Report on the Discrimination of Lesbians, Gay Men and Bisexuals in Hungary

Háttér Society for Gays and Lesbians in Hungary
Labrisz Lesbian Association
Budapest, 2001




II. INTERNATIONAL BACKGROUND: The European Human Rights Institutions and Hungary

III. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND: The Formation and Activities of Hungarian NGOs Advocating for the Rights of Lesbians, Gay Men and Bisexuals


IV.1. Public Attitudes Toward Homosexuality, and the Views of Lesbians and Gay Men Toward Themselves and Their Rights
IV.2. The Present Legislation
IV.2.1. Anti-disrimination legislation
IV.2.2. Discriminatory Legislation in the Penal Code
IV.2.3. The Regulation of Partnership (Cohabitation) in the Civil Code
IV.2.4. The “C” questionnaire – Discrimination in the Public Servies
IV.2.5. The Defence and Health Ministry’s policies on military eligibility – Discrimination in the Armed Forces

IV.3. Former Recommendations of NGOs


V.1. Discrimination in the Workplace
V.2. The 199. § of the Penal Code
V.3. Gay Bashing
V.4. Discrimination in the Judiciary and by the Police
V.5. Reactions and Opinions of Politicians
V.6. Stereotypes in the Media
V.7. Psychologists
V.8. The problems of young lesbians, gay men and bisexuals



VII.1. Recommendation by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on the situation of lesbians and gays in Council of Europe member states
VII.2. Petition to the Hungarian Parliament


This booklet is the first attempt in Hungary to publish a detailed study about discrimination based on sexual orientation. During past decades, gay men, lesbians and bisexuals have not turned to the courts if their rights were violated.

The legal aid service of the Habeas Corpus Working Party has been working since 1997. The Háttér Society for Gays and Lesbians have been operating its Gay Legal Aid Service since May 2000. Due to the work of these services, publications on legal cases, the impact of European human rights institutions and the fact that discrimination based on sexual orientation is becoming a part of a public discourse, the number of legal cases is increasing: more and more people have the courage and the possibility to protest against sexual orientation discrimination.

The experience and publications of the legal aid services, the Meleg Háttér switchboard and discussions organized by lesbian and gay groups suggest that it is only a very small percentage of discrimination cases that get to the courts. However, this percentage is growing, and it seems it will be growing continuously during the next decade.

This booklet, the first of a series, gives an overview of the anti-discrimination policies of the European Union and the European Council, the present legislation concerning lesbians, gay men and bisexuals in Hungary, the documented and published experiences of the editing organizations and other human rights NGOs.

Because of the lack of court cases, the cases published in the second half of the study are based mostly on interviews, newspaper articles and organizational publications.

Budapest, 6 June 2001


By discrimination we mean the conscious or unconscious disctinction against certain groups or individuals belonging to a group. This kind of distinction is not based on relevant characteristics of an individual and does not really consider the individual but the opinion about the minority group. The basis of disrimination is most often someone’s race, nationality or ethnicity, citizenship, sex, sexual orientation, age or disability.

The distinction can be direct and open, but can also be hidden. It is open if the purpose of a regulation, policy or a private person’s conscious act is to distinguish or exclude the minority or those belonging to it. Such is the 199. § of the Penal Code, as it punishes sexual acts between people belonging to the same sex which are not punished between two people of different sexes.

Discrimination, however, is not always direct and open – it can be more or less hidden. Such is, for example, the so-called

· historical discrimination, when former discriminatory policies, laws, or the discriminatory acts of private persons maintain prejudices that have an adverse effect on those belonging to a minority, even if the laws already guarantee equality (this is why most gay men, lesbians and bisexuals do not turn to the police or the courts if their rights are violated);
· disparate treatment, when private actors or state institutions discriminate people belonging to a minority, without admitting (and often recognizing) this (for example if the police investigates less carefully in cases related to certain social groups);
· intentional discrimination, when the legislation is neutral, but its application can still be intentionally discriminatory (for example when the police regularly registers the data of those who attend gay cruising areas or bars);
· and “de jure” discrimination, when a legislation is neutral in itself and in its applications, but it still causes discrimination in practice (like those anti-disriminatory legislations that do not mention discrimination based on sexual orientation, and thus their application depends on those who interpret the law).

The European Human Rights Institutions and Hungary

In 2001, there is a sufficient international consensus – particularly within Europe – that with regard to violations of human rights, sexual orientation is a ground similar to sex, race or religion and should therefore be included in any list of prohibited categories of discrimination. However, discrimination against lesbian, gay and bisexual persons has remained widespread throughout Europe. As the report submitted by ILGA-Europe to the Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe states, despite the numbers affected, there has been very little systematic research into the extent of sexual orientation discrimination – and the little research that has been done leaves no doubt that discrimination remains endemic in Europe.

Violence, and the hatred that often lies behind it, are extreme manifestations of homophobia. Numerous countries in Europe, including Hungary, still have discriminatory sexual offence laws. In some states, freedom of association and expression is restricted, and access to the armed services is banned. Many employers discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. Statements and actions that would be unthinkable if directed toward ethnic or religious minorities are commonplace with regard to lesbian, gay and bisexual minorities. Governments and parliaments deliberately maintain discriminatory legislation, while some religious leaders oppose gay rights in terms that can be described only as inflammatory.

In the year 2000, the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights prepared a report that became the basis of the Recommendation by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on the situation of lesbians and gays in Council of Europe member states.  (See Appendix.) In order to obtain detailed information for its Report on the Situation of Lesbians and Gays in Council of Europe Member States, the Sub-Committee on Human Rights of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Council of Europe sent a questionnaire to all national delegations of the Parliamentary Assembly.

The questions referred in detail to the following issues:

· whether sexual offence laws in respective Council of Europe member states contain specific provisions on same-sex sexual acts and age of consent that do not apply equally to heterosexual acts;
· whether lesbians, gay men and bisexuals are allowed to serve in the armed forces;
· whether lesbians, gay men and bisexuals are excluded from employment in any particular field, particularly the judicial, legal, law enforcement and teaching professions;
· whether homosexuality is officially classified as an illness in any law or medical regulation;
· whether sexual orientation is recognised as a “social group” category in permitting refugee status under the 1951 United Nations Convention;
· whether adoption, foster parenting, and second parent adoption by lesbians and gay men are permitted; and
· whether lesbians may conceive children by artificial insemination, either as a single parent or within the context of a lesbian partnership.

Each line of the recommendation is applicable to Hungary. In recent years, Hungary has witnessed the formation of its first gay and lesbian NGOs, but it has also seen an increase in the number of homophobic actions and public statements from individual politicians, local governments and the national Parliament. Although the rapporteur in charge of writing the report and recommendations, Csaba Tabajdi, is a member of the Hungarian Parliament, and although another Hungarian representative in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Mátyás Eörsi, delivered a speech urging other representatives to accept the recommendation, not a single politician in Hungary itself has taken a public stand against extreme homophobic statements or actions.

The discrimination described in this report affects almost all aspects of the lives of lesbians and gay men. Many lesbians and gay men have homophobia instilled into them as children, before they have even recognised their own sexuality. This internalised homophobia leads to isolation, self-hatred, problems of self-acceptance and, in some cases, suicide attempts. Many hide their sexual orientation throughout their lives, “living a lie” that has profoundly negative consequences for their self-esteem and happiness. Furthermore, for many lesbians and gay men, legal discrimination, whether in criminal law or the non-recognition of their relationships, contributes to a sense of alienation and exclusion. Moreover, the few organisations that do advocate the rights of lesbians, gay men and bisexuals are forced to struggle against the homophobic campaigns of right-wing parties and government institutions as well as the disinterest and embedded homophobia of other politicians and public officials.

Although widespread discrimination exists in Hungary, gay and lesbian organisations have only recently begun systematically to collect examples of discrimination and to prepare recommendations for combating this discrimination.

All of these factors result in a social climate in which very few lesbians, gays and bisexuals dare to live openly, and in which an extraordinarily high number of lives are ruined because of discrimination and homophobia. Family ties loosen, students are bullied, gay men are bashed, lesbians and gays are forced to leave their jobs – something they almost always do in silence, not daring to complain –, and the organisations and projects that strive to change this situation are neglected or attacked by politicians.

The presence of European institutions, however, offers a significant opportunity for change. The process of EU enlargement, and the corresponding requirement that accession states adopt EU legislation, can provide both European institutions as well as lesbian and gay organisations with a powerful tool for persuading Central and Eastern European governments to dismantle discriminatory legislation and practices.

The accession process should provide a powerful tool for persuading governments to tackle discrimination:

· the 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam requires applicants to respect the principles set out in Article 6 (1) of the Treaty of the European Union – these include “respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms”;
· the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation;
· on 17 September 1998, the European Parliament stated in a resolution that it would “not give its consent to the accession of any country that, through its legislation or policies, violates the human rights of lesbians and gay men.”

The editors of the report call on international bodies, including the Council of Europe and the European Union, to pressure the Hungarian government to implement reforms that will amend the multifaceted violations of the rights of lesbians, gay men and bisexuals in Hungary, and to investigate the multiple forms of sexual orientation discrimination in evaluating the human rights records of applicant as well as member states.

III. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND: The Formation and Activities of Hungarian NGOs Advocating for the Rights of Lesbians, Gay Men and Bisexuals

The first Hungarian gay organisation, “Homeros-Lambda,” was formed in 1988. The first organisations focused primarily on the creation of social spaces mostly for gay men and the establishment of publications (the gay magazine Mások has been published for 10 years), a helpline, and later a series of legal advocacy efforts. The first groups to advocate publicly against legal discrimination and organise anti-discrimination campaigns appeared in the mid-1990s.

The Szivárvány (Rainbow) Coalition for the Rights of Gays was the first organisation to formulate its goals in legal and political terms. This occurred in 1994. This organisation, however, has not been officially registered since its formation due to the resistance of public institutions. When the Budapest City Court refused to register the Rainbow Coalition, it provided two reasons for its ruling. One was the Coalition’s use of the word “gay” (until then, organisations called themselves “homosexual” – the word “gay” was not used until the 1990s), which is a word with a positive connotation (meaning “warm” in Hungarian) that may “mislead” people who have not heard it, especially the young. The second reason was that this organisation did not set a minimum age requirement for membership. According to the court, the organization would thus violate the 199. § of the Penal Code, which defines “unnatural sodomy”. (This paragraph says that anybody who is older than 18 and “commits sodomy” with someone who is younger than 18 is punishable with up to three years.) The High Court, suspending the case, turned to the Constitutional Court with the question whether it is lawful to limit membership in this respect.

The Constitutional Court also delivered a decision that told that courts have the right to uphold minimum age requirements for membership in a group promoting gay rights. It told that young people would be exposed to a risk that threatens “the full development of their personality,” and this risk would exceed the possible benefits of their membership in such a group.

In the decision, the Constitutional Court also referred to the “present social situation of homosexuals”. Like the so-called “C” questionnaire , which people in certain higher public services have to fill, and asks them whether they have homosexual relationships, the Constitutional Court refers to the negative attitudes toward homosexuality with a preventive intention: this is why it can be harmful for a young person to be deemed homosexual, and this is why someone in a higher position can be blackmailed. This “prevention”, however, strengthens and maintains negative attitudes.

