Child protection law in Hungary – The truth in brief
op-ed by Minister of Justice Judit Varga
For almost 10 years, indisputable declarations about the death of Hungarian democracy have been published in the international press on a regular basis. And yet, despite crying wolf over and over again, there has never been any wolf – unfortunately, those crying out also never seem to tire of their deceit.
This time it is declared that Hungary adopted a discriminatory, homophobic law. No one cares that the declaration signed by several member states contains false allegations and falsifies the merit of the Hungarian law by suppressing essential parts thereof. No one cares to notice that the focus of the law is the protection of children from any kind of sexuality – hence it cannot, by definition, be discriminatory. The signatory member states did not even bother to ask for an official explanation from the Hungarian government before issuing their joint letter. Criticisms instead have generated an artificial conflict between the rights of children and the rights of LGBT. Is this really the embodiment of the loyal cooperation enshrined in the Treaties?
The new law focuses on guaranteeing the rights of parents and protecting minors from accessing content that may contradict the educational principles their parents chose to teach them until they become adults themselves. Until that time, however, all other actors – be it the state or schools – shall respect the rights of parents to decide on the sexual education of their children. This is what Hungary’s new law is about.
It should also be noted that Article 14 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union states that the right of parents to ensure the education and teaching of their children in conformity with their religious, philosophical and pedagogical convictions shall be respected, in accordance with the national laws governing the exercise of such freedom and rights.
The Hungarian law does not apply to the lives, sexual identity or practices of adults over the age of 18 — nor to how said adults wish to express or present themselves publicly.
Sexual orientation and gender identity fall under strict constitutional protection in Hungary. According to Article XV paragraph (2) of the Fundamental Law, Hungary shall guarantee fundamental rights to everyone without discrimination. Since 2004, the Equal Treatment Act has clearly stated in Article 1 that all persons in the territory of Hungary must be treated with the same respect and explicitly forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The provisions do not exclude any activity in class or organised otherwise for students relating to sexual culture, behaviour, development or orientation — as long as it does not promote or propagate such topics. It merely expects that only qualified experts depict these highly sensitive issues to the children in an age-appropriate and evidence-based manner, thus contributing to their proper upbringing with appropriate direction and guidance from their parents and legal guardians.
In Hungary, everybody is free to express their sexual identity as they see fit, as Hungarian legislation guarantees fundamental rights to the full extent for each minority. It is no contradiction that it also guarantees the right and obligation of parents to educate their children. There is nothing discriminatory about this.
This is not the first time, however, that the Europeanness of a Hungarian law has been interpreted by some who choose to prejudge without first requesting the facts. The political declaration condemning the new Hungarian law is shameful, not only because it runs against loyal cooperation but also because the declaration incorporates a biased political opinion without a previously conducted, impartial inquiry.
This is also not the first time that Hungarian legislation has been labelled as discriminatory. However, the truth is, implying that this law is anti-EU discriminates solely against those who, in line with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, adhere to their right for the education of children to be decided upon by their parents.