EWL News

Hungary – EWL members reveal the untold story about the attack on gender equality

[Brussels/Budapest, 20 January 2012] While the European Commission and mainstream media focus their criticisms of Orban’s government in Hungary on the tretment of the central bank, judiciary, data protection and media, the continuing attacks on gender equality and LGBTI rights give us several more reasons to be alerted by the Hungarian situation.

The EWL and its national coordination in Hungary, the Hungarian Women’s Lobby, are concerned that the EU and public debate focus on rather technical shortcomings of Hungary’s Constitution and the recently adopted laws, ignoring their wider impact and other recent attacks on fundamental rights and equality.

The European Commission said on Tuesday this week that it will take legal action against the Hungarian government because the new laws undermine the independence of the national central back, the judiciary and the data protection agency. However, the Commission has been silent about the articles in the Hungarian constitution that define that right to life begins from the conception and that discriminate against LGBT people.

The Hungarian Women’s Lobby is closely monitoring the situation and collecting evidence and stories. The analysis of Hungarian women’s NGOs reveals that the problems are not limited to the constitution.

Gender equality machinery dismantled

Hungarian women’s rights organisations report that the past one and a half years of the Orbán government have showed a harsh backlash on women’s rights and gender equality.

The attacks against gender equality started in 2010, when the newly elected government dismantled the state gender equality machinery. The National Strategy for the Promotion of Gender Equality 2010-2012, adopted just one year before, has not been implemented in practice, and several of the measures of the new government have gone against its guidelines.

Non-governmental organisations working on women’s rights are also at risk. Recent changes in the law on civil society organizations may mean that most of the women’s NGOs will lose their public interest status and that small income NGOs (typically women’s NGOs) will be excluded from state funding sources.

Conservative family policies substitute gender equality policies

In the last one and a half years, gender equality policies have been replaced by ideologically biased family policies that focus on demographic growth. In the national discourse, gender equality and family friendliness are seen as contradictory, and “family mainstreaming” has taken the place of gender mainstreaming.

The new bill on family protection that entered into force in the beginning of 2012 only considers households based on marriage or filiation as families. The bill not only excludes same-sex registered partners, but also those cohabiting heterosexual couples who are not married, that is, the majority of couples in Hungary. This will have grave consequences on benefits, inheritance rights, etc that non-married couples can receive. The bill is considered “cardinal law”, which means that, in order to repeal it in the future, it would require two thirds of the votes in Parliament, which makes it as difficult to change as the Constitution itself.

Threats to the right to abortion

In spring 2011, the new Hungarian Constitution provoked an international outcry due to its provision that protects the fundamental human right to life “from the moment of conception,” hence threatening the right to abortion. At the same time, the government launched an anti-abortion and pro-adoption poster campaign, using funding originally allocated for gender mainstreaming training for local authorities.

In December 2011, the fears of women’s rights activists were confirmed, when some MPs proposed to cut funding dedicated to making abortions affordable for low-income mothers and to transfer the monies to child-protection.

Economic policies to the detriment of women

Hungarian women’s NGOs warn that the ongoing structural reforms in the public sector guided by an ultra-liberal economic policy will cause thousand of working women to loose their jobs and push women and their families into poverty.

The new labour laws give further reasons to be worried. The plans for the new Labour Code caused a huge outcry in summer 2011, and several parts detrimental to women were dropped from the final version. Still, the dismissal of pregnant woman workers has been made easier, and the right of the new fathers to paternity leave is compromised as the leave becomes unpaid.

LGBTI rights in danger

Unlike for other vulnerable groups, the Hungarian State has no specific programmes for the promotion of equal opportunities for LGBT people.

The new Constitution defines marriage as a union between a woman and a man and the family bill adopted in December further discriminates against same sex couples.

Sources: Borbála Juhász - deputy president of the Hungarian Women’s Lobby and the Hungarian board member of the European Women’s Lobby, Euractiv, EUobserver

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