The philosopher János Kis also argued in his essay analysing the case that the Constitutional Court, stating that there is a risk in being openly gay, was not neutral. “The reasoning that states that it is neutral is in fact not neutral. It does not explicitly say, but assumes that the different sexual orientations are not of the same moral value.”

In the meantime, other organisations were established that complied with the minimum age requirement of 18 and used the word “homosexual” in their names. (Subsequently, primarily due to the unprecedented media coverage of the Rainbow case, the word gay became well known and organisations began to increase their use of the term.)

The Háttér Society for Gays and Lesbians in Hungary was founded in 1995. Its initial project was the establishment of a telephone helpline that has been in operation since 1996. The helpline has remained the organisation’s primary focus, since it is accessible to people outside the capital, where many gay men, lesbians and bisexuals have no other possibility to communicate with others, ask questions or receive psychological assistance. With its 60 members, Háttér has initiated several additional projects during the past four years: it organises professional training seminars for its new volunteer operators, manages a nation-wide HIV and AIDS prevention project, conducts lectures and training sessions for social workers, operates an archive used by students and researchers, and has been the main organiser of the summer Gay and Lesbian Film and Cultural Festivals and Pride Marches for the past three years. Recently it has broadened its activities to include legal advocacy and lobbying work: it has been operating its Gay Legal Aid Service since May 2000, with the support of the Open Sociaty Institute. The service provides legal advice and secures lawyers for individuals who need legal assistance. Háttér has also published a book on the legal situation of sexual minorities in Hungary which includes the translation of a 1999 ILGA-Europe booklet on sexual orientation and the European Union.

The Habeas Corpus Working Party was formed in 1996 by a group of Rainbow Coalition members who refused finite and central sexual identites. It is a small organisation that focuses chiefly on matters of public policy and seeks to defend individual rights. Its members are mostly young queer liberal intellectuals. The group also organises public debates on individual freedom and sexual equality; submits petitions to the Constitutional Court and prepares recommendations for legal reforms to protect sexual self-determination; conducts lobbying efforts in support of these petitions and recommendations; makes public statements and publishes articles on issues of fundamental individual rights; and maintains the Habeas Corpus Legal Aid Service for lesbians, gays and bisexuals who have suffered discrimination and for women who are victims of domestic violence.

The Labrisz Lesbian Association was formed in early 1999 and was officially registered later in the same year. It is the first lesbian organisation in Hungary. Many of its members have been and are members of Háttér. However, in a society marked by both heterosexism and sexism, lesbian and bisexual women experience many more difficulties in coming out and voicing their views; as a result, the focus of lesbian organising is necessarily different from that of a primarily gay male group. Labrisz organises a monthly discussion group; has edited a book on lesbian politics, feminism, and the history and formation of the lesbian movement; has been working on an educational project that has received remarkable publicity in Hungary, mostly in the form of homophobic reactions from both the Parliament and the media; and takes part in organizing the summer gay and lesbian festivals. Labrisz also focuses on the creation and guarantee of public space for lesbians.


IV.1. Public Attitudes Toward Homosexuality, and the Views of Lesbians and Gay Men Toward Themselves and Their Rights

Opinion poll results provide strong evidence of widespread homophobia in Hungarian society. In Authoritarianism and Prejudice,  Zoltán Fábián analyses right-wing authoritarianism based on a survey conducted in 1994. Respondents were asked to place groups on a five-point scale (with 3 indicating neutral attitudes). The survey included the following ethnic, subcultural and political groups: drug users, homosexuals, skinheads, Roma, people with AIDS, members of religious sects, Arabic people, right-wing extremists, left-wing extremists, intellectuals, Romanians, atheists, former Communist party members, black people, Chinese people, Jews, asylum seekers, Polish people and the unemployed. The results were represented on a scale ranging from zero to 100 (zero indicating least acceptance). The most negatively viewed groups were homosexuals, skinheads, people with AIDS and drug users. Nothing indicates that a similar survey would produce different results today.

In the summer of 2000, a questionnaire directed specifically toward lesbians and gay men was prepared that received 112 responses (64 male and 48 female). All respondents were individuals who attended the summer Gay and Lesbian Festival and other community meetings. Thus the responses represent the opinions only of those who attend public events and make the effort to fill out questionnaires – the vast majority of gay men and lesbians in Hungary do neither. More than one third of the respondents (37.5%) were between 20-25 years of age, 79.4% were between 20-35, and 75% of the women were between 20-30. This reflects the fact that young people comprise the majority of lesbians and gays who are “out” at least to some extent. Due to the public events and services organised and provided by gay and lesbian organisations, as well as media coverage of these activities, young people realise that they are not alone; as a result, they come out at a younger age than most older lesbians and gays did. Nevertheless, the openness of Hungarian lesbians and gay men – and indeed even the openness of the very few lesbians and gays who attend gatherings and public events – is very relative, as the results demonstrate:

Only 83% of the respondents reported that they have revealed their sexual orientation to at least some of their friends; 74.1% have told at least one of their parents; 40.2% are out to co-workers; and 34.8% are out to their employers. Family relations are at the lower end of the scale: only 27.7% of respondents are out to family members other than their parents. This means that even those lesbians and gay men who dare to attend public events live in fear: 17% completely hide a significant part of their lives and identities from their friends, families and co-workers, and only one third dare to reveal their sexual orientation to their employers. The vast majority of lesbians and gay men in Hungary are not even in a position to answer these questions – they live in such a complex web of fear and lies that they cannot attend public events. They have reasons to fear rejection from their families and jobs if their sexual identity were to be revealed.

A majority of respondents also stated that they would not initiate a lawsuit if they were fired from their jobs due to their sexual orientation: 51.5% of male respondents and 75% of female respondents indicated that they would leave their jobs in silence rather than report the fact that they had experienced discriminatory treatment.

56.2% of all respondents reported that they had been the targets of anti-gay epithets, while 12.5% of gay men and 6.25% of lesbians reported having been physically attacked because of their sexual orientation. 6.25% claim to have experienced discrimination at the hands of police and administrative authorities – a high number considering the fact that most lesbians and gay men would not feel safe informing authorities of their sexual orientation. This also means that the majority of gays and lesbians would never request official recognition of their same-sex relationships. (Although the existing legal framework for partnerships was broadened to include same-sex couples in 1996, couples do not enjoy “registered partnership” rights. They must apply to the social administrations of their municipal governments in each separate instance for which they wish to receive partnership benefits. Fearing exposure, however, lesbian and gay couples do not tend to reveal their partnerships, especially in Hungarian small towns. Within smaller local communities, local government knowledge quickly becomes common knowledge; if lesbian and gay couples were to reveal their partnerships to authorities in order to obtain social benefits, information concerning their sexual orientation would reach their families and workplaces quite easily.)

An additional question in the survey asked respondents to name the one aspect of state legislation they would change if they had a choice. Among gay male respondents, 31.3% chose the legalisation of same-sex marriage, 23.4% chose nothing or did not reply, 14.1% chose the equalisation of age of consent laws and adoption rights, and 4.68% stated they would like the right to be “out” in all aspects of their lives, even if this answer did not refer to a specific law. Lesbians had somewhat different priorities: 39.6% would legalise marriage, 20.8% would choose to be out in all aspects of their lives, 18.8% selected adoption rights, and only 10.4% did not respond or said they would change nothing.

Lesbians appear to have a clear and strong sense of discrimination, but fewer lesbians than gay men indicated that they would initiate lawsuits or seek legal recognition of their same-sex partnerships. Due to even stronger social stigmatisation, lesbians have been almost completely invisible for years. The percentage of lesbians who attend meetings and public events is still significantly smaller than the percentage of gay men. This relative invisibility and lack of “community” formation reflects itself in lesbians’ comparative unwillingness to take public and legal action.

The absence of a visible community is a sure sign of a higher degree of oppression. Lesbians and gay men living in a society without a visible lesbian/gay community are likely to be strongly isolated and unaware of others like themselves; they are also likely to hide their true nature and force themselves into heterosexual relationships in order to conform to society’s expectations. The absence of opportunities to find love, to develop community with kindred spirits, and to develop one’s personality constitutes emotional deprivation of an extreme nature. It is a form of deprivation that affects every individual who cannot escape this society of invisibility or gain access to the limited networks that may exist within it. This is even more true of all areas outside the capital city of Budapest.

In addition, lesbians face even greater isolation and marginalisation than gay men. This reflects the weaker position of women, their relative lack of social and economic independence, and the social obstacles that inhibit a definition of sexuality beyond the perspectives of male needs and raising children.

IV.2. The Present Legislation

IV.2.1. Anti-discrimination legislation

The Constitution, the Labor Code and the health law contain general measures that prohibit discrimination on grounds listed in their texts. The Constitution and the Labor Code do not refer to sexual orientation, although it can be read into both – in the Constitution, discrimination based on “other situation”, and in the Labor Law, the expression “other, not work or contract-related circumstance” can include disrimination based on sexual orientation, if the interpreter has the will to include that. (A decision by the Constitutional Court, nr. 14/1995 (III. 13.) AB. told that the exclusion of same sex couples from the institution of partnership was discriminative, and it was thus against the Constitution. However, the Court does not respond to the petitions that say the same about the 199. § of the Penal Code, which sets different age of consent in the case of same-sex relationships than in the case of heterosexual relationships.)

The 70/A § of the Constitution says that the Republic of Hungary guarantees to all persons dwelling in its territory the rigths of citizens, without any kind of discrimination, namely discrimination based on race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, wealth, birth or other status.

The 5. § of the Labor Code prohibits discrimination in employment based on sex, age, nationality, race, origin, religion, political opinion, membership or activity in labor associations, and all kinds of circumstances that are not related to the person’s work and employment.

The 7. § of the health law contains the only prohition of disrimination that explicitly mentions discrimination based on sexual orientation.

There are two legislations in the Penal Code that have a similar character to anti-discrimination legislation. The 269. § prohibits “speech inciting hatred” against national, ethnic, racial, religios groups, “or certain groups of citizens”. The 174/B § of the Penal Code punishes those who attack someone because of the person’s belonging, or supposed belonging to a national, ethnic, racial or religious group. These laws do not refer to speech inciting hatred or hate crimes because of someone’s sexual orientation, and thus they do not defend gays, lesbians and bisexuals.

IV.2.2. Discriminatory Legislation in the Penal Code

The part of the Penal Code that talks about “crimes against sexual morals” contains three paragraphs that make distinctions based on sexual orientation.

The 199. § of the Penal Code defines “unnatural sodomy”. This law punishes any adult (older than 18) person who “commits sodomy” with someone of the same sex who is younger than 18 years old, with up to three years in prison. (The age of consent for heterosexual relationships is 14 in Hungary.)

The 200. § of the Penal Code defines an act as “forced unnatural sodomy”. The same act is defined as “violence against morals” in the 198. § if the perpetrator and the victim or not of the same sex. The difference between the two crimes is solely their homosexual or heterosexual nature.

