Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on Wednesday (21) stepped up his cultural war with the European Union by announcing a referendum on a law banning any mention of homosexuality to those under 18, approved by the country’s parliament at the mid-June.
Last week, the European Commission (executive branch of the bloc) launched legal action against the measure, targeting protests from the EU and the LGBTQIA + population in Hungary. If the initiative is successful, Brussels could suspend funding to the country while the measure is in force.
Despite this, Orbán was ready to raise the stakes. “The future of our children is at stake, so we cannot lose ground on this issue,” the Prime Minister said in a video posted on Facebook. “In recent weeks, Brussels has clearly attacked Hungary for its child protection law. Hungarian laws do not allow advertisements of a sexual nature in kindergartens, schools, on television and in advertisements. “
There is still no date set for the referendum in which Hungarians will have to answer five questions: whether they support holding conferences on sexual orientation in schools without parental consent; whether they think that gender reassignment procedures should be encouraged among children; whether content that may affect sexual orientation should be shown to children without restrictions; and whether gender reassignment procedures should be available for children.
Legislation already approved was presented by Fidesz, Orbán’s party, as an amendment to another proposal that imposes sanctions against the crime of pedophilia – a legislative move which, in practice, has reduced the chances that lawmakers vote against. The result was 157 votes for and one against, with the opposition boycotting the vote.
According to the approved text, “content that represents sexuality or encourages deviation from gender identity, sex reassignment or homosexuality must not be accessible to minors under the age of 18”.
The law prohibits the exposure of pornography to children and adolescents – another way to secure parliamentary support for the bill. In practice, however, according to various human rights groups, the restriction can be extended to any material or content depicting different sexual orientations and gender identities, from books and movies like Harry Potter to advertisements like the ones Coca-Cola has. disseminated. the country in 2019. The soda ad showed a two-man couple and sparked a wave of criticism and calls for a boycott of the brand by conservatives.
On the eve of the vote, thousands of protesters gathered in Budapest with rainbow flags and slogans against the bill. After approval, there was a strong reaction from EU members.
“This Hungarian law is a disgrace,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement at the end of June. She said she asked the commissioners responsible for the affected areas to put pressure on the Hungarian government before the bill comes into force.
“This bill clearly discriminates against people on the basis of their sexual orientation. It goes against the fundamental values of the European Union. Human dignity, equality and respect for human rights. We will not compromise on these. principles, “said Von der Leyen.
She said she would use “all the powers of the Commission” to ensure that the rights of European citizens are guaranteed. “Whoever they are and wherever they live in the European Union.”
Also late last month, 14 EU countries, including the bloc’s four largest economies – Germany, France, Italy and Spain – issued a statement calling for action on the adoption of the anti-LGBT law. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the Hungarian leader should respect the values of the bloc or leave.
Since 2018, Orbán’s government has been subject to a process known as Article 7, a disciplinary process for countries deemed to be at risk of violating the bloc’s core values.
Ultimately, the procedures of Article 7 may lead to the suspension of a country’s voting rights at the European Council, a body which brings together the governments of 27 members. This, however, requires the unanimous approval of the other 26 countries, which is unlikely as Poland, also under investigation, is backing the Orbán government.
In power since 2010, the Prime Minister will seek a new term in the April elections of next year, in which he will seek his fourth consecutive electoral victory. To this end, he bet on an increasingly radical stance in social policy, imposing restrictions on the LGBT community, gender discussions and immigration policies, which has generated an intensification of polarization in Hungary.
Following Orbán’s announcement on Wednesday, Budapest Mayor Gergely Karacsony, who is vying with other opposition candidates for the vacant post to challenge the prime minister in next year’s elections, said that ‘he would attempt to hold another referendum in April on key government policies. This would include the plan to build a Chinese university in the capital and the concession to manage 2,000 km of roads for 35 years.