Hungary – a country known for its spas, thermal bathslots and outdoor activities – is in danger of becoming renowned for a much less savoury reason: the latest European Social Survey has revealed that Hungarians are amongst the least gay-friendly nations on the continent. Most worrying of all, however, is that these viewpoints are threatening to bring about anti-gay policy.
The survey asked whether ‘gay men and lesbians should be free to live their own lives as they wish’. Only 47% of women and 41% of men answered affirmatively compared to the average result across the 26 countries surveyed of 63% and 60%, respectively. Only Estonia, Slovakia and Russia fared worse than Hungary – the former Eastern Soviet bloc countries significantly more homophobic than the rest of Europe.
Amongst these homophobes is MP Ádám Mirkóczki, who has submitted an anti-gay bill with the support of Jobbik, a radical far-right minority party in Parliament. The bill seeks to not only criminalise and fine the propagation of homosexual behaviour, but also to ban any acts showing homosexuality as “normal, accepted behaviour”.
This ban on promotion of sexual deviations is designed to protect “public morals and the mental health of the young generations” from homosexuality, trans-sexuality, transvestitism, bisexuality, and pedophile behaviours. It would not only modify the laws of media and advertising but also the Criminal Code. The amendments suggest fines of up to HUF 150,000 (circ. £415), and up to three years of imprisonment (five or eight in some cases).
The draft is very similar to the recent regulation of the City Council of St. Petersburg, which bans and imposes a fine on the promotion of homosexuality and pedophilia by any means. In St. Petersburg, the Council almost unanimously voted for the regulation and it entered in the past few weeks. A similar bill is now submitted to the Duma as well. The situation in Hungary is fortunately not so advanced; however, it is very clear the direction in which these measures could be heading.
Previously in October 2007, the Constitutional Court expressed that gay marriage is against the Constitution, and although registered relationship is allowed for gay couples as an alternative, it does not guarantee the right to adopt. There are currently no plans to change this law. The new Constitution, entered into force on January 1st, restricts the phrase ‘marriage’ to straight couples and does not provide for non-discrimination on the grounds of age and sexual orientation. In November 2011, the Catholic democrat party KDNP, successfully submitted a bill on the protection of family which restricts the phrase ‘family’ to married couples, thereby excluding gay [and non-married heterosexual] couples.
In addition to anti-gay political action, the Hungarian Police has once again tried to hinder the annual LGBT pride march in July. Although the route takes place on the same route every year, the police have opposed the request on the grounds that they will not be able to redirect the traffic. Notably, numerous other events throughout the year also use the exact same route and the police has never complained about the traffic complications before. Fortunately the Court of Budapest promptly overruled this decision.
Similarly, it is clear that Jobbik intend to prevent this year’s gay EuroGames, hosted by Budapest at the end of June. Gábor Vona, leader of the party mocked the fact that Budapest are holding the ‘gay Olympics’ while the Olympics are held in London, and called the games ‘the end of the world’. Indeed the hosts of the EuroGames, FRIGO, seek “to improve the reputation of Hungary as an open minded country with a tradition of hospitality and to support the Hungarian LGBT community”. Sadly it seems that while there are excellent initiatives such as these attempting to improve the lives and support of LGBT individuals, there are still those in Hungary wishing to deny equality.
Note: Thank you to my friend David Vajnai, from Budapest, for researching and helping write this article.