Tuesday, June 29, 2021

This Pride, We Need to Talk About Hungary.

Hi my loves,

A bit of a serious post today, and one that can also be found on my society's online mag, AdvocatED. I don't think it would be right to let this month's pride celebrations draw to an end without discussing a disheartening recent setback in LGBTQ+ legislation, namely Hungary's new anti-LGBT+ bill.

The bill, which was passed 157 - 1 by the Hungarian Parliament on 15 June, bans the sharing of content on homosexuality or sex-reassignment to people under 18 in films, advertisements and school sex education programmes.

The bill, which has now become law after the endorsement of Hungary's President János Áder, has set an alarming precedent by Hungary's government, furthering negative sentiments surrounding homosexuality and LGBT+ issues.

To put the Hungarian Government's views on LGBT+ representation into perspective, the new law would place movies and TV shows such as Billy Elliot, Modern Family and even some instalments of the Harry Potter movies into the same age rating categories as the most violent and goriest of TV shows and films. A statement issued by the commercial TV network M-RTL confirms that any media including the portrayal of LGBT+ themes can only be broadcast after 11pm, accompanied on screen by a red circle that indicates they are not suitable for audiences under 18.  

To make matters worse, President Viktor Orban argues the primary intention of the bill is to target paedophilia. Historically, paedophilia has long been conflated with the LGBT+ community as a way to validate intolerant legislation against the community, a notable example being the UK's age of consent inequality, where from 1967 through to 1994 the age of consent for gay men was drastically higher than opposite-sex couples. 

The new bill is a flagrant attempt at censoring important LGBT+ resources and representation to young people, which human rights advocates argue could greatly harm the mental health of LGBT+ youth. Withholding needed representation and especially needed information with regards to sex education programmes transgresses fundamental beliefs of the European Union. This new law reverses the large legislative strides in Hungary's LGBT+ legislation, and is a shameful roll back on the equality, rights and safety of  the LGBT+ community there.

To conflate homosexuality with paedophilia in legislation, and suggest representation of the LGBT+ community ought to hidden behind a watershed, directly goes against ideals of human dignity, equality and respect for human rights. It isolates queer youth and furthers the sentiment that homosexuality and other LGBT+ identities are inherently pervert or unsuitable for children. This will undoubtedly leave queer Hungarian youth feeling ashamed, dirty, and as though they must hide their identities to society. 

International Response So Far

International response so far has been encouraging, with many prominent members of the EU condemning the the bill.

On Wednesday morning, the day after the bill was passed, European Commissioner President Ursula Von Der Leyen spoke out against the proposed bill, stating "This Hungarian bill is a shame."

"I've instructed my responsible Commissioners to write a letter to the Hungarian authorities expressing our legal concerns before the bill enters into force."

"This bill clearly discriminates against people on the basis of their sexual orientation and it goes against all the fundamental values of the European Union."

"This is human dignity, it is equality and it's the human fundamental rights. So we will not compromise on these principles". 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also spoke out against the bill on Wednesday. 

"I think this law is wrong and also not compatible with my idea of politics, if you allow homosexual, same-sex partnerships but restrict information about them elsewhere, that also has to do with freedom of education and the like." Merkel said in a statement to the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament, adding that the bill was something she would vote against politically.

The issue was then raised a day later at Europe's top table, when EU leaders met in Brussels for a two-day summit. Prior to the conference, the Dutch prime minister was one of 17 EU leaders who signed a letter vowing to "continue fighting against discrimination against the LGBTI community, confirming our defence of their fundamental rights."

Despite the fact that Hungary was not specifically mentioned, the message was clear: 13 EU countries had previously published a joint statement expressing "grave concern" about the new law. Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, who is openly gay, said he would warn Mr Orban that conflating homosexuality and paedophilia in the law was incorrect.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who has promised to drag the country "to its knees on this matter." argued that Hungary has no business being a member of the European Union. 

But international criticism must not stop here. It is paramount that the EU must continue to condemn Hungary's anti-LGBT+ law, seeking sanctions or further legal action to try and secure a repeal of the new law before even more damage is done.

Solidarity to Hungary's LGBT+ Community. 

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