The 209. § of the Penal Code says that violent crimes “against sexual morals” committed by heterosexuals can only be pursued by the police if the victim makes a complaint, while homosexual rape and what is called “unnatural sodomy” must be pursued by the police.

The part of the Penal Code that lists crimes related to sexuality should be changed and made more up to date in many other respects as well, according to several NGOs: the Southern-Hungarian Gay Society, the Habeas Corpus Working Party, the Háttér Society for Gays and Lesbians, the Labrisz Lesbian Association, the Women Against Violence, the Rainbow Coalition for the Rights of Gay People unregistered organization and the Association for Civil Liberties published a document containing their observations in January 2000.

IV.2.3. The Regulation of Partnership (Cohabitation) in the Civil Code

The term “partners”, according to the 685/A § of the Civil Code means two persons who live together and have a relationship based on an emotional and economical communion.

After the 14/1995 (III.13.) AB. decision of the Constitutioal Court, the Hungarian Parliament accepted a law that made the gender of the two people irrelevant: the law that regulates partnerships was broadened to include same-sex partners in May 1996.

Partnership in Hungary is a factual relationship – which means that it exists as soon as the two persons move together and share a household, without any further official act or registration. The disadvantage of this is that without having the possibility to become registered partners, someone who applies for partnership benefits, has to prove the fact that they live together to institutions.

As for the family law, it says that only those can apply for a faster permission of residence for a family member who want to be reunited with their spouses, children, parents and grandparents needing care. Thus noone can apply to help her or his partner to move to Hungary – be they heterosexuals or homosexuals.

Only married couples or single persons can adopt children in Hungary. If a single person adopts a child, s/he can only be adopted by the spouse of the single parent – and cannot be adopted by a partner.

The health law only permits artificial insemination to spouses and heterosexual partners.

It is obvious that although the cohabitation law that makes it possible for same-sex couples to be partners seems progressive, it does not terminate disriminatory practices and disadvantages regarding same-sex couples.

IV.2.4. The “C” questionnaire – Discrimination in the Public Services

The CXXV. Law of the year 1995. about the national security special services orders that the so-called “C” questionnaire be filled by those who work in certain public service offices: ambassadors, state secretaries, deputy state secretaries, leaders of the Parliament’s Offices, leaders of the Prime Minister’s Office, the heads of armed forces, the leaders of economic organizations that are owned by the state or are mainly state-owned, the heads of (mainly) state-owned banks and insurance companies, and those working for the national security special services, among others.

All these people are asked about their extra-marital relationships, “homosexual as well”. The law does not clarify what happens if someone states that s/he has homosexual relationships. If it meant any disadvantage, then both the 70/A § of the Constitution and the 5. § of the Labor Code would be violated.

The legislators’ argument is that “C” questionnaires need to be filled, so that (in case the person filling it states the truth) a homosexual or bisexual person cannot be subject to blackmail.  However, filling a questionnaire will not terminate the negative attitudes of society and the workplace, which can make someone subject to blackmail.

IV.2.5. The Defence and Health Ministry’s policies on military eligibility – Discrimination in the Armed Forces

The 7/1996 (VII. 30.) HM-NM and the 12/1997 (V. 16.) HM measures (issued by the Defence and Health Ministries) deal with the psychical and physical suitability of soldiers. Both measures have an attachment (037. a) that contains dated and homophobic notions. It lists homosexuality under “disturbances of the personality,” as a form of psychopathia, and regards it as the “disfunction of sexual life.”

IV.3. Former Recommendations of NGOs

The Háttér Society for Gays and Lesbians in Hungary, the Habeas Corpus Working Party, the Labrisz Lesbian Association, the gay magazine Mások, the Lambda Budapest Gay Society and the Five Loaves of Bread Christian Community for Homosexuals signed a petition to members of the Parliament on 1 July 2000. This clarifies the most important fields in which discrimination still exists against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. The document recommends, among other things

· that the legal age of consent be made uniform regardless of gender or sexual orientation;
· that, following the practice of the European Union, sexual orientation be listed among grounds of unlawful discrimination. In order to ensure that victims of discrimination are effectively protected, this should be incorporated into:
- the anti-discrimination clause of the Constitution (70/A §);
- the 5. § of the Labour Law; and
- the 269. § of the Penal Code, which defines hate speech;
· that gays and lesbians not be discriminated against with regard to employment, since the state has nothing to do with the sexual orientation of judges, soldiers, or people working in any job or profession. The responsibility of the state is to combat discrimination so that no person must live in secrecy, dishonesty and fear;
· that legally recognised same-sex partnerships acquire broader and more precisely defined rights – registered partnerships should be permitted in accordance with the practice of EU member states;
· that any woman, whether she lives alone or in a relationship, have access to artificial insemination;
· that books having a direct or indirect influence on teachers and students not be published if they contain false statements that strengthen prejudices against sexual minorities; and
· that politicians, lawmakers and state institutions assume the responsibility of combating discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Although the organisers of the summer Lesbian and Gay Festival had written a letter to the President of the Hungarian Parliament long before Pride Day, when the petition was to be submitted, the petition was not received by any Members of Parliament. The President of Parliament turned the petition over to the parliamentary Human Rights Committee, but not to any MPs in a higher position of authority. Not a single MP responded to the petition.


V.1. Discrimination in the Workplace

On the whole, lesbian, gay and bisexual persons experience three primary types of discrimination with regard to employment, apart from dismissal: (1) discrimination with respect to employment opportunities, (2) harassment in the workplace, and (3) discrimination in spousal remuneration benefits. Lesbians and gay men in Hungary rarely reveal their sexual orientation in the workplace. Even if they do, they are extremely reluctant to claim their rights. As a result, in the following cases of employment discrimination reported personally by various lesbians and gay men, only the first two types of discrimination were mentioned in a series of interviews recorded by the Háttér Society, and in a case study published by the Habeas Corpus Working Party.

I.L. is a woman who has very short hair and does not wear earrings or make-up. She wears pants and flat shoes instead of skirts and high-heeled shoes. As her interview illustrates, women who do not fit stereotypical images of femininity and who are known or believed to be lesbians are discriminated against in the workplace. Moreover, their possibilities for finding an occupation are limited, regardless of their professional qualifications:

After graduating from the university, I began to teach English at a secondary grammar school in Szentendre in 1999. When I went for the first job interview, I tried to look more feminine, I was wearing earrings, but when I began to teach, I gave that up. I thought they would see that I work well, that I like teaching, and that I get along well with students. I had no problems until the end of the first semester, when the director of the school asked me if I wanted to stay on. From that time on she and the deputy director kept asking me about the way I dress. They wanted me to wear skirts. They also wanted to persuade me to grow my hair longer. In March, the director told me that she had had to bear too much criticism because of me. She asked me how I expected to please men this way. She said it was a denial of femininity, that I am in conflict with myself, and this can only end in a nervous breakdown. Then she added that they had had a “similar case.” Three years before, an Englishman had taught in the school. “He looked normal,” the director said, “until he wanted to give an interview.” It turned out that he was gay, and he wanted to give an interview and mention this to a local newspaper. The director immediately dismissed him, saying that parents would not want a gay person to teach their children. She didn’t ask directly whether I was a lesbian, and I didn’t want rumours to spread. I was really down and had to be strong. She told me I had chosen the wrong profession.
 Later, when my job application was accepted by another school in Budapest, which is much better known, and it was clear that I would start teaching there the following September, I told her that I had chosen the wrong place, not the wrong profession. I love teaching, but this time I am not a public employee; with this school I have begun to work as a self-employed lecturer, to be free from such problems once and for all. I am not open about my lesbian identity in this school either. I have heard homophobic comments from other teachers. But at least they don’t mind the way I look.
 Before applying to this other school, I had applied for a job in a bookshop. I was so confused, I was really thinking about leaving teaching, which I like doing so much. During the interview at the Central European University bookshop, they also told me that I was too visibly different and asked me why I had to look this way. One of them said he was not homophobic, but my look would cause difficulties for everybody; there are three booksellers in the shop, and if people who were looking for books on gender studies always came to me for assistance, that would disturb our working relationship. They decided not to take me right there.

S.K. is a gay man, one of the founders of a Christian gay group. He also had to leave his workplace quite abruptly when his employers found out that he is a leader in this organisation:

After I had become a Roman Catholic priest and lived for a while in a monastery, I chose to be open about my sexuality. I left the monastery and looked for a civilian job. I was hired by a religious (Protestant) college. I became the secretary of the school and the head of its financial department. I began to work there in March 1996. They were always satisfied with my work. In November 1997 I was moving to a new apartment. The director of the school offered to help and I accepted. While we were carrying boxes full of papers, one of them slipped out, and she saw a document on our Catholic homosexual group (the Five Loaves of Bread Community for Homosexuals). She didn’t ask anything about it then. However, at work the next day, she invited me into her office and asked me to confess whether I was homosexual or not. I said that I didn’t want to answer her question about my private life. Her response was that in a Christian school it is not a private matter – the education law of the Protestant Church prescribes a pious life for all its workers. She convened a committee meeting that very day and declared that homosexuality is an illness, the result of childhood trauma, and that it needs to be appropriately cured. The committee terminated my contract immediately. The document they issued refers to my “behaviour” and states that this “behaviour” contradicts the basic values of Christian morality, but it does not name the cause of my dismissal. I didn’t initiate a lawsuit because I had no proof.

After his dismissal, S.K. asked the help of a lawyer and wrote a letter to the school director, in which he told that he might turn to a court. The school decided to pay him compensation, in order to avoid a court case.

The case of T.F. is not a classical workplace disrimination, as he was dismissed from the Boy Scouts, but it is characteristically similar to a workplace discrimination. He was not only dismissed from the Boy Scouts but was also accused of paedophilia merely because he is gay:

I was 17 when I became a Boy Scout. A teacher of mine invited me to join their group. I finished a leadership training session and was in charge of a group of 10-year-olds. I organised weekly meetings and tours for them. I made a lot of new friends at the Boy Scouts.
 I didn’t deal with my homosexuality until I was 22. I had tried to suppress it, and I succeeded until I fell in love with a 17-year-old boy. We met at a summer camp training seminar; he followed me everywhere, and we became very close friends. After the camp, in the autumn, he came and visited me and then stayed with me every weekend for four months. It was then that our sexual relationship began. We didn’t hide it; my friends sometimes called in the evening, and he answered the phone and told them that he would be sleeping there at my apartment… He left me after a few months, and after we broke up I was depressed.
 One of my leaders was very young and friendly. I knew that his mother worked in a psychological institute, and I asked him to arrange a meeting with her. She told me to go to gay groups and talk to others there, but she also told me that I would have to leave the scouts since I wasn’t a good example for the kids. Her son, my boss, also urged me to leave. I think it was not my relationship that bothered them; after all, that had happened months before. It was that I told my best friends that I was gay, and I wasn’t willing to pretend that I am heterosexual. I didn’t want to lie all the time. I thought they would defend me, since they were my friends. But when my boss stopped speaking to me, they didn’t stand up for me. I could bear it only for a few weeks, and then I left.
Since all of this was not out in the open, the children and their parents thought I had simply left them. Many of the children came looking for me, and some of them came to visit me. Then my boss went to their parents and told them not to let them visit me any more because I was a paedophile.

