The European Commission cannot apply the rule of law mechanism in connection with the LGBT-restrictive features of the Hungarian government’s child protection and anti-pedophile law, vice-chair Vera Jourová confirmed. The EC is, however, examining further possibilities for legal action, in addition to a growing number of European politicians who protest the Fidesz-led administration’s new, controversial move. While the family minister defends the bill, repeating arguments on child protection, a European children’s rights NGO joins in the condemnation of the legislation.
Amid a virtual consensus from all domestic political sides, the Fidesz-led government confirmed the anti-pedophilia law in May. However, days before the bill’s final vote, the ruling parties amended the package with several additional measures which, critics say, further restrict the LGBTQI community’s rights. It bans, among other things, the “portrayal and promotion of homosexuality” in media and makes sexual education programs more difficult, prohibiting the “popularization” of homosexuality, sex changes, and different genders. In many aspects, it actually resembles the extensively debated Russian anti-propaganda act, although a Hungarian Russia expert argued that the Hungarian version is even stricter.
Jourová predicts ECJ proceeding
The rule of law mechanism cannot be applied in connection with the bill, European Commission (EC) vice-president, Vera Jourová revealed in reference to news about the EU preparing legal actions, confirming experts’ opinions made somewhat earlier.
She did, however, make it clear that she agrees with Ursula von der Leyen on the question. Earlier, the EC president had described the Hungarian bill as a “shame,” saying that it “clearly discriminates against people on the basis of sexual orientation, and it goes against the EU’s fundamental values of human dignity, equality, and human fundamental rights. We will not compromise on these principles,” von der Leyen promised.
Meanwhile, Jourová did predict further consequences and sanctions for the government. In reference to the letter the EC recently sent to the government, she revealed that if the Hungarian response wouldn’t be satisfactory and the law enters into effect, the Commission may step forward, potentially resulting in a proceeding of the EU Court of Justice of the European Union as well as financial sanctions.
An infringement procedure wouldn’t be impossible either, as the bill is thought to breach internal market principles too, according to Telex’s report.
One of Viktor Orbán’s previous allies, German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, has similarly grown critical of the “unacceptable” bill, and aired that perhaps the Hungary-bound cash flow should be cut somehow in order to send a clear message for the government’s “homophobic” measures. German Greens spoke of something similar, which has been eventually, reportedly rejected by Angela Merkel, who argued that it could easily lead to the disruption of the EU. The European Commissioner for Equality also said that Brussels is prepared to take action. Helena Dalli aired the potential withholding of funds, similarly to those imposed on Polish regions that had declared themselves “LGBT-free”.
Eurochild: it “harms the very children it claims to protect”
The largest European child rights NGO condemns the bill “as it uses child protection as an excuse to curtail the rights of children.” According to them, the bill “clearly violates children’s rights as laid down in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) which Hungary has been bound to since 1991.” The statement further explains that “children have the right to healthy development, freedom of expression, self-identity, inclusive education and access to justice.” This legislation, however, “violates all these rights and risks harming the very children it claims to protect. It also contributes to a climate of fear, raising concerns for the well-being of all children and society.”
“If this law is implemented, children would not have access to information on sexual and reproductive health, which plays a key role in preventing and raising awareness on sexual abuse,” the communique also argues.
Family minister Novák: it only protects children
According to the family minister (and ruling Fidesz’s vice president at the same time) those who criticize the law tend to inform themselves “only by the headlines” and fail to properly read through and cite the law. Katalin Novák once again repeated the government’s position, insisting that the law’s purpose is strictly to protect children. According to her, the legislation is “just about preserving the right of parents to decide on the sexual upbringing of their children” after “many in Europe want to curtail this right of parents,” but they do not see it in the right direction.
She also questioned reports on the heated debate at the EU summit between Viktor Orbán and other heads of government. She stated that after the Prime Minister personally informed the summit’s participants about the content of the legislation, there were only a minority of them to actually condemn the bill.
Justice min: Brussels can’t tell Hungarians how to raise their children
Brussels does not have the authority to tell Hungarians how they should raise their children, the justice ministry said in response to the European Commission’s criticism of Hungary’s new anti-pedophile law.
The ministry said in a statement that the law is about the protection of minors and how Hungarian children are raised, citing its response letter to the EC.
Neither the EC nor any other European body has the authority to tell anyone in Hungary how they should live, think, or raise their children, the ministry said. Hungarian children cannot receive sex education without the full consent of parents, it added.
The government believes children should be protected from content inappropriate for their age, and that they should only receive sex education from qualified organizations or people with the consent of their parents, the statement said. Only parents can decide on the sexual education of their children, the ministry said. “This is why the law prohibits exposing children to both heterosexual and homosexual propaganda,” it added.
The ministry insisted that this part of the law was in line with the founding document of the European Union, and was not in violation of anyone’s right to sexual self-expression, as it does not apply to adults.
“Hungary is a free country, and the state does not interfere in the lives of its adult citizens,” the ministry said.
featured image: Vera Jourová; via MTI/EPA/AP pool/Francisco Seco