ, the government spokesperson said.
Companies and large organisations will also be banned from running adverts in solidarity with gay people, if they are deemed to target under-18s. In 2019, a Coca-Cola ad campaign featuring smiling gay couples and anti-discrimination slogans prompted some prominent Fidesz members to call for a boycott of the companyâs products.
The law means that TV shows and films featuring gay characters, or even a rainbow flag, would be permitted only after the watershed, say campaigners who have studied the legislation.
Amnesty Internationalâs Hungarian chapter, which has spearheaded protests against the plans, described the passing of the law as a âdark day for LGBTI rights and for Hungaryâ.
âLike the infamous Russian âpropaganda lawâ, this new legislation will further stigmatise LGBTI people and their allies,â said Amnesty Internationalâs director in Hungary, DÃ¡vid Vig, commenting on a series of amendments that were added last week to a law targeting child abuse.
âTagging these amendments to a bill that seeks to crack down on child abuse appears to be a deliberate attempt by the Hungarian government to conflate paedophilia with LGBTI people.â
AndrÃ¡s LÃ©derer, at the Hungarian Helsinki Committee Europe, said: âThis is a blanket approval to treat LGBT people with discrimination, with hatred. The idea that being gay poses a risk in itself to people under 18 is such a horrible vicious concept â¦ It will have tragic effects on the mental wellbeing of young LGBT people.â
Anna DonÃ¡th, a member of the Hungarian opposition, who sits in the liberal group in the European parliament, called on EU authorities to take immediate action, without specifying what she had in mind.
âThe law is incompatible with the fundamental values of European democratic societies as well as the values of the Hungarian citizens and is only the latest of many shameful attacks on LGBTIQ rights by Viktor OrbÃ¡nâs government,â she said.
âWe need more European examples and more acceptance instead of Russian examples of propaganda laws.â
Ministers from the EUâs 26 other countries have been urged to raise the law with their Hungarian counterpart at a meeting in Luxembourg next week, which is due to turn the spotlight on the rule of law in Hungary.
The latest measures follow the decision to effectively ban adoption by gay couples and end legal recognition for gender changes, including people who have already made the switch.Hungary orders LGBT publisher to print disclaimers on children's book Read more
While Viktor OrbÃ¡nâs government has targeted migrants in its political messaging, gay rights have come under increasing pressure ahead of parliamentary elections in 2022.
Earlier this year, the Hungarian government ordered a small publisher to print disclaimers in a childrenâs book of fairytales containing âbehaviour inconsistent with traditional gender rolesâ. The publishers of Wonderland Is for Everyone wanted to promote tolerance of sexual and minority ethnic groups, but OrbÃ¡n denounced the book as âa provocative actâ that had crossed a red line.
On the eve of Tuesdayâs vote, the Council of Europeâs commissioner for human rights, Dunja MijatoviÄ, described the legislation as an âaffront against the rights and identities of LGBTI personsâ that curtailed freedom of expression and education of all Hungarians.
âThe proposed legislative amendments run counter to international and European human rights standards. It is misleading and false to claim that they are being introduced to protect children.â