European & International News

Hungary - New Constitution accepted, poses grave threat to women’s sexual and reproductive rights

[Brussels, 28 April 2011] To the disappointment of local, European and international NGOs, activists, decision makers and the general public, on 25 April, 2011, Hungary’s President, Pál Schmitt, signed the country’s new Constitution into effect as adopted by the Hungarian Parliament on 18 April 2011. The new text — and the process under which it was developed and accepted — has been widely criticised within Hungary and internationally as grossly curtailing human rights and democratic values.

Especially of concern to women’s rights NGOs is that the new Constitution – which is scheduled to enter into force on 1 January 2012 – poses a grave threat to women’s sexual and reproductive rights, as it includes a sentence on the protection of the fetus from conception (“Everyone has the right to life and human dignity, the life of the fetus is protected from conception”). This sentence creates the possibility and probability of a tightening of Hungary’s legislation on abortion to make it the strictest in Europe, only allowing for the possibility of abortion if the mother’s life is threatened.

The text will not only likely lead to a stronger restriction on abortion, it would also question the legality of other fertility and contraception methods and services, as conception takes place before pregnancy starts.

In addition, the new Constitution also restricts marriage to heterosexual relationships, does not include sexual orientation and gender identity as prohibited grounds for discrimination, and allows for lifetime prison sentences for violent crimes without the possibility of parole, among other numerous problematic aspects.

The gender equality NGO Patent Association (a member of the Hungarian Women’s Lobby, itself a member of the European Women’s Lobby) has been carrying out intensive lobbying work on the issue at national and European level. The EWL has been closely following the issue, and in March called upon supporters to send a letter to the Hungarian government asking it to ensure that the new constitution does not limit women’s reproductive rights or discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

For more information, please see the websites of the Hungarian Women’s Lobby and Patent Association.

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