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Hungary's anti-LGBTQ law violates international rights standards, say EU law experts

The law banning LGBTQ content for under-18s came into effect in July 2021.

2021-12-14

Words: Alastair James; pictures: Pexels

A group of independent constitutional law experts has described an anti-LGBTQ law passed by Hungary earlier this year as discriminatory and going against EU and international human rights law. 

The Venice Commission, which advises the EU on issues around constitutional law, has published its opinion of Hungary's law that was passed in June that bans content that "propagates or portrays divergence from self-identity corresponding to sex at birth, sex change or homosexuality" for those under 18.

The provisions concerning LGBTQ content, proposed by the ultra-conservative and ruling Fidesz party, came as amendments to an existing law punishing pedophilia, which has also been criticised by the Venice Commission.

"fuel a hostile and stigmatising atmosphere against LGBTQI people"

In its Opinion, The Venice Commission criticises Hungary for rushing through the updated law saying "no explanation was given for why the amendments were rushed through.

The Commission's rapporteurs, who spoke to civil-society organisations and parliamentary opposition, go on to say: "The Act LXXIX of 2021 was adopted in a speedy manner and without thorough and transparent public consultations.

"The amendments were submitted five days before the adoption of the law, which deprived civil society, opposition, and other interested stakeholders of the possibility to provide any meaningful input"

The Commission also warns that the amendments "will further strengthen" anti-LGBTQ attitudes where "non-heterosexual lifestyles are seen as inferior" as well as "fuel a hostile and stigmatising atmosphere against LGBTQI people". 

It also notes that by tying the amendments concerning homosexual content to a law meant to strengthen action against paedophiles that the Hungarian government insinuates that "sexual orientation and gender identity are associated with the violation of children’s rights," which it describes as "degrading, stigmatizing and discriminatory."

Hungary's government is also scolded in the opinion over a lack of precision and clarity when it comes to the language used in the amendments.

It moves on to remind EU members, of which Hungary is one, that the "ECtHR [European Court of Human Rights] has recognized that gender identity and sexual orientation are protected by Article 8 ECHR and covered by the prohibition of discrimination in Article 14 ECHR," further proving the incompatibility of Hungary's laws. 

Reaching its conclusion, the opinion states that the right to seek and receive information "should be effectively enjoyed without discrimination," and that the amendments not only discriminate against LGBTQ people but "leave space only for one-sided and biased teaching," likely leading to further discrimination. 

The Hungarian authorities have tried to justify the provisions as being in the interest of the protection of morals and the rights of others, specifically minors.

Several key recommendations are made at the end of the opinion including:

- changing the title of the act to remove the suggestion that homosexuality and gender identity can be considered paedophilia.

- To repeal or modify sections denying the rights of transgender people to legal recognition of their gender identity.

- To repeal sections relating to banning LGBTQ content to obscene and pornographic content.

- To make sure students are provided with objective, non-stigmatizing information on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The EU has previously announced it is taking legal action over the law as well as condemning it. Hungary has fought back with one diplomat saying the country wouldn't compromise on its law. 

The country's Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán has also promised a referendum on the issue, which was voted on and passed in Parliament in November. It's expected to be held on the same day as the country's next elections in April 2022, as reported by NBC News.

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