By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News reporting from Budapest
(Worthy News) – Hungary’s conservative government says a new law prohibiting sharing with minors any content portraying homosexuality or sex reassignment is linked to its fight against pedophilia.
“When it comes to protecting our children, there’s no question: We have zero tolerance for pedophiles, and we also insist that educating children about sexual orientation must be protected as the sole right of parents,” the government told Worthy News.
Wednesday’s e-mailed statement came after thousands of Hungarians demonstrated this week against the legislation.
Critics, including the U.S. embassy in Budapest, said the law would further curtail the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT) in the eastern European Union nation.
They claim the legislation is a Hungarian version of Russia’s law banning “gay propaganda.”
Despite the protests, Hungary’s National Assembly approved the bill in a 157-1 vote. The governing conservative Fidesz party and its Christian Democratic allies as well as the right-wing opposition Jobbik party endorsed the measure.
One independent lawmaker voted against it, while leftist opposition parties boycotted the parliamentary session. “On this shameful day, the opposition’s place is not in the parliament but on the streets,” said Budapest liberal Mayor Gergely Karácsony.
The law bans the representation of any sexual orientation besides heterosexuals for minors. And, it forbids sex reassignment information in school sex education programs or media such as in films or advertisements for anyone under 18.
The government of self-declared “illiberal” and pro-Christian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán says the law defends traditional family values.
“Hungary has garnered much recognition for our pro-family policies,” it stressed in the statement to Worthy News. “Aside from these policies and tangible financial support offered to families, which have resulted in a growing number of marriages and births, we have also adopted several provisions in the interest of protecting children.”
Analysts say, Orbán, who has been suffering in the polls, uses the legislation to attract conservative voters ahead of the 2022 elections. It is also a different political theme
The law, which also includes stricter prison terms for pedophiles, came after the government faced criticism this year over child pornography allegations.
Its former ambassador to Peru, Gábor Kaleta, was sentenced to a one-year suspended jail term and fined $1,800 for possessing thousands of child pornography images.
However, Hungary potentially faced more sanctions from the EU over the law for linking pedophilia to the LGBT community. The government already faces EU investigations over rule-of-law issues and a perceived crackdown on media freedom.
Dunja Mijatovic, the commissioner for human rights at the Council of Europe, the continent’s leading human rights body, had asked Hungarian lawmakers to reject the latest LGTB legislation. The official claimed it would reinforce “prejudice” against LGBT people.
“Today’s decision in #Hungary’s parliament represents another severe state discrimination against #LGBTIQ people,” added Germany’s Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Roth on social networking site Twitter. “This law goes against everything we regard as our common European values. Full solidarity and support for LGBTIQ people in Hungary.”
Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party also successfully backed legislation last year, making it impossible for transgender people to change the gender markers on their identity documents legally.
Critics claim that puts them at risk of humiliation when they need to present identity documents.
And Fidesz earlier rewrote the constitution, or ‘Fundamental Law of Hungary,’ identifying marriage as an exclusive union between one man and one woman.
It defines family as “based on marriage and the parent-child relation” and says, “the mother is a woman, the father a man.”
Additionally, the constitution mandates that parents raise children in a conservative Christian spirit.
“Hungary defends the right of children to identify with their birth gender and ensures their upbringing based on our nation’s constitutional identity and values based on our Christian culture,” it says.
The co-author of the constitution, József Szájer, recently resigned as a Fidesz member of the EU parliament after Brussels police raided a gay sex party he attended.
The party violated Belgian restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking about Hungary’s LGBT law publicly can be tricky: A Worthy News reporter was nearly beaten up by Nazi-saluting supporters when mentioning the law during a live radio show outside a Budapest stadium.
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