Hungary’s ban on portraying homosexuality to minors violates international human rights standards, a body of constitutional law experts at Europe’s major human rights institution said Monday.
The assessment from the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission is the latest international criticism of Hungarian legal changes, approved in June, that restrict access to content depicting LGBTQ+ identities for people under 18.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has argued the new measures are designed to protect children and the rights of parents. He has called for a referendum on the issue.
LGBTQ+ rights groups and the prime minister’s critics, however, have accused the longtime leader of inciting hate against the LGBTQ+ community in an attempt to deflect attention from political controversies and economic challenges ahead of a parliamentary election scheduled for spring 2022.
In a new opinion, the Venice Commission — which advises the Council of Europe on constitutional law matters — said the Hungarian restrictions can deny legitimate expressions of sexual orientation and gender identity, which are protected under the European Convention on Human Rights.
The amendments contribute to creating a “threatening environment” for LGBTQ+ children and “leave space only for one-sided and biased teaching, opening doors to stigmatization and discrimination of LGBTQI people,” the experts argued.
The Venice Commission also noted that the broad application and ambiguous interpretation of the Hungarian amendments mean they violate the right to family life and the right of parents to educate their children in conformity with their own convictions.
“If parents buy their children under eighteen a youth novel on LGBTQI persons or let them watch a film featuring LGBTQI characters, they violate the law,” the Venice Commission wrote. “In fact, it seems that it will no longer be possible for parents to teach their children to accept gay, lesbian or transgender people, or even help their children to accept their own sexuality.”
The Hungarian government’s new measures have been met with criticism from EU institutions and caused consternation among European leaders. On December 2, the European Commission took the second step in an infringement procedure against Hungary over the measures, giving the government two months to respond to Brussels’ concerns and remedy the situation.
The European Commission initially opened an infringement proceeding against Hungary in July, arguing that the amendments violated the right to freedom of expression and non-discrimination as guaranteed under the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, in addition to breaching several other EU directives and principles within the EU Treaty.
If the Hungarian government fails to address the concerns, the European Commission could challenge the legality of the measures before the EU’s top court.