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Hungary: Viktor Orban preys on transgender rights amid coronavirus crisis

Hungary PM Orban tries to restrict rights of transgender people

Budapest, Hungary – Hungary’s PM Viktor Orban appears to have moved against the LGBT community, as his government submitted on Tuesday a draft bill that would ban the legal gender recognition of transgender people.

Hungarian government moves to ban legal recognition of transgender people

The document stipulates that gender should be defined as “biological sex based on primary sexual characteristics and chromosomes” and that people’s “sex at birth” should be legally registered into the civil registry and couldn’t be amended later on. If passed into law, it would be impossible for anyone to change their legally recognized gender throughout their life.

The draft bill, which addresses a number of other issues apart from transgender rights and was tabled as an amendment to Hungary’s Registry Act, was submitted by the Orban government as attention was entirely focused on the highly controversial emergency law passed by the Hungarian Parliament on Monday to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Hungary’s Orban granted emergency powers to fight Covid-19 outbreak

The law gives Orban and his government the ability to rule by decree for an indefinite period of time, and imposes jail sentences to anyone convicted of spreading fake news about the coronavirus or found guilty of obstructing the work of authorities to fight the viral outbreak.

Critics have described the move as yet-another dangerous step towards allowing Orban to turn Hungary into an authoritarian regime and an opportunistic attempt to grant himself extraordinary powers, thus further undermining the rule of law, democratic processes while curtailing freedom of the press and expression.

The transgender law, however, would still follow the usual parliamentary process of approval.

Hungary’s most recent transgender regulation bill “shows that even as Orban requested special measures for fighting coronavirus, his government had not forgotten its other battles”, the Guardian wrote. LGBT rights have long been a prime target of the Fidesz government, who effectively banned universities from teaching gender studies in 2018.

Regularly presented as an “ideology” promoted by liberal forces in the West and described as a threat to Hungary’s national identity and Christian roots, gay and trans-persons in Hungary have faced growing attacks from government officials, echoed by pro-government media, pundits and followers. The draft bill is only the latest example of a wider pattern that has been fueling anti-LGBT sentiment in Hungary for years.

Transgender rights in Hungary: “A matter of human dignity”

International and domestic rights group criticized the bill and urged Hungarian lawmakers not to approve the law. “Transgender persons have the right to legal recognition of their gender based on self-determination”, Dunja Mijatovic, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement. “Legal gender recognition is a matter of human dignity”.

“It is appalling that the government plans to ban legal gender recognition in the shadow of the coronavirus crisis”, added Tamas Dombos from the Hungarian LGBT Alliance organization. Human Rights Watch also highlighted that the change could perpetuate and amplify discrimination towards trans-people in their everyday life. “When governments force trans-people to carry documents that don’t match their identity and appearance, every situation when documents are requested or appearance is scrutinized becomes fraught with potential for violence and discrimination”.

According to MEP Marc Angel, Orban has launched an all-out attack on the transgender community in Hungary: “This move does not only intentionally silence the trans community – it seeks to erase it and deny its existence”.

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