K.A., like I.L., has worked as a self-employed entrepreneur ever since she was fired from her job for being a lesbian:

I worked in a cultural centre that belonged to the army, as a civilian employee. My boss was very satisfied with my work, and I was given good assignments. I organised summer holidays near Lake Balaton that summer, in 1988. My girlfriend also spent some time there. Once we had a row, and others must have heard it and found out that we lived together. A few days later I got a message from my boss saying that I should quit the job on my own initiative. I heard from a colleague of mine that my boss had accused me of saying things I had never said. I went to talk to him. He didn’t say why I had to leave, just that I should resign of my own accord, otherwise he would find a reason to dismiss me. I left and decided not to be a public employee ever again. I began to work as a self-employed person, so that I wouldn’t have a boss who can dismiss me…

On 9 June 1998, at a meeting of local government representatives in the 16th district of Budapest, Miklós Raisz announced that he had read an article in the newspaper Népszabadság about the Gay and Lesbian Festival. The article stated that one of the festival’s organisers was named L. M., who could be no one other than one of the leaders of a children’s service institution in the district, a teacher and social worker:

My question is that when we discuss the appointments of these employees, do we consider it seriously, shall we ask him at all … if he is identical with this person. Well, it seems that there are psychiatric implications here. I grew up in a normal society. … I’m just concerned. We talk here about children’s interests, and then others come and deal with these things really wisely and they organise and write articles about their gay peers and show how important it is to let young people be themselves…

At this point the chair of the meeting, the mayor of the district asked him about the article, and R.M. answered that M. was indeed one of the organisers of the Gay and Lesbian Festival, as could be learned from the article. “I revere laws, and many people have the right to live on this earth, but still. We have to investigate this.” The chair replied that if M. “advertises himself” in the newspaper, he could easily be asked.

In the ongoing debate, which was rife with homophobic stereotypes, Tamás Büky made the argument that homosexuals are not permitted to serve in the army or the police, and that this is a good policy.

Maybe if someone is a simple, hidden homosexual, so to speak, someone who doesn’t propagate his sexuality and keeps it secret, and doesn’t behave and dress like a homosexual, then he might be able to work as a teacher. At least we wouldn’t know he’s a homosexual. And if he leaves the children alone… But if someone is an activist faggot, it can be called that, because he is, one who organises here and even demands rights for these people, that is suspicious. Because someone who does this publicly will do it anywhere he happens to be. … This is despicable.

The debate was continued on 23 June 1998. The chair expressed his uncertainty about what could be done in this “extremely difficult situation.” R.M. urged that an investigation be conducted. He stated again that this was a negative phenomenon and that whoever tolerates this type of thing should not maintain a school. One of the representatives said that the debate was useless: M. should be dismissed immediately.

M.L. filed a lawsuit against the above quoted speakers. Almost three years have passed, but the jury has not done anything about the case.

The Habeas Corpus Working Party worked on a case in which a policeman was dismissed. Géza Juhász, the leader of the Habeas Corpus legal aid service, published the case in Fundamentum, a legal journal. According to his study, the policeman was dismissed for a reason that would not have been enough to dismiss a heterosexual policeman – and his dismissal was also unlawful and partly based on a false accusation. The policeman, after even the High Court reinforced the former decisions, and he worked for a while in a place he did not like, and whose being gay was a secret to everyone, even to his parents, committed suicide. (High Court nr. Mfv.II.10.151/1998/3.)

The “C” questionnaire, which people in higher state service positions must fill,  can also result in workplace disrimination (cf. IV.2.4).

Any lesbian, gay or bisexual person in any profession can be harassed and discriminated against in Hungary. Most often the only choice they have, or believe they have, is to leave their positions silently, with the concomitant result that they are frequently forced to change their profession or career status.

V.2. The 199. § of the Penal Code

This measure is the most characteristic example of open discrimination against gay men, lesbians and bisexuals. It refers exlusively to same-sex relationships, and orders to punish relationships based on mutual consent that are not punishable between heterosexual persons.

The Constitutional Court has not replied petitions regarding this law since 1993, which is over the rational time limit. What makes the delay even more peculiar is that three trials are pending, as juries referred the cases to the Constitutional Court, so that it examines whether the law is unconstitutional or not. After two petitions (one of which was written by NGOs in 1993, and the second by a private person in 1996), in September 1998 the II. and III. District Jury of Budapest initiated that the law should be examined, and suspended a trial. According to the Jury, the 199. § contradicts the 70/A § of the Constitution.

According to the statistics of the Ministry of Justice, the 199. § of the Penal Code was the basis of two trials in 1993, nine trials in 1994, five trials in 1995, seven trials in 1996, five trials in 1997, six trials in 1998, and also six in 1999.

As for sentences,

-- in 1993 there were two prison sentences, two suspended sentences, and one person was put in detention;
-- in 1994 there were five prison sentences, three suspended sentences, one person was sentenced to paying a fine, and one person was put in detention;
-- in 1995 there were two prison sentences, two suspended sentences, and one person was put in detention;
-- in 1996 there was one prison sentence, five suspended sentences, one person was sentenced to paying a fine, and two persons were put in detention;
-- in 1997 there was one prison sentence, two suspended sentences, two persons were sentenced to paying a fine, and one person was put in detention;
-- and in 1999 there were three prison sentences, two suspended sentences, one person was sentenced to paying a fine, and two persons were put in detention.

It is obvious that there are serious sanctions in effect for violating the disriminatory age of consent law. A number of persons have been and are arrested and sentenced on the basis of an openly disriminatory law, which punishes same-sex activities that are not punished between heterosexuals..

V.3. Gay Bashing

Although there is little systematic information on homophobic hate crimes in Hungary, the interviews gathered here indicate a disturbingly high incidence of such crimes. It can be very dangerous to self-identify as gay and go to public places known to be frequented by gay people. Gay men are often attacked in parks and on the banks of the Danube, and law enforcement officials normally do not attempt to investigate these cases thoroughly. In one instance, when a case in which students of an army college had assaulted up a gay man actually did make its way into the courts, the policemen called upon to testify were unwilling to provide clear evidence of what they had seen.

Zs.G. is a gay man, the founder of a gay hiking group. He has been organising tours for 10 years. He has been harassed and assaulted several times:

[One incident] occurred on an October evening in 1993. After a meeting of the university gay group that had been established that year, I went out to Népliget.  I was assaulted there. I could not see my attackers, nor did I later have any recollection of what had happened. I suffered amnesia because of injuries to my head. My wounds made me assume that I had been punched in the face with a fist. I only gathered information from witnesses and friends much later. The only memory I had was that of the university group and leaving to go to Népliget, but I remembered nothing of what happened there. I escaped, ran probably, and lost my shoes and keys. I ran up to a night buffet. The owner helped me phone home. My father came for me, and then I was taken to a hospital. I was taken to the neurology ward and the wounds on my face were treated and stitched. I was unconscious for days. My co-workers came to visit, and they did not recognise me. I was new at my job, so they had only seen me a few times, but my face was unrecognisable.
 I had always had fears. I used to think about how I would escape… No, I had not felt an imminent danger, but I was always very rational, so I had made plans about how I would escape if I were ever attacked.
 I did not report the attack to the police. I was sure it would not have been important to them. And I wouldn’t have been able to describe the people who attacked me.

One evening last spring, at 11:00 p.m., I was waiting for the night bus in Buda, near the Margit Bridge. A group arrived at the same bus stop, and a few young men came up to me and told me not to get on the bus because they would not travel with a queer person. I don’t know how they knew I was gay. Maybe they were just trying to see whether the threat would work… I became very upset and could not utter a word.

The hiking group itself was also attacked by a group of neo-fascists:

One April morning in 2000, the gay hiking group met up at Moszkva Square. While we were gathering, a young man came up to me and said that he was the “machine gun Zsolt.” I had heard about him – he used to call the monthly gay program on the radio and say that gay people should be shot with machine guns. The reporter had managed to conduct an interview with him. He had introduced himself as the “machine gun Zsolt” during the interview and said that he was a member of the youth branch of MIÉP.  The gay magazine Mások had published an article about the interview, and he was enraged – this is what he told us at Moszkva Square. I found out that he buys Mások regularly. Then he left us and went to the other end of the square, where we realised his mates were waiting for him: seven or eight young skinheads. When all 30 of us had gathered at the square, we got on the tram to start our outing. They took the same tram. Right before a stop, they suddenly hit a member of our group who was standing close to them. He fell on the ground, and the skinhead gang got off at that moment, right when the doors opened.

M.I. was also bashed once and, like many other gay men, tried to forget the attack and regard it as merely an accident. Being physically attacked, however, leaves deep traces on one’s emotions and personality.

I was beaten on the Korzó once, back in the 1980s. I went down to one of the public toilets. People were talking loudly there, but I didn’t think it meant any danger, and anyway I had to use the toilet. I was attacked when I came upstairs. They followed me, a gang, and beat me until I fell to the ground. They kept shouting “rotten faggot.” They kept kicking me even when I was on the ground. A taxi came by, and then they left. I managed to get home somehow. I did not report it to the police – I was sure they would have laughed at me. A few weeks later I saw the gang on TV on a program dealing with crime. They had been arrested, because they frequently went out to the Korzó and then went home with men and later blackmailed them. Afterwards, I didn’t think about the incident for years. I forgot it completely until we started the helpline. One of the first callers was a homophobic man who said rude things, and this made me extremely anxious. I didn’t understand why until our first supervisory session, when I realised why I had been so upset. It was then that I talked about the incident for the first time: I had been so anxious because this caller had used the same expressions as the men who had attacked me years before.

The gay magazine Mások also published the testimony of M.Gy., who was attacked recently:

I used to go to Népliget quite often, but I seldom go there nowadays. However, I was there a few weeks ago, on a Tuesday evening. Only a few people were there; I saw maybe three persons hanging around. Suddenly I heard someone running behind me. I didn’t even have time to turn around before I felt a heavy blow on one of my shoulders. I fell down. It was only later that I managed to put together what had happened – at the time I only knew that I had to stand up and run for my life. The persons who attacked me didn’t say a word – they just beat me. I felt their enormous anger. When I fell down, they hit my face, probably with a baseball bat. My mouth was torn through. I will carry this scar until I die. I managed to stand up somehow and began to run as fast as I could. I knew Népliget quite well, so I knew which way to run. I might have been killed if I had run in the wrong direction, toward the bushes. They followed me, and once when I almost fell down, they hit me on my neck again. I was bleeding heavily, even my trousers were full of blood.
 I called the police on my cell phone. I told them what had happened and said it was an episode of gay bashing. They asked where I was. I said I was going toward the subway station. They wanted to know the exact address where I was. I told them there were no houses there, and they replied that they might be able to send someone around in about 15 minutes. They asked if I could describe the persons who had attacked me. I said that they were young – one of them was tall, the other two of average height, nothing else especially remarkable. I could not wait there, because I was bleeding heavily. I went home. I felt that none of my bones were broken, so I waited until the next day to go to the doctor. I had severe wounds. My mouth was torn through, and there were heavy bruises on my shoulders and neck … I was sick and had a headache for days.
 I went to report it to the police. I had to wait 90 minutes before the officer said that the computer wasn’t working and that I should rather go home and write down everything in detail. I did this, but simply to calm my conscience – I felt that nobody cared about what had happened to me. … It was not a robbery… They didn’t even steal my cell phone or demand any of my valuables.
 The other day I gathered all my strength and went out to Népliget, just to walk by the place where I had been beaten up. I walked by there twice so that I won’t have to live with these fears. But when I heard footsteps behind me, I was seized with terror again.

