Budapest, Hungary – Hungary’s speaker of Parliament László Kövér sparked outrage this week when he claimed that people who didn’t have any children are “not normal” and “stand on the side of death”.
Choice to have children and procreate labelled as “public matters”
The top politician from PM Viktor Orban’s nativist Fidesz party also claimed that decisions about having children are not private, but “public matters”.
“Can we just simply declare that Hungary is Gilead from now on”, reacted Hungarian investigative reporter Anita Komuves on Twitter, referring to the dystopian world depicted in the popular series The Handmaid’s Tale based on Margaret Atwood’s best-selling novel, “and any woman with fewer than four kids will have to be either expelled or forced to breed?”
Budapest hosts international “family lovefest” conference
László Kövér made his comments during a government-organized international conference on demography, attended by Prime Minister Viktor Orban, as well as other world leaders, including Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Australian PM Tony Abbot, who all praised Hungary’s “courage” in implementing pro-family policies.
“Procreate or face extinction: that’s the message from central European leaders to their shrinking populations, as across the region right-wing governments implement so-called ‘family first’ policies to incentivise childbearing”.
During the conference, Orban hammered down his well-known and oft-repeated message, saying that economic incentives for families to have more children are the solution for Hungary’s declining population, not immigration.
“There are political forces in Europe who want a replacement of population for ideological or other reasons”, the Hungarian PM said, echoing the notorious far-right “Great Replacement” theory.
Low birth rates, a notoriously tight immigration policy and a strong emigration drive from younger people leaving Hungary have taken a toll on Hungary’s population, which is expected to decline by nearly 20% by 2100, according to EU predictions.
Hungary implements controversial pro-family incentives
In response, Orban’s government has unveiled a number of pro-family measures designed to provide financial incentives for Hungarian women to have more children.
The family plan has faced criticism, both for what it suggests about the “child-bearing role” of women and for its inefficiency, many analysts claiming that some of the measures, like those that implement tax breaks instead of direct subsidies, do little to help low-income families.
Quoted by The Guardian, Hungary’s minister of state for family Katalin Novák dismissed the accusations: “Contrary to the unjustified and politically motivated accusations, we do not want to force anyone to have children… It’s shocking that we are constantly attacked for trying to support families by all means available”.