Saturday’s Pride march in Budapest will be “a celebration, but also a protest,” organizers have said, as Hungary’s LGBT community prepares to demonstrate in defiance of the country’s government’s growing anti-gay campaign.
Johanna Majercsik, one of the organizers of the Pride month in Budapest, which culminates in the march, said she expected to see many more attendees than the roughly 20,000 protesters who attended the last Pride march in the city two years ago.
“There is great outrage in society about what has been happening.” she said.
A law that bans children from representing LGBT issues came into force earlier this month, with huge implications for education, arts and entertainment in the country.
Activists say that with a parliamentary election next spring likely to be fought closely, the far-right government of Viktor Orbán is looking to shore up its conservative base with an anti-LGBT campaign.
Unlike Poland, anti-LGBT rhetoric has not previously been a major part of the platform of Orbán’s ruling Fidesz party, with its campaign over the past five years primarily focused on opposing migration.
“They need a new group to be hated, and I think there is no other government in Europe, not even in Poland, that incites so openly hatred against the people as this government,” said Máté Dániel Szabó, of the Union of Civil Liberties of Hungary.
On Wednesday, Orbán redoubled the legislation, announcing a referendum that would raise five important questions about whether Hungarians want their children to be “protected” from LGBT content.
“LGBTQ activists visit kindergartens and schools and teach sex education classes. They also want to do this here in Hungary, ”Orbán said, in a video announcing the referendum. He said the government had decided to put the bill to a public vote after it was attacked by politicians across Europe.
One of the questions of the referendum will be: “Do you support showing minors, without any restriction, media content of a sexual nature that may influence their development?”
Despite repeated government claims that the law will protect children from sexual content, it actually prohibits all depictions and discussions of LGBT people and issues for young people.
There is an enforcement procedure in place to ensure that content showing any representation of LGBT people cannot be shown on television during the day or early evening. Principals who allow sex ed for groups not registered by the government can be fined, and the law also prevents schools from teaching books with LGBT characters or themes.
“In literature we talk about feelings, emotions, relationships and love,” said Andrea Sipos, a Hungarian literature teacher at a secondary school in the city of Miskolc. “I want to teach based on the needs of the children in my classes, not in a very narrow curriculum.”
Last fall, when a far-right MP publicly trashed a book of modern fairy tales covering LGBT issues, and Orbán’s chief of staff called the book “homosexual propaganda” that should be banned, Sipos brought the book to class so that discussed by their students.
However, since the law was passed, several parents have retrospectively complained about the “inappropriate content” of her lessons, putting her at potential risk of losing her job although, for now, she retains the support of the school principal.
“Of course, there are some teachers who agree with the law, but there are many teachers who are angry. But the majority are silent, and this is where self-censorship comes in, ”he said.
The law has raised concerns about the effect it will have on LGBT children as they grow older. Previously, there were NGOs offering support and advice in schools. Now, only government-approved groups will be able to do this, and LGBT children will not be able to access books or topics that address topics relevant to them.
“Children are raised heterosexual, but some of them are born LGBTI, like me,” said René van Hell, the Dutch ambassador in Budapest, who, like most ambassadors to EU nations, plans to attend Pride on Saturday. .
“It is important for LGBTI children to see positive role models for their development and for them to become proud Hungarians,” he said.
Máté Mali, an 18-year-old from southern Hungary, said that even without the law it was difficult to find books and information that would be relevant to his own experiences growing up.
“I like to read, but after a while I was sick of not being able to find myself in any of the books I was reading. Then I started reading books with gay characters and I felt like I could finally see myself there, ”he said.
Mali spoke with his family and friends three years ago, after seeing images of the Budapest Pride on television and feeling empowered, but Saturday will be the first time he will attend the march in person.
However, Mali said that the current climate in Hungary made him want to leave as soon as possible to study abroad. “It is difficult to imagine a future here … I don’t know where I will live my life when I finish my studies, but I know it will not be Hungary,” he said.
It is a sentiment that is shared by more and more LGBT people in the country.
“I am lucky to live in Budapest, I have a good salary and my colleagues are open-minded,” said Majercsik, who is 37 years old and works for an advertising company. However, she said the new legislation, along with last year’s ban on legally changing gender and the feeling that homophobes are now more empowered, combine to make LGBT people wonder if they have a future in the country. .
“If this government wins the elections again next year, I will have to think about it. At the end of the day, you only have one life, ”he said.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism