BUDAPEST – Lawmakers in Hungary approved legislation Tuesday that prohibits sharing with minors any content portraying homosexuality or sex reassignment, something supporters said would help fight pedophilia but which human rights groups denounced as anti-LGBT discrimination.
Fidesz, the conservative ruling party of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, introduced the legislation, which is the latest effort to curtail the rights of gay men, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people in the European Union nation located in central Europe.
Hungary's National Assembly approved the bill in a 157-1 vote. Fidesz has a parliamentary majority, and lawmakers from the right-wing Jobbik party also endorsed the measure. One independent lawmaker voted against it.
Csaba Domotor, the Fidesz state secretary, described the goal as “the protection of children,” noting that the changes include the introduction of a searchable registry of convicted pedophiles.
“Pedophiles won’t be able to hide any more – there are similar solutions in other countries, too. The criminal code will be even more strict. Punishments will be more severe. No one can get away with atrocities with light punishments and parole,” he said.
All other opposition parties boycotted the voting session in protest. Human rights groups had denounced the measure strongly, saying it was wrong to conflate LGBT people with pedophilia. They argued that the law could be used to stigmatize and harass residents because of their sexual orientations and gender identities.
“On this shameful day, the opposition’s place is not in the parliament but on the streets,” Budapest Mayor Karacsony wrote on Facebook.
Orban’s government in the past has depicted migrants as a grave threat to Hungary and the nation’s Christian identity, a theme the prime minister has successfully used to win past elections. With the next elections scheduled for 2022, and fewer migrants entering Europe, the ruling party has increasingly depicted the LGBT rights movement as a threat, in an attempt to shore up its conservative base.
Yet more than a dozen local organizations, including Amnesty International Hungary and LGBT rights organizations, argued in a statement after the vote that the legislation is not in line with Hungarian society, which is largely accepting of LGBT people.
“(It) also clearly infringes the right to freedom of expression, human dignity and equal treatment, the statement said.
Lawmaker Gergely Arato, of the Democratic Coalition parliamentary grouping, said the changes violate the standards of parliamentary democracy, rule of law and human rights.
The legislation, presented last week by Fidesz, was on its face primarily aimed at fighting pedophilia. It included amendments that ban the representation of any sexual orientation besides heterosexual as well as sex reassignment information in school sex education programs, or in films and advertisements aimed at anyone under 18.
Thousands of LGBT activists and others held a protest in Budapest on Monday in an unsuccessful effort to stop the legislation from passing.
Dunja Mijatovic, the commissioner for human rights at the Council of Europe, the continent’s leading human rights body, also had asked Hungarian lawmakers to reject the legislation, saying it reinforced prejudice against LGBT people.
The Fidesz party also successfully championed a law last year making it impossible for transgender people to legally change the gender markers on their identity documents. Human rights officials say that puts them at risk of humiliation when they need to present identity documents.
“Today’s decision in #Hungary’s parliament represents another severe state discrimination against #LGBTIQ people,” Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Roth of Germany tweeted Tuesday after the new legislation passed. “This law goes against everything we regard as our common European values. Full solidarity and support for LGBTIQ people in Hungary.”