Another case documenting anti-gay violence, this time committed by security guards, was obtained from the records of Háttér’s telephone helpline:

5 January 2000, 7th call, 19:27 – 19:35
A man, worried, says that his 22-year-old partner must have had too much to drink at a New Year’s party several days ago. The partner had got drunk and has not spoken at all since they returned home from the party. He doesn’t answer any questions and hasn’t done anything during the last few days. He wants to take him to a doctor right now. I sent them to the crisis intervention ward of Erzsebet Hospital.

15th call, 21:23 – 21:35
The 7th caller. He is in a very agitated state. His partner was taken to the hospital. He was there with him and asked the doctor whether his friend would have to stay at the hospital. His partner had to stay there for a closer examination, but before the caller left, the security guards threw him out and hit him in the face. He was not permitted to say goodbye to his partner. He wants to report it to the police.

Like so many gay men who have been physically assaulted, the man never reported the case to the police. Háttér, being an anonymous helpline, never found out who he was. The operator called the hospital the next day and found out that the staff had admitted a patient the previous night who had been accompanied by another man. The nurse had heard shouting from the corridor, but she did not know who was shouting, nor what was said and why. The security guards patrolling the hospital at night tend to be rude – all the nurse could say was that many people had made complaints about them.

Gay bashing has been going on for decades, and homophobic groups and individuals, even people belonging to the army, continue to harass and attack gay people. During recent years, as gay men have begun to report these cases to the police for the first time, they have been forced to discover that the institutions responsible for protecting their rights are highly reluctant to respond effectively.

V.4. Discrimination in the Judiciary and by the Police

Judges and criminal psychologists are at times strongly influenced by homophobic messages that are disseminated by politicians, the educational system and the media. Consequently, their policies and decisions often adhere strongly to stereotypical notions of lesbians, gay men and bisexuals and largely regard homosexuality as an illness.

Géza Juhász, the executive director of Habeas Corpus Working Party, wrote a comparative analysis of several cases the organisation worked on in the year 2000.  Juhász argues that among the cases the Habeas Corpus legal aid service has worked on, there are major differences in regarding the attitudes of the police if the victim or the perpetrator is homosexual or heterosexual.  A number of gay men spend one or two years in detention for relationships that are not punishable if they happen between heterosexuals, but the investigation is often painfully slow if the accusation is about violence within the family.

Juhász also called attention to the language of expert psychologists: one expert’s “observation” for example calls bisexuality an aberration and a sociopathic distortion of personality.  These experts claimed that the mere fact of having a homosexual relationship brought about “negative changes in the sexual orientation of the youngsters.” “All the defendants in this case are described as having ‘personality characteristics that incline them to commit unrestrained sexual acts.’ (…) It is remarkable to compare this statement with the statement from the examination of a heterosexual man who had raped a girl. One witness stated that ‘he was always hunting for porn films... He was especially interested in scenes of violence, rape and bestiality.’ The psychologist’s conclusion was that ‘the methods of examination did not bring about results that would lead to a conclusion of sexual aberration.’ Of course, it is psychologists who choose these methods.”

A case study published by Habeas Corpus Working Party in 1998 also describes the beating of a gay man. This case was reported to the police and was even tried in the courts, because the attackers were apprehended immediately following the attack. The perpetrators had originally intended to attack the plaintiff physically but ultimately only managed to ruin his car. As a result, they received a remarkably mild punishment and were even given words of advice from the judge to help one of them keep his army job. The police claimed that they “did not remember” much of the case, even though they had at least seen the result of the attack. Although the judge stated that he knew what their reason was for the attack, the court case was only about ruining the car.

The activist G.J. was identified and humiliated by the police on one occasion while he was posting stickers advertising Háttér’s gay and lesbian helpline near a hospital where HIV-positive people are treated.

It happened in October 1997. I was walking to the László hospital to visit a friend of mine. On my way from the subway to the hospital, I placed stickers advertising the gay and lesbian helpline on the telephone boxes. A police car pulled up from behind and the officers asked for my identification. When they left after registering my personal data, I was looking for a piece of paper to write down their number. One of them turned back and yelled at me: “you rotten faggot.” I never mentioned the incident to anyone until later, during a supervisory session for the helpline operators…

Homophobic harassment by the police often takes the form of raids on meeting places and the registration of personal data of individuals suspected to be gay:

Policemen ask for identification and record personal data regularly in cruising areas (on the bank of the Danube and in baths). In these cases they identify everyone who is present. One night two years ago at the Angel Bar, the largest gay bar in Budapest, the data of all customers were recorded – those who were there could not leave otherwise. The police department calls these events “general searches.”

V.5. Reactions and Opinions of Politicians

Despite the extensive overt discrimination suffered by lesbians and gay men in Hungary, politicians – even those responsible for the protection of human rights – are unresponsive to these violations of individual and social rights. Indeed, most politicians do not view anti-gay discrimination as a violation of rights, do not recognise that lesbians and gay men have rights at all, and make homophobic decisions and statements themselves. When this happened in the Parliament, in December 2000, no member of the Parliament raised his or her voice against homophobia.

In June 1999, the Ministry of Social and Family Affairs distributed a draft of a “Conceptual Paper on Family Politics” to its experts. Paragraph 4420 listed homosexuality under the category of “deviance:”

One of the greatest threats to families is the spread of forms of deviance that fundamentally deny family values. We must consider same-sex relationships, both between men and between women, as this type of deviance.
In order to protect present and future families, we must use legislative measures to prevent the socialisation of children into homosexual lifestyles. We must also ban advertisements that refer to homosexuality.

Due to the protest of gay organizations and the attention of the media, the above quoted two paragraphs were left out of the final version of the conception paper. Luckily, the draft became public when the summer gay and lesbian festival was going on, and thus the interviews made with organizers about the draft got a high media attention.

Aside from deploying typical anti-gay rhetoric in contrasting lesbians and gays with heterosexual families, the ministerial paper discriminates against unmarried heterosexual couples as well. As an article analysing the paper argues, the paper supports only marriage as an acceptable form for sharing a life. The paper states that “the defence of relationships not grounded in marriage is not a public task; the state is not obliged in any way by either the Constitution or international covenants to do this.”

Péter Harrach, the Minister of Social and Family Affairs, told a journalist that he does not support legal marriage for same-sex couples. He also stated that adoption by same-sex couples would not promote the raising of children in a healthy environment.

However, negative statements on lesbian and gay rights are not the exclusive domain of right-wing politicians. Kovács László, the president of the Hungarian Socialist Party (one of the two most influential parties in Hungary along with the right-wing Fidesz Hungarian Civil Party), gave an interview to a weekly magazine on 5 November 1999, in which he stated the following:

ÉS: What is your opinion on the refusal of Kósáné Kovács Magda, the socialist chair of the parliamentary Human Rights Committee, to deliver an opening speech at the summer Gay and Lesbian Festival?
KL: (…) I think she was right. I think her political reflexes worked well. To be honest, I would not have taken it upon myself either.
ÉS: Are you serious?
KL: Yes, I am. I feel that, as opposed to the Roma question, where there is serious discrimination against which all politicians must take a stand, the problem of those who are attracted to their own sex is different. They are not harassed or attacked. Society is not sympathetic to homosexual behaviour, and I can understand that. I would not be happy either if this behaviour were compulsory.

László Kovács later apologised in a public letter for his comment about compulsory homosexuality, but he never retracted his view that gay people are not discriminated against.

Any lesbian- or gay-organised project that receives media attention tends to arouse highly public and thus highly effective backlash from politicians.

At a June 2000 session of the Budapest City Assembly, one representative explained his opposition to holding the Lesbian and Gay Film and Cultural Festival and Pride March on a particular weekend. István Endrédy (of the Fidesz Hungarian Civil Party, the Hungarian Democratic Forum, and the Hungarian Christian-Democratic Alliance) delivered the following statement about the festival, which was to be held in the Trafó Contemporary Art Centre that is funded partly by the Assembly.

I am speaking in the name of the minority that still supports families. … On the same weekend as the lesbian/gay festival, Budapest will be hosting a meeting of Catholic families, the World Meeting of Protestants, and the World Meeting of Hungarian Protestant Schools. … I am appealing on behalf of the children, because I do not want our children to be exposed to such a spectacle. … The present and future of our children could have been made safer if we would have negotiated a separate place and time for each event and not allowed them to collide on the same weekend.

In his response, the president of the Assembly mentioned that recommendations had been made to dismiss the director of the Trafó Centre or at least force him to reverse his decision to allow the festival to be held there. More than one third of the representatives present voted to oppose the Assembly president’s ultimate response that nothing could nor should be done.

During the same month, the right-wing faction of the Budapest City Assembly made a recommendation that public support for an organisation or institution could be withdrawn if its activities offended national, ethnic or religious groups, as well as public morals. (The Trafó Centre had received four million forints from the Assembly budget that year.) Because socialists and liberals hold a majority in the Assembly, the recommendation was ultimately rejected.  Nevertheless, the director of Trafó reversed his policy last autumn. He told the organisers that in spite of his previous promise, Trafó will not be available as the venue for the next festival, because the heating system had to be repaired during the June Pride weekend.

Tibor Pál, Deputy Mayor of the 9th district in Budapest where Trafó is situated, also expressed his disapproval in an interview given to the largest newspaper in Hungary:

To be honest, I am not at all happy that our district will host this event, and I think that local people will not greet gay people cordially either. … I think that homosexuality must be dealt with, but I do not think it is a pattern of behaviour to be followed. It would of course be good to decide what we can do for these people aside from reacting with revulsion, confusion and rejection.

V.6. Stereotypes in the the Media

In a recent interview, a Hungarian gay activist talked about his childhood in the late 1960s and how he came to terms with his homosexuality.

Q: What was the very first thing you can remember … when this word – queer – was connected to you?
M.L.: (silence) Among the images in my memory? … That this exists, and has something to do with me, and is not just a distant concept…
Q: What was the first information you received from society about homosexuality?
M.L.: Well, it was the news about a homosexual murder case reported in Népszabadság. My father used to read the newspaper, and I read it too when I was 10 or 12. I picked up the newspaper when I got home from school, and the news shocked me. And then I felt that I belonged to this “species,” that I am gay. So I was involved personally, and it was very depressing. And it still lives inside me after 30 years. I can still see the newspaper in front of me: it was on the middle of the page, this story of a murder that happened on the first of May, and then… God, is this what is inside me? Is this also in me?

