Hungarian parliament approves homophobic hate crimes legislation
Two landmark measures extending protections to LGBT people have been adopted by the Hungarian parliament.
The counrty’s hate crime laws will be altered to a general formulation of a “violent act against a member of a social group,” which is believed to include sexual orientation.
The second piece of legislation makes it possible to initiate civil proceedings against a person who engages in degrading or intimidating behaviour towards groups based on nationality, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation.
There have been violent clashes with police and attacks on politicians and gay Pride in recent years.
In July Budapest Pride was the target of violent fascist attacks.
An estimated 1,500 people participated in the LGBT solidarity demonstration.
SWAT officers called in from all over Hungary followed the march and intervened when necessary.
The march was supposed to end in a cordoned-off area where a concert was going to take place.
It was cancelled as a neo-Nazi mob had beaten up the performer and police were forced to use tear gas and a water cannon to clear the route for marchers to leave.
The marchers were then escorted by police to nearby metro stations as the mob was dispersed.
Pride in Budapest in 2007 was plagued by skinheads and fascists shouting abuse and throwing items such as beer bombs, smoke bombs and petrol bombs at the peaceful marchers.
In the week leading up to this year’s Pride two gay businesses in Budapest were attacked with petrol bombs.
Gay rights activists said the future of the adopted laws is hard to predict.
“Former head of the Constitutional Court, now President of the Republic, László Sólyom has vetoed previous attempts to regulate hate speech, and the Constitutional Court adopted a one-sidedly freedom of speech perspective on the issue,” one LGBT rights advocate told PinkNews.co.uk.
“Several provisions of the bill on public order (although not the one on hate crimes) have also been criticised by human rights organisations. Whether the laws adopted will stand the test of the President and the Constitutional Court is yet to be seen.”
The hate crimes provisions are part of a wider bill on the protection of public order.
The bill contains various amendments to the Criminal Code relating to public demonstrations.
It is reported that government officials shied away from mentioning LGBT people and hate crimes in the explanation of the bill or the parliamentary debate.
The Socialist government has adopted several bills in past years to sanction less severe forms of hate speech, but all attempts have been struck down by the Constitutional Court claiming an unconstitutional limitation of the freedom of speech.
The new legislation which is believed to conform to the standards set by the Constitutional Court offers a civil law solution to hate speech: members of a group subjected to degrading or intimidating behavior can initiate civil proceedings against the offender.
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The law also contains specific provisions to combine claims by different individuals related to the same offence and explicitly mentions groups based on nationality, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation as groups protected by the legislation.
In August 2007 a far-right Hungarian political party, Jobbik, known for their anti-Semitic, anti-Roma and homophobic rhetoric, inducted the first members of its paramilitary wing outside the country’s Presidential palace in Budapest.
The founding members of Magyar Garda, or the Hungarian Guard, took oaths of allegance in front of over a thousand supporters of the Jobbik party waving red and white striped Arpad flags, similar to those used by the country’s pro-Nazi Arrow Cross regime during the Second World War.
“The Hungarian Guard has been set up in order to carry out the real change of regime and to rescue Hungarians”, Jobbik president and Magyar Garda founder Gabor Vona told the crowd.
The paramilitary group says it will “defend Hungary physically, morally and spiritually.” Members will be trained how to use weapons.
At a counter-demonstration, black and white photographs of Jews wearing a yellow star and being herded into trains to death camps were displayed.