The first element of Hungary’s ban on the promotion of homosexuality has been written into law and will take effect in less than 30 days. The new commercial activity decree prohibits, among other things, the sale of content displaying homosexuality within 200 meters of schools, churches, and youth institutions. In the areas where it can be sold, content depicting or popularizing any form of homosexuality, gender reassignment, gender identity differing from sex, or sexuality for selfish purposes needs to be separated from all other content and sold in closed packaging.
The first decree related to Hungary’s new “child protection law,” passed in June in the face of international criticism for specifically targeting the LGBTQ community, has been legalized and will take effect in less than a month. Published among the Hungarian Gazette’s government decrees on commercial activity last Friday. The ruling requires the sale of LGBTQ content (books, movies, etc.) to be isolated from all other content and kept away from Hungary’s educational institutions and churches.
There are three sections to the law. The first makes it illegal to “place products intended for children in shop windows or into public view if they contain content displaying or promoting gender identity differing from sex, gender reassignment, sexuality for selfish purposes, or homosexuality.”
The second section declares that stores which wish to sell such content cannot be located within 200 meters of the doors of schools, youth institutions, churches, or religious institutions.
The third section requires all such content to be “separated from all other products and sold in closed packaging.”
The National Media Council is still analyzing how it can follow the law, which is unclear with regards to advertisements and television shows. TV shows need to change age restrictions without a valid official recommendation, which could now lead to self-censoring.
Writer and literary historian Krisztián Nyári, creative director of one of the largest Hungarian publishers, Líra, brought up the difficulty books may face too. He explained that since homosexuality has, even from ancient times, been brought up in many poems found in literary collections intended for schools, “literature lessons will need to be held in secret places away from schools and churches, and literary collections will need to be sold in closed packaging, separately from all other textbooks.
In response, the government stated that this ruling does not target literary collections. HVG did not receive an answer regarding which government bodies will be responsible for analyzing literature which violates the law, and whether literary works will be individually inspected in the case of violations.
The second section also raises the question of whether bookstores in Hungary which have thus far been operating near churches or schools will choose to relocate or to end the sale of all their LGBTQ-related content. There could be mountains of literature which these stores cannot sell if the law is interpreted as a ban on books which mention, for example, a homosexual character or a non-heterosexual identity.
Despite the ruling in June announcing restrictions on how sexual information can be shared in schools and by whom, this decree only regulates the sale of books and media. Further regulations towards educational institutions will likely follow this decree.
Regardless of whether it has not yet been brought into Hungarian law, the ruling has already specified that only a legally recognized body can speak to students on “sexual culture, gender identity, sexual development, the adverse effects of drugs, the dangers of the internet, and other topics tied to bodily or mental development.”
Liberal weekly HVG reached out to the Government Information Office (KTK) asking when further detailed rules will be available. KTK responded that “the designation of authorized organizations to be involved in sexual education in kindergartens and schools will also happen.”
The law, which has faced huge backlash from the European Union over human rights violations, has been justified by Fidesz officials’ statements that it is only intended for the protection of children. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has alleged multiple times that Brussels is attacking Hungary and trying to let LGBTQ activists into schools.
The government has since initiated a “child protection” national consultation and will be holding a referendum on the topic with five questions. Meanwhile the law, which was protested by thousands of Hungarians before its enactment, is facing infringement proceedings by the European Commission.
With the attention this law is receiving, it cannot be ignored that in 2012 the right-wing, at the time much more radical Jobbik party had the same idea in mind. They wanted to ban the promotion of homosexuality “in the interest of protecting the healthy thinking of younger generations.” When the opposition party recommended the suggestion to be put into law, Fidesz deemed it an “unnecessary and uncalled for provocation.”