A young person growing up and reading Hungarian newspapers today must still often confront the same feelings. Many articles describe homosexuals as outcasts, “cases” to be dealt with, psychologically ill, and above all as sex maniacs and seducers of younger people.

Right-wing media spread homophobia every time an occasion arises to address the subject of homosexuality. In a conservative journal, Ágnes Seszták depicted the people attending the Gay and Lesbian Film and Cultural Festival as follows: “Proud homosexuals want to prove how intolerant we are, and that they are oppressed. I don’t understand why one has to be proud of being a man who touches other men’s bottoms in public places.” Then she condemns partners who do not want to marry: “The prophets of [registered] partnership are those who do not want to take upon themselves any responsibility in a relationship.” Her “portrait” contains numerous stereotypical depictions of homosexuals: homosexuals are all men, they have sex in public, and they refuse to assume the responsibility of raising children, which is further proof of their moral deficiency.

On 18 July 1999, István Lovas read a note during the Sunday news program of Radio Kossuth, the largest radio station in Hungary. His writing was entitled “Patience or Love.” While discussing the fact that the Lesbian and Gay Festival, which had taken place a few weeks earlier, had been opened by a member of a liberal party (the Alliance of Free Democrats), he claimed that “prominent representatives of a certain party appear and speak at events organised by gay people not because they tolerate gay people, but because they like them. Just as they like the way gay people undermine traditions, traditional morals and families. Indeed, it is the conservatives who tolerate gay people, because they don’t beat them to death.” Another reporter, Balázs Pálfi, who operates the one and only gay-oriented program on Hungarian state radio, requested that he be allowed to respond to Lovas’ words on the Sunday news. However, the chief editor of the program, Pál Lakatos, refused to grant his request. Ultimately, Pálfi delivered his response to Lovas’ hate-filled speech on his own gay program. As a result, he was forbidden to produce two successive programs. The reason given for this penalty was that, according to regulations, employees of Hungarian state radio are not allowed to use the radio as a medium for expressing their opinions of other programs. Pálfi acknowledged that he had violated this rule, but he argued that the presentation of balanced information is equally as important. In addition, he stated that the presentation of balanced information is in fact just as much a rule of the radio as the regulation used to punish him. Indeed, Lovas’ statements were tantamount to speech inciting hatred.

As with politicians, however, media homophobia is not restricted to the right wing. On 4 August 1999, the left-wing newspaper Népszabadság, the largest newspaper in Hungary, published an article in its opinion section by Ákos Tárkányi, a sociologist who works for the Central Statistics Office. Tárkányi warns his readers of a “demographic catastrophe,” arguing that “all these concerns would not be so urgent if someone had already proved that homosexuality is not the result of psychological or cultural effects, but is inborn and absolutely determines human behaviour. Science, however, has no precise knowledge about the nature of homosexuality. And if it is not genetically determined, it can become popular and widespread.” A few weeks later, the newspaper published a response to this article by László Mocsonaki, a sociologist and gay activist.

After publishing Mocsonaki’s response, Népszabadság then published a lengthy rebuttal by Tárkányi, which represented an aggregation of the most homophobic arguments ever voiced in the Hungarian press. In his rebuttal, Tárkányi equated homosexuality with promiscuity and sexually transmitted diseases. He again explained that if homosexuality is not a genetic disease, it must be the result of external effects that naturally must be carefully avoided, since homosexuality is a “dangerous social phenomenon.” He quoted a series of “scientific sources” from the Internet, mostly some American psychiatrists who seek to change the sexual orientation of lesbians and gay men. He claimed that children raised by homosexuals have a “disturbed sexual identity” and that homosexual couples beat their children more often than heterosexual couples. He argued further that homosexuals have a tendency to be psychologically disturbed, and this is why young homosexuals commit suicide more often than their heterosexual peers. In a grotesque turn, he transformed the injuries young lesbians and gays suffer from their environment into an intrinsic psychological illness. He decried homosexuals’ “addictive, destructive lifestyles, and their habit of seducing teenagers.” His final argument stated that the former government was grossly irresponsible when it distributed posters in schools that “popularised homosexuality” (this alluded to a poster that promoted the acceptance of different social groups including women, Roma and gays). Ultimately, he concluded his argument by placing the term “human rights” between quotation marks, claiming that the concept masked “a rejection of public responsibility.”  Like all those who adhere to authoritarianism and its commitment to order, he refused to regard civil and political rights as rights of the individual to live free from state and church intervention, and he posited a supposed community-wide morality that exists in opposition to lesbians and gay men.

After this unprecedented article was published, two activists wrote articles in response. They also questioned the opinion section editor’s methods of publishing. The editor, Károly Kelen, claimed that articles published in the opinion section do not reflect the views of the editors. Nevertheless, an article expressing similar arguments about ethnic or national minorities would never have been published without (i) a direct statement from the editors that such arguments do not reflect their views and (ii) an immediate response by organisations or other representatives of the affected groups. The editor repeated his claims of neutrality but later stated that the newspaper could not deal with this topic forever, since it had obligations of proportionality. Népszabadság later published an article by the sociologist Judit Takács. While Takács discussed Tárkányi’s article and the issue of homophobia, her argument presented a general criticism of homophobia and its reasons, without directly addressing Tárkányi’s much more virulent homophobic claims. After publishing two severely homophobic articles by the same person, the editor obviously thought that counterresponses should be “neutral” and “objective” and that these standards could be maintained only by silencing lesbian and gay writers.

Whenever lesbians and gay men protest against homophobia, the Hungarian press is rife with references to the illegitimacy of their claims. On 6 August 2000, the right-wing journal Magyar Fórum wrote that lesbians and gay men “demonstrate because they are masochistic. They want people to say negative things to them so that they can run to the human rights ombudsman and news editors to protest, claiming that they are hurt and discriminated against. In actuality, they only arouse pity and make people sick.” The article naturally included the usual allusions to “this attraction … infecting children” and “being paired with violence.”

But Népszabadság also published a strongly homophobic letter to the editor on 11 July 2000. The letter assails the “advertisement” of homosexuality and claims that lesbians and gay men “despise heterosexuality and find it something to be demonised.” The writer then expresses concern that homosexuals “have more weight in the media than their actual presence in society warrants” and that homosexuality is related to violence, especially against children. Although other letters were also published, defending gay rights, it should be emphasised that these articles and letters in the largest left-wing newspaper in Hungary are not published for educational reasons, but rather on their own merit: homophobic opinions are thus elevated to the status of appropriate arguments in a debate in which lesbian and gay writers are silenced.

V.7. Psychologists

Lesbian, gay and bisexual persons who require therapy in Hungary are very likely to encounter psychologists who adhere to outdated conceptions of “normality” and “deviance.” To be sure, some psychologists do help lesbians and gay men achieve self-acceptance in coming to terms both with their attraction to the same sex as well as with a social environment that condemns and punishes homosexuality. However, there are still a great number of psychologists and psychiatrists in Hungary who regard homosexuality or homosexual desires as problems to be cured.

On the wepage maintained by the Hungarian Psychological Society , there is a factual and informative  writing about homosexuality, which was published by the American Psychological Society. The same page cotains a link to the webpage of  the Háttér Society for Gays and Lesbians.

The webpage of the Hungarian Sexologists’ Society , which is headed by Elvira Lux, however, does not seem to even mention the existence of homosexuality. The mission statement of the society only talks about heterosexual marriages, and the “appropriate moral upbringing of youth.” It is only the lexikon compiled by László Esztergomi, a sexual-psychologist that reveals the opinion of the society about homosexuality. Heterosexuality is defined by him as “the normal sexual orientation.” The definition of homosexuality begins with a factual sentence: “the word means the physical and emotional love of two persons of the same sex.” Right after this, the author quotes the III. Book of Moses, which says that men who have sex with another man should be killed, and adds that “homosexuality is treated with tolerance among cultured nations today.” The end of definition says that “we do not know much about the reasons of homosexuality. The young people who are forlorn, grow up without parental love, can easily be seduced to this.”

The role of psychologists, and social workers who cooperate with them, is significant not only in the realm of private therapy but also in debates on adoption. On 9-10 September 1999, the Legal Department of the Hungarian Institution for the Defence of Families and Children (HIDFC) organised a conference that included a workshop on the issue of lesbian and gay adoption of children. Since the HIDFC oversees the adoption of Hungarian children by foreign couples, it wanted the workshop to serve as a platform for preparing social workers and psychologists for the possibility that qualified lesbian and gay couples might make requests to adopt Hungarian children. The workshop leader, László Mocsonaki (who is gay himself), stated: “There was a lot of tension. Most people said that lesbians and gays should not be permitted to adopt. Their reasons were based mainly on stereotypes that lesbians and gays would abuse children. In fact, the only people who supported lesbian and gay adoption were from the institution that invited us. One participant even said that lesbian and gay adoption would be parallel to sex tourism in Asia! Another participant later wrote a letter of complaint to the state secretary who is responsible for the HIDFC, saying that the institution should deal with professional issues, not with helping gay people.” The new right-wing government ultimately created a different institution that same year, in which the HIDFC performs only a minor function.

V.8. The problems of young lesbians, gay men and bisexuals

Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth, according to the experience of the Meleg Háttér Switchboard and discussions organized by lesbian and gay organizations, often face problems of particular severity. Peer pressure to conform, homophobic bullying, rejection by family members, negative information about homosexuality, absence of support groups and places to meet, and the discriminatory age of consent law all combine to create serious obstacles to a young person’s self-acceptance. Discussion groups frequently reveal the long-term suffering and uncertainty that mark the difficult path to self-acceptance among young lesbians and gay men. This is particularly true in rural areas, where there are no gay-oriented events or support groups that might provide greatly needed help.

I.Z., who is now 21 years old, described the events that led to a total separation from his family:

I used to live in Miskolc with my parents. In October 1998 I had to go to the respiratory ward of the local hospital, because X-rays had shown some kind of deformation in my lungs. I found out much later that it was a tuberculosis infection that had already healed. Before the diagnosis was made, however, the hospital staff insisted that my girlfriend be examined as well. I told them I had a boyfriend. He was examined, and luckily he was not infected.
 In the meantime, my parents had gone to the hospital to speak to the doctors because they were suspicious I had not told them everything. The doctor told my parents that I was gay – everyone in the hospital had found out. That evening my parents locked me up in my room. They did not let me phone my friends and took away my keys. My partner, a Scottish man, was in Scotland at the time, so he could not help me.
 The next day my parents took me to the psychiatric ward. My father had received three referrals by then. One was the sexual advice centre and another was to the neurology department, but the doctors working there all said they had no expertise in homosexuality, so I was taken to the psychiatric ward. My family would not leave me alone; they even followed me into the bathroom. I was very shocked and upset – the previous day they had turned the room I had lived in for 18 years into a prison. I knew I would not go back there. I tried to escape from the psychiatric ward, but my grandfather began to shout, and I was caught. I was afraid that I would not be able to prove my own sanity. My parents took me home, but my father threatened to kill me. He said he would rather see me dead than gay, even if he had to spend years in prison. I stayed with friends and then with my partner when he came back. I did not tell my parents where I was living.
 I went to see the head of the respiratory ward, and he admitted that they had made a mistake in telling my parents I was gay. He told me that I could register a complaint with the County Health Services Department, but then no doctor in Miskolc would see me and I would have to travel to Budapest for treatments. I couldn’t have done this, so I didn’t report what had happened – I needed to undergo a lot of examinations before an exact diagnosis could be made. My doctor was not willing to examine me without administering a new HIV-test, even though I had had two previous negative tests with him.
 My partner and I moved to Budapest last summer. He works for an English publishing house, and I began to study communications at college.

