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Hungary lurches ‘back towards dark ages’ as parliament passes cruel and devastating law to legally erase trans people

Josh Milton May 19, 2020
UN condemns countries using coronavirus crisis to strip away LGBT rights

Viktor Orban in Brussels in February. His move to strip trans people of their human rights has been condemned by more than 60 MEPs. (Riccardo Pareggiani/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Lawmakers in Hungary overwhelmingly voted to end legal gender recognition for trans people Tuesday afternoon (May 19), putting to law prime minister Victor Orbán’s cruel crusade against the country’s most marginalised and vulnerable.

Around 133 National Assembly members voted in favour of stripping what little rights trans Hungarians once exercised. With just 57 opposed and four abstentions, article 33 was ballooned into power, the latest legislation sworn in under Orbán’s emergency power measures.

Activists decried the move, emphatically saying that the legislation will plunge Hungary “back towards the dark ages”. LGBT+ organisations and MEPs desperately denounced the plan in the run-up to the vote, pleading for lawmakers to “drop 33”.

Hungary ends legal change for trans people for the sake of ‘legal clarity’.

The bill has, in short, erased Hungary’s trans community.

Orbán’s deputy, Zsolt Semjén, first put forward proposals targeting Hungary’s trans community as part of an omnibus bill on March 31 – Trans Day of Visibility – just hours after Orbán gained the right to rule by decree indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Article 33 stipulated that gender should be defined as “biological sex based on primary sex characteristics and chromosomes”.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is pictured during a news conference at the Chancellery in Berlin on February 10, 2020. (Photo by Emmanuele Contini/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

It would prevent trans people in Hungary from correcting the gender marker listed on their official birth certificates and other identification documents by amending the Hungarian Registry Act.

The measure was first subtly nestled amid a volley of coronavirus measures making their way through parliament.

A memo accompanying the bill ominously reasoned that, to the government, “completely changing one’s biological sex is impossible” and so it should not “be changed in the civil registry either”. Moreover, senior politicians defended the bill by claiming that in erasing trans people, the government will be “creating legal clarity”.

Amendments to the bill to protect trans people were rejected by parliament today, with the Fidesz-KDNP two-thirds majority voting each down one by one, activists said.

‘This decision pushes Hungary back towards the dark ages and tramples the rights of transgender and intersex people.’

Fears have long simmered in Hungary since Orbán’s authoritarian-minded government crystallised its rule by adopting rule-by-decree, citing the coronavirus pandemic to justify what opposition lawmakers considered an autocratic power-grab.

This windfall for the 56-year-old premier was seemingly captured by his government’s hasty effort to erode trans rights.

While Orbán signalled Monday that the emergency powers may come to an end by early June, Reuters reported, this has done little to tamper the terror Hungary’s LGBT+ community feel looking forward.

Hungary: Trans people will flee when Viktor Orbán's anti-trans law passes
People march at LGBT Pride in Budapest on July 6, 2019. (ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP via Getty Images)

Amnesty International researcher Krisztina Tamás-Sáróy said in a news release: “This decision pushes Hungary back towards the dark ages and tramples the rights of transgender and intersex people.

“It will not only expose them to further discrimination but will also deepen an already intolerant and hostile environment faced by the LGBT+ community.

“It is critical for Hungary’s Commissioner for Fundamental Rights to act urgently and request that the constitutional court review and swiftly annuls the appalling provisions of this law.

“Everyone’s gender identity should be legally recognised and everyone must be allowed to change their legal name and gender markers on all official documents.”

“We will not give up fighting this law,” Hungary’s largest LGBT+ rights organisation Háttér Society said in a statement.

“We call on the president of the republic, János Áder to not sign the law, but send it for a review to the constitutional court.”

More: amnesty international, Hungary, Trans, trans rights, viktor orban

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