In Hungary, an Embattled L.G.B.T.Q. Community Takes to the Streets
BUDAPEST – Defiant, colorful and proud, thousands of Hungarians marched through Budapest on Saturday to support the country’s LGBTQ community and to protest the far-right policies of Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
This year’s Budapest Pride March had all the attributes of the celebration, but it was also a protest, its organizers said, against a recently passed law that critics say equates homosexuality with pedophilia and enforces strict limits on sex education, including banning the portrayal of LGBTQ lifestyles for minors. The law is often compared to a 2013 Russian law banning “gay propaganda” which has been widely criticized by rights groups.
Many participants in the march said the law was an alarming symptom of growing authoritarianism in the central European country.
“We stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ community, but we also stand in solidarity with anyone threatened by authoritarian global rhetoric,” said Zoltan Adam, associate professor of economics at Corvinus University in Budapest. “This law is one more step towards authoritarianism taken by this government.”
Since his return to power in 2010, Mr. Orban, whose government enjoys a qualified majority in Parliament that allows him to amend the constitution, has introduced laws based on his interpretation of Christian and traditional family values, while promoting a vision of society different from the progressive liberalism of the West.
The new law has already borne fruit. A television station censored advertisements for the soap operas. The country’s second-largest bookstore chain installed signs advertising it was selling “non-traditional content” after being fined $ 830 for failing to label a book describing same-sex parents as “content that deviates from the norm ”.
Less visible results can be more damaging.
“This law will have a tragic effect on young people, with an increase in suicides and an increase in mental health problems,” said Andras Szolnay, 55, who wore an electric blue wig and traveled from the eastern town of Debrecen to attend the pride march.
He said that when he was a teenager in communist Hungary, “it was freer than today, there was no homophobia or transphobia”. But now, he said, “There is a regression.
Organizers said participation in the march appeared to be the largest in its 26-year history, with the procession taking 40 minutes to pass through city streets. Some participants wore T-shirts emblazoned with “adult content” and “Hungary” wrapped around the number 18, a nod to the fact that the law prohibits “portraying or promoting” homosexuality and gender transitions in front of minors. under the age of 18.
This week, Orban announced that a referendum on the law would be held by early 2022, ahead of the national elections next April.
“It makes homosexuals feel like public enemies,” said Peter Kreko, director of Political Capital, a Budapest research group.
Although Mr Orban has claimed he represents the majority of Hungarians, a poll published in mid-June by Zavecz Research found that 56% of Hungarians accept homosexuality and another poll conducted at the same time by Ipsos concluded that 46% of the people questioned support the same thing. -sexual marriage. Another Ipsos poll in May concluded that the same number of people believe same-sex couples should have the same rights to adopt as straight people.
Analysts note that although Mr Orban is a conservative, the law appears intended to distract from the dire health and economic conditions in the country following the Covid-19 pandemic, and an effort to break the unity of the country. ‘a coalition of opposition parties who united to oust him in the next elections.
Mr Orban’s party, Fidesz, “is doing this for its own purposes: they have to reach the radical wing of the party and this is a potential way to do it,” said Zselyke Csaky of the US watchdog. of Democracy Freedom House.
“Many have lost their jobs or are in a difficult situation after Covid, and such an ideological message can work well with them,” she said.
Others say the law, which is worded loosely, is an attempt to divert attention from recent corruption scandals and democratic failures to identity politics. Hungary has clashed on several occasions with the European Union, which it joined in 2004, over these policies.
The 27-member bloc has initiated two separate legal proceedings against Hungary over the recently adopted law. The European Union has also delayed and threatened to withhold payment of $ 8.5 billion in post-coronavirus recovery assistance over concerns over Hungary’s judicial independence and flaws in its anti-corruption strategy.
Mr. Orban sought to blame the funding delays on his protection of family values.
“Corruption is often mentioned, but it is obviously a cover story,” he said on Friday.
The speakers of the Pride March did not believe it.
“The Hungarian government is organizing a campaign of hate and fear and scapegoating the LGBTQ community to distract from systemic corruption,” said Terry Reintke, Member of the European Parliament for the German Green Party, just before the departure of the demonstrators.
“It goes beyond Hungary – it’s a European problem.”
During the pride march, Szonia Szabo, 15, wondered how her education could be affected by the new law. Most importantly, she worried about her peers, who are still exploring their identities, and her friends and family who identify as LGBTQ.
“Some of them live abroad and no longer feel safe to return to Hungary because of the law,” she said.
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