Although more and more young gays and lesbians manage to come out to their families and friends, many of them still face a high risk of victimisation, violence, harassment and discrimination within their families as well as the broader society. They have little opportunity to talk about their problems to friends, since they are usually rejected by their peers. As a result, young people feel isolated and often begin to feel self-hatred. Many begin to drink or use drugs, or become hostile toward other homosexuals. Many attempt suicide as a result of rejection by their families as well as fellow students.

Young lesbians and gays are conscious of their difference quite early in life. The different ways in which they refuse to accept their homosexuality often affect other aspects of their lives, such as their studies or their ability to love others. All of them have to go through a slow, painful transition from shame to self-acceptance. Young lesbians and gays constitute one of the most vulnerable groups in society; the messages they receive from their homophobic peers and teachers often have disastrous effects. Many drop out of school: two alternative schools in Budapest are reported by teachers to be full of gay and lesbian students. However, even the few lesbian and gay teachers at these alternative schools do not dare come out of the closet for fear of public condemnation.

Aware of these severe problems, the Labrisz Lesbian Association decided to organise a campaign to combat harassment and homophobic stereotypes at schools, including the organisation of special training seminars for teachers. In 2000, Labrisz introduced an educational program for secondary school students and teachers. The project received funding from the PHARE Democracy Microprojects Program of the European Union. Before the program started, Labrisz sent a letter to each secondary school director in Hungary to explain the aims of the program, which include: (1) creating a safe and unbiased environment in schools, (2) helping students learn to respect other people, and (3) increasing teachers’ awareness that their students might be gay or lesbian, and instructing them in ways to help lesbian and gay students who might, and often do, turn to their teachers for help. The letter also described who the volunteer trainers are: university students studying the humanities; future and practising teachers and psychologists; and young lesbian, gay and bisexual persons who have all experienced and overcome pain, shame, and isolation to achieve self-acceptance. In addition, the letter explained the harmful effects of prejudice and violence in order to underscore the need to talk about homosexuality in schools. Finally, the letter made clear that the program is not a sex education project; rather, it is a campaign to combat prejudices that are extremely widespread throughout society.

The program was well received. Seven schools responded to the letter within two weeks, and project trainers conducted 30 seminars in total. These are very small numbers when compared to the overall number of schools that received the letter, but not when society-wide fear and homophobia are taken into account. The project also received publicity: discussions related to the project and organised by Labrisz Lesbian Association were advertised in magazines, including the official magazine of educators and schools in Hungary.

The program caused a series of homophobic reactions that were unprecedented in Hungary. Any event that increases the visibility of gays and lesbians in Hungary, such as the summer festival, results in homophobic uproar. However, in this case, in which a group of lesbians and gay men had created a project that transgressed the boundaries separating an isolated gay and lesbian “community” from the “heterosexual” space of schools, the resistance was all the greater. In a letter dated 20 November 2000, a group of social workers from Budapest’s 5th District wrote as follows:

We have received your despicable flyer. It is outrageous that you have the courage to infect schools, instead of advocating a healthy life! We are committed to supporting the upbringing of a normal generation and to exposing the existence of twisted desires in our society as curable behaviour.

The letter described homosexuality as “a way of thinking that is incapable of making moral decisions” and threatened to investigate the PHARE program that funds the project. The letter was signed illegibly by four persons whose names are not printed and thus cannot be read. Labrisz asked the administrative director of the local government and the district mayor to take a position regarding these social workers’ attitudes, but the officials gave no response.

Shortly thereafter, the project became the target of the Hungarian Parliament’s attention.  On 28 December 2000, Tibor Erkel, a representative of the right-wing extremist MIÉP (“Party of Hungarian Truth and Life”) questioned a secretary of the Ministry of Education. Their conversation, and the fact that not a single MP reacted to what they said, is characteristic of politicians’ positions on lesbian and gay rights in Hungary:

Tibor Erkel: “I don’t know whether this disguised recruiting action of the Labrisz Association is against the law or not. I don’t know whether the directors and the teachers participated in the program or not, nor which aspects of the program might have interested them. But I do know that after the aggressive educational policies of the last government, we expect high schools to prepare our children and daughters for a healthy life, a protected family life, and indeed, even kindergartens should do that. This libertarian trick is not that; in my opinion it is rather close to seducing, which also serves sex tourism. ... What is the official position of the Ministry of Education on this, and how does it plan to implement its position?”

József Pálinkás (state secretary in the Ministry of Education): “I believe there is no place in schools for any organisation, regardless of the purposes contained in its offer to help Hungarian educational institutions in any … question. … I believe that the vast majority of schools filed this letter properly – that is, to quote one school director, they threw it into the wastebasket. That only seven schools replied, is, I think, a very small number. Of course those seven should not have accepted this so-called help either.” (Applause in the rows of Fidesz.)

Tibor Erkel: “Thank you very much, I appreciate your comforting words. I think that seven is far too many. In my opinion the teaching of deviance is unacceptable and intolerable in schools. This deviance may be a private matter behind closed doors, but in the case of a government that calls itself the government of families, liberty and order, it cannot be accepted, because this behaviour does not serve the purposes of families and advertises libertarian values instead of liberty, and I don’t know where order is in this. I am glad the two of us are able to inform the directors of high schools in the country where they must put this letter. Thank you for your reply.” (Applause in the rows of MIÉP.)

József Pálinkás: “I must add, of course, that the questions raised by such a letter (…) must be discussed honestly and clearly with our children in the Hungarian public education system; however, this discussion must be conducted by professionals. Deviance exists; we cannot close our eyes to that. We have to face this fact, of course, but it must be faced by professionals. Thank you very much.” (Applause in the rows of Fidesz and MIÉP.)

However, this was only the beginning of a full backlash. On 29 January 2001, the following letter was sent to the National Press Service for publication:

We discovered with due indignation that the Labrisz Association wishes to hold classes in Hungarian secondary schools, with the declared intention of cleansing the students of their supposed “fears” and making lesbian, homo- and bisexual lifestyles a palpable choice for them. We also discovered that a journal funded by the Ministry of Education has demonstrated its support of the project by publishing Labrisz’s open letter.
The Hungarian Democratic Forum protests against this action that seeks to influence students, directly or indirectly, to become lesbians, homo- or bisexuals, in institutions that exist for the education and upbringing of a new generation.
Sex education and the study of family life are necessary parts of education, but in no case does this include the open or covert popularisation of sexual behaviour that differs from the norms of the society. Education must serve the purpose of developing natural and responsible relationships that ensure and protect the upbringing of children.
We believe that the organisation’s activity could easily deform the normal development of youngsters and twist it into the wrong direction. Unforeseeable results can follow if responsible public authorities expose the youth that represents the future of our nation, the future mothers and fathers of Hungary, to such effects. For this reason, the Hungarian Democratic Forum rejects the organisation’s actions and demands that the Ministry of Education immediately put a stop to these efforts in schools.

The letter was signed by Sándor Lezsák, chair of the Education and Scientific Committee of the Hungarian Parliament; Ibolya Dávid, president of the Hungarian Democratic Forum and Minister of Justice; and Krisztina Dobos, chair of the Educational Committee of the Hungarian Democratic Forum.

On the very same day, 29 January, the Ministry of Education issued a letter to be published by the National Press Service and distributed to all schools. The letter stated that the Labrisz project was against the law. In a remarkable error, the letter refers to the project as if it were an accredited program and not a seminar to be held upon the invitation of teachers and school directors.

On 28 January 2001, the news program of the state television network MTV1 showed several psychologists speaking about the project. The psychologists talked about sexual development and the dangers of influencing the youth, even through the project has nothing to do with sex education. They further stated that if adolescents turn to them for help, they advise them to have heterosexual experiences before they make a “choice for a lifetime.” One of the psychologists referred to “normal feminine and masculine roles,” calling them “natural” and “healthy” and arguing that they exist in opposition to gay, lesbian and bisexual interests. She said that such young people “definitely must turn to professionals.”

Politicians, the media and psychologists are in perfect agreement that gay, lesbian and bisexual “lifestyles” are unnatural, deviating from the norms of society and nature, and that gay men, lesbians and bisexuals are sick people – and these politicians and other actors have the power to broadcast their opinion to the general public.

These informations and stereotypes are especially dangerous to young people – this is why educational programs are so much needed. Lesbian, gay and bisexual youngsters often feel isolated, and if their environment knows that they are attracted to people of the same sex, they often get negative comments and harassment. Heterosexual youth learns stereotypes and prejudices during the same years. Education programs, discussions organized for students and teachers could help discard homophobia and discrimination.


As this report demonstrates, there are numerous areas in which the government and the Parliament can undertake necessary change and reform, particularly by (1) putting an end to state-based discrimination (which is perpetrated by unequal age of consent laws, the terminology and structure of the penal code, and judicial, law enforcement and military practices) and (2) enacting anti-discrimination legislation applying to both the state and private sectors. Just as important for the long term is the need to combat society-wide homophobia by establishing educational policies and programs for children, teenagers, and public employees, judges, the police and politicians.

The state also has a responsibility to protect individuals who suffer discrimination and violence at the hands of civilians and private actors. Gay men and lesbians routinely suffer abuse at the hands of non-state actors, while law enforcement officers and courts refuse to take appropriate action.

The state, in order to achieve equality as well as equal protection and public participation for lesbians, gay men and bisexuals, should undertake the following actions:

· changing the Penal Code, to make the age of consent equal for heterosexual and homosexual relationships, and the overall modernization of the legislation referring to “crimes against sexual morals,” as they
· violate people’s basic constitutional right to define themselves;
· threaten people having harmonic love relationships with imprisonment;
· do not defend the victims of violent attacks to the necessary degree;
· discriminate against the relationships of lesbians, gay men and isexuals;
· create legal anomalies by an arbitrary grouping of sexual activities and by focusing on defining age limits;
· do not protect young people and children against sexual crimes and child prostitution to the necessary extent;
· the inclusion of sexual orientation discrimination into the 70/A § of the Constitution and the 5. § of the Labor Code;
· recognise unmarried heterosexual and same-sex partnerships in a legal framework that is closer to marriage – i.e., create the possibility of registered partnerships;
· guaranteeing equal rights for same-sex partners, makeing double adoption and artificial insemination possible;
· provide legal protection for children with homosexual parents by legalising adoption by non-biological same-sex parents;
· penalise homophobic political statements and incitement to homophobia;
· direct necessary action toward the medical and psychological professions in order to ensure the full declassification of homosexuality as an illness, in all guidelines and practices;
· organise training programs for judges, law enforcement officers and psychologists on the issues of women’s rights and homophobia;
· support – not attack – the projects of lesbian and gay organisations that seek to combat society-wide homophobia and to provide assistance for victims of discrimination.

