Hungarian Parliament Passes Sweeping Child Protection Law Amendments

Hungary’s National Assembly has enacted significant amendments to its Child Protection Law, targeting pedophilia and enhancing child safety measures. Key changes include eliminating the statute of limitations for sexual crimes against minors and expanding the pedophile registry.

The Hungarian parliament has approved significant amendments to various laws aimed at enhancing child protection, with a focus on addressing pedophile crimes, the pedophile registry, and conditional release regulations for pedophile offenders. The legislation, passed with 163 votes in favor and 14 abstentions, will largely take effect on July 1.

One of the key provisions in the amended Criminal Code (Btk.) is the elimination of the statute of limitations for sexual crimes committed against individuals under the age of 18. This means that these crimes can be prosecuted at any time, regardless of how much time has passed since the offense was committed.

The new law also stipulates that individuals convicted of sexual crimes against minors will not be eligible for conditional release. Additionally, the rule that those sentenced to more than five years in prison cannot be exempted from the disadvantages associated with having a criminal record has been maintained.

Furthermore, the law states that the president of Hungary cannot exercise clemency for individuals convicted of sexual crimes against minors.

The pedophile registry will now include not only those convicted by Hungarian courts, but also Hungarian citizens convicted of similar crimes in other EU member states or the United Kingdom. This measure aims to ensure that individuals who pose a risk to children are effectively monitored and prevented from engaging in activities that could put children at risk.

The legislation mandates psychological fitness tests and impeccable conduct for leaders and professional staff of child protection institutions. If an individual is deemed unfit based on the psychological assessment, their employment must be terminated immediately. The law also allows for the ongoing monitoring of employees’ conduct, with the National Protective Service tasked with this responsibility.

The law imposes a duty on members of the child protection alert system to report any severe threats to a child's safety, such as sexual or physical abuse or neglect. Failure to report can result in up to two years of imprisonment.

For individuals overseeing children in camps, the law requires a criminal record certificate to prove they have not committed crimes against minors. This provision will come into effect at the beginning of next year and does not apply to children participating in organizing the camp.

The law broadens children's rights to include education on responsible and safe internet and media usage. It also simplifies the reporting and removal of online content that violates children's rights, including cyberbullying.

The income threshold for families to qualify for regular child protection benefits has been raised. For most families, the threshold has increased from 165 percent to 225 percent of the social reference base amount, and for single parents, long-term ill or severely disabled children, and young adults, it has increased from 180 percent to 245 percent.

Additionally, the eligibility threshold for aftercare support has been raised to 150 percent of the net minimum wage.

The law also raises the age limit for individuals to be exempt from library registration fees from 16 to 25 years, ensuring broader access to educational resources for young people.

In addition to the sweeping child protection amendments, the Hungarian parliament is also considering significant changes to the constitution regarding military operations and EU loans.

A second constitutional amendment proposal, submitted by Fidesz member Lajos Kósa, aims to modify Article 47 of the Fundamental Law. This amendment will outline that the essential rules for authorizing military operations, stationing of troops, and cross-border military movements of the Hungarian Defence Forces and foreign armed forces in Hungary will be governed by cardinal laws. The justification for this amendment emphasizes the need to adapt to the ongoing war in the neighboring region and Hungary's commitment to peace. The primary objective is to ensure Hungary's security and maintain its stance of not sending weapons or troops to Ukraine.

The third proposed amendment, submitted by Fidesz member Zoltán Tessely, concerns Hungary’s participation in joint EU loan agreements. The amendment to Article 37 of the Fundamental Law stipulates that Hungary can only join EU loan initiatives and related guarantees, which result in financial obligations for Hungary, with a specific parliamentary mandate requiring a two-thirds majority vote. This modification aims to safeguard national financial interests and ensure parliamentary oversight over such significant financial commitments.

These comprehensive changes reflect the Hungarian government’s commitment to strengthening child protection and ensuring that those who commit crimes against children are held accountable and prevented from reoffending, while also addressing broader national security and financial sovereignty concerns.