Even though most of the new projects organised by lesbian and gay NGOs tend to create a public scandal, more and more lesbians and gay men are gaining the courage to come out and live a relatively open life in a society that remains very homophobic. However, legislative changes and changes in public attitudes are obstructed by the reactions of Hungarian politicians – either through their overt homophobia or through their non-recognition of lesbian and gay rights as human rights.

International law and practice clearly condemns the denial of fundamental rights to persons on the basis of qualities inherent to their individuality and humanity. The basic human rights declarations and international covenants contain the right to life, liberty, and security of the person (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 3; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Articles 6 and 9), the right against arbitrary detention (UDHR 9, ICCPR 9), the right to privacy (UDHR 12, ICCPR 17), and the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of status (UDHR 2, ICCPR 2, 26). The United Nations Human Rights Committee recognises sexual orientation as a status protected from discrimination under international law.

The extension of anti-discrimination policies in the European Union and the Council of Europe, as well as recent court decisions, recommendations and directives, all mark a clear shift regarding the equal rights of lesbians, gay men and bisexuals in Europe and their freedom from discrimination. Therefore, international bodies, including the Council of Europe and the European Union, should act to persuade the government of Hungary to undertake the reforms that would amend its laws and practices and the multi-faceted violations of the rights of lesbians, gay men and bisexuals, and to investigate the multiple forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation in evaluating Hungary’s human rights record.


VII.1. Recommendation by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on the situation of lesbians and gays in Council of Europe member states

1. Nearly twenty years ago, in its Recommendation 924 (1981) on discrimination against homosexuals, the Assembly condemned the various forms of discrimination suffered by homosexuals in certain Council of Europe member states.

2. Nowadays, homosexuals are still all too often subjected to discrimination or violence, for example, at school or in the street. They are perceived as a threat to the rest of society, as though there were a danger of homosexuality spreading once it became recognised. Indeed, where there is little evidence of homosexuality in a country, this is merely a blatant indication of the oppression of homosexuals.

3. This form of homophobia is sometimes propagated by certain politicians or religious leaders, who use it to justify the continued existence of discriminatory laws and, above all, aggressive or contemptuous attitudes.

4. Under the accession procedure for new member states, the Assembly ensures that, as a prerequisite for membership, homosexual acts between consenting adults are no longer classified as a criminal offence.

5. The Assembly notes that homosexuality is still a criminal offence in some Council of Europe member states and that discrimination between homosexuals and heterosexuals exists in a great many others with regard to the age of consent.

6. The Assembly welcomes the fact that, as early as 1981, the European Court of Human Rights, in its Dudgeon v. United Kingdom judgement held that the prohibition of sexual acts between consenting male adults infringed Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and that more recently, in 1999, it expressed its opposition to all discrimination of a sexual nature in its Lustig-Prean and Beckett v. United Kingdom and Smith and Grady v. United Kingdom judgements.

7. The Assembly refers to its Opinion No. 216 (2000) on draft Protocol No. 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights, in which it recommended that the Committee of Ministers include sexual orientation among the prohibited grounds for discrimination, considering it to be one of the most odious forms of discrimination.

8. While laws on employment do not explicitly provide for restrictions concerning homosexuals, in practice homosexuals are sometimes excluded from employment and there are unjustified restrictions on their access to the armed forces.

9. The Assembly is pleased to note, however, that some countries have not only abolished all forms of discrimination but have also passed laws recognising homosexual partnerships, or recognising homosexuality as a ground for granting asylum where there is a risk of persecution on the basis of sexual orientation.

10. It is none the less aware that recognition of these rights is currently hampered by people’s attitudes, which still need to change.

11. The Assembly therefore recommends that the Committee of Ministers:

i. add sexual orientation to the grounds for discrimination prohibited by the European Convention on Human Rights, as requested in the Assembly’s Opinion No. 216 (2000);

ii. extend the terms of reference of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) to cover homophobia founded on sexual orientation, and add to the staff of the European Commissioner for Human Rights an individual with special responsibility for questions of discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation;

iii. call upon member states:

a. to include sexual orientation among the prohibited grounds for discrimination in their national legislation;

b. to revoke all legislative provisions rendering homosexual acts between consenting adults liable to criminal prosecution;

c. to release with immediate effect anyone imprisoned for sexual acts between consenting homosexual adults;

d. to apply the same minimum age of consent for homosexual and heterosexual acts;

e. to take positive measures to combat homophobic attitudes, particularly in schools, the medical profession, the armed forces, the police, the judiciary and the Bar, as well as in sport, by means of basic and further education and training;

f. to co-ordinate efforts with a view to simultaneously launching a vast public information campaign in as many member states as possible;

g. to take disciplinary action against anyone discriminating against homosexuals;

h. to ensure equal treatment for homosexuals with regard to employment;

i. to adopt legislation which makes provision for registered partnerships;

j. to recognise persecution against homosexuals as a ground for granting asylum;

k. to include in existing fundamental rights protection and mediation structures, or establish an expert on, discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

VII.2. Petition to the Hungarian Parliament

We believe that the section of the Penal Code referring to sexuality-related crimes requires general reform. The Habeas Corpus Working Party, the Háttér Society for Gays and Lesbians, the Labrisz Lesbian Association, the Rainbow Coalition for the Rights of Gay People (an unregistered organisation), the Southern Hungarian Gay Group, Women Against Violence, and the Association for Civil Liberties published a common position on these necessary legal reforms on 6 January 2000. This part of the Penal Code violates people’s rights to decide freely about themselves, does not adequately protect victims of sexual abuse or rape, discriminates against people who live in same-sex relationships, and is thus in contradiction with the European Convention on Human Rights and ongoing processes within the European Union.

In contrast to these European statutes, Hungarian laws currently in force do not protect victims of discrimination; indeed, these laws are discriminatory themselves. The Penal Code refers in a dated manner to “sexual morals” and “unnatural sodomy.” The 199. § is especially discriminatory: it maintains a significant difference in legal ages of consent between heterosexual and homosexual relationships. Thus a relationship between a 17-year-old woman and an 18-year-old woman is a crime that must be pursued by the police, even if it is consensual. In contrast, a 50-year-old man who persuades a 14-year-old girl to have sex cannot be punished – even if he pays this child for sex or “gets” her through someone.

According to the 1 July 1997 Opinion of the European Commission on Human Rights, there is no objective and well-founded reason to maintain a difference in legal ages of consent between hetero- and homosexual relationships. This difference also contradicts the Hungarian Constitution, which contains the principle of equal treatment for all persons in Hungary (70/A §). However, individuals have been sentenced to prison under the 199. § even during recent weeks.

According to the 209. § of the Penal Code, heterosexual sex crimes, including the sexual abuse of children, can be officially pursued only if a person registers a complaint, while homosexual crimes, rape and the abuse of young people under 18 must be pursued by the police. We reject inequalities in this respect as well: victims of sexual abuse must be protected by the state to the highest possible extent, but the state does not have the right to maintain laws that discriminate against homosexuals.

People in Hungary are regularly harassed in the workplace and are often fired from their jobs because of their sexual orientation. They are even persuaded to pretend that they themselves want to leave their jobs. Gay men, lesbians and bisexual people must live in constant secrecy and fear if they want to keep their jobs.

Soldiers, law enforcement officers, teachers, judges and governmental authorities face extremely strong forms of discrimination if they reveal their sexual orientation.

The Defence and Health Ministry’s policy on military eligibility [7/1996. (30. VII.) Appendix II] also contains dated and homophobic notions. It lists homosexuality under “disturbances of personality” and “disturbances of sexuality … and psychosexual identity.”

Judges and other persons in positions of authority are required to fill out questionnaires that inquire about their sexual relationships. However, it is the questionnaire itself that maintains secrecy. If lesbians and gay men could live an open life, no one would have reason to assume that the interest of an official person is to hide her or his affection to people belonging to the same sex, or that he or she can easily be liable to blackmail.

Those who have same-sex relationships are also discriminated against in the realm of health care. Blood donor forms ask whether potential donors are homosexual or bisexual, and whether they have ever had same-sex sexual relationships, rather than asking whether one has engaged in unsafe sexual activity. Any person who answers affirmatively to this question is prohibited to give blood. The assumption behind this question is that gay people are unreliable and will lie when asked about their sexual activities.

Same-sex partnerships have been formally recognised in Hungary since 1996. This legal recognition carries with it certain very limited rights, but it does not guarantee broad and well-defined rights approaching marriage, in contrast to an increasing number of European Union member states.

According to the Health Code [1997. CLIV. 167. § (1)], only heterosexual married couples or partners have access to artificial insemination.

Books used in high schools contain or imply false and prejudiced information about homosexuality, while bisexuals and transgender people are not even mentioned. Certain books list homosexuality as a form of deviance, and others argue that it is being openly gay that is abnormal; both arguments imply that homosexuals do not have the right to live as openly as heterosexuals do.

Politicians and institutions that support civil societal organisations usually do not realise that sexual orientation discrimination is a political and social issue. They minimise and individualise this problem, despite the fact that this form of discrimination affects thousands of individuals. This places a limit on an entire social group’s right to privacy and its freedom to live openly according to sexual orientation. Most of all, these politicians and institutions are simply afraid to discuss the entire issue.

Because of this entire list of facts, we recommend:

· that the legal age of consent be made uniform regardless of gender or sexual orientation;
· that all sexual offences be pursued officially – laws should defend crime victims in every possible way;
· that, following the practice of the European Union, sexual orientation be listed among grounds of unlawful discrimination. In order to ensure that victims of discrimination are effectively protected, this should be incorporated into:
- the anti-discrimination clause of the Constitution (70/A);
- the 5. § of the Labour Law; and
- the 269. § of the Penal Code, which defines hate speech;
· that gays and lesbians not be discriminated against with regard to employment, since the state has nothing to do with the sexual orientation of judges, soldiers, or people working in any job or profession. The responsibility of the state is to combat discrimination so that no person must live in secrecy, dishonesty and fear;
· that false, prejudiced and homophobic notions be eliminated from eligibility requirements for all areas of employment and for blood donation;
· that legally recognised same-sex partnerships acquire broader and more precisely defined rights – registered partnerships should be permitted in accordance with the practice of EU member states;
· that any woman, whether she lives alone or in a relationship, have access to artificial insemination;
· that books having a direct or indirect influence on teachers and students not be published if they contain false statements that strengthen prejudices against sexual minorities; and
· that politicians, lawmakers and state institutions assume the responsibility of combating discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Budapest, 1 July 2000

Signed: Géza Juhász, Habeas Corpus Working Party; László Mocsonaki, Háttér Society for Gays and Lesbians; Bea Sándor, Labrisz Lesbian Association; László Rusvai, Lambda Budapest Gay Society; László Laner, Mások gay magazine; Balázs Birtalan, Five Loaves of Bread Christian Community for Homosexuals.

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