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Hungary: Situation and treatment of sexual minorities, including legislation, state protection, and support services

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Publication Date 27 June 2012
Citation / Document Symbol HUN104102.E
Related Document Hongrie : information sur la situation des minorités sexuelles et sur le traitement qui leur est réservé, y compris les lois, la protection de l'État et les services de soutien
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Hungary: Situation and treatment of sexual minorities, including legislation, state protection, and support services, 27 June 2012, HUN104102.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/5035fcf7328.html [accessed 29 August 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

1. Situation of Sexual Minorities
1.1 Attitudes Towards Sexual Minorities

Various sources report that sexual minorities in Hungary face discrimination from the general population (Freedom House 2011; ILGA-Europe 2012, 82; Takácset al. 2012, 81). The Hungarian Helsinki Committee, a Budapest-based human rights NGO founded in 1989 (n.d.), writes that the "general climate [towards sexual minorities] is clearly intolerant" (Jan. 2011, 6). In 2010, academics affiliated with the Hungarian Academy of Sciences conducted a research project in Budapest on homophobia, running seven focus group sessions with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) participants, and four sessions with heterosexual participants (Takács et al. 2012, 83-4). The researchers report that, according to participants, Hungary is "a generally homophobic country, characterised by different levels of rejection in different socio-economic strata of society" (ibid., 90). In 2011, the Equal Treatment Authority (ETA), an "independent administrative body" established to enforce and monitor the 2003 Equal Treatment Act (Hungary 16 Feb. 2011, para.13), conducted a study that is representative of the Hungarian population, in which over half of the respondents agreed with the statement that "homosexuality is a sickness" (Háttér 12 June 2012). The same study found that while 49 percent of respondents believed that "important improvements concerning the social acceptance of LGBT people" had taken place in the preceding 10 years, 23 percent indicated that there had been negative developments (Takács et al. 2012, 101).

A 2010 survey of 1,788 LGBT respondents, conducted by the Háttér Support Society for LGBT People (Háttér), the largest LGBT NGO in Hungary (1 Apr. 2011), and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Sociology, found that 50 percent of respondents had disclosed their sexual orientation to their immediate family members, and 16 percent to their work colleagues or schoolmates (Háttér 12 June 2012).

1.2 Treatment of Sexual Minorities, Including Violence

The ETA survey found that 35 percent of LGBT respondents had experienced "discrimination" based on their sexual orientation (Takács et al. 2012, 81). The survey by Háttér and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences found that 44 percent of respondents had been discriminated against based on their sexual orientation, and 16 percent had experienced discrimination in the preceding year (Háttér 12 June 2012).

The Fresh Thought Association (Friss Gondolat Egyesület, FRIGO), "one of the first LGBTQ sports clubs in Hungary," will host the 2012 EuroGames in Budapest, which includes sporting events as well as conferences on human rights, minority issues, and equal representation (FRIGO n.d.). Sources reports that the event was publicly denounced by the mayor of Budapest (ILGA-Europe 2012, 82; Queerty 29 Dec. 2011) and two political parties in parliament, the Christian Democrats, which are part of the ruling coalition (ILGA-Europe 2012, 82), and Jobbik, which is in the opposition (ibid.; Pink News 1 Feb. 2012).

In a report on hate crimes published on 1 April 2011, Háttér indicates that research data and its own statistics suggest that "homophobic and transphobic hate crimes are on the rise in Hungary." Háttér's 2010 study showed that 16 percent of respondents had been subjected to violence based on sexual orientation, with 4 percent of incidents taking place in the preceding year (12 June 2012). Similarly, Takács et al. mention "intensifying violence in society" [against LGBT people] as one "negative development" that has taken place in the past decade (2012, 101). The US Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011 states that hate crimes were committed "sporadically" against LGBT people in 2011, and that "despite legal protections, LGBT people continued to be subject to physical abuse and attacks by right-wing extremists" (24 May 2012, Sec. 6). The Hungarian Helsinki Committee reports that same-sex couples holding hands "may face serious verbal or even physical attack" (Jan. 2011).

According to the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2010, approximately 1,000 people participated in the 2010 Budapest Pride March, during which counter-demonstrators shouted homophobic insults and the campaign slogan of Jobbik, an "openly antigay" political party (US 8 Apr. 2011, Sec. 6). The report adds that two men were "briefly" detained by metro security after allegedly attacking a parade volunteer in the metro (ibid.). Country Reports 2011 states that the 2011 parade occurred "without incident" (ibid. 24 May 2012, Sec. 6). However, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association - Europe (ILGA-Europe), an international non-governmental umbrella organization of 359 European LGBT NGOs (n.d.), reports that participants were verbally attacked by "homophobic nationalists" and that several participants were "harassed and assaulted" after the march (2012, 83). In both 2011 and 2012, the Budapest police denied an LGBT organization permission to hold the pride march (HCLU 12 Apr. 2012; ILGA-Europe 2012, 83; Human Rights Watch 11 Apr. 2012), which, according to Human Rights Watch, was an attempt to curtail the rights of LGBT people (ibid.). The police decision was challenged and overturned by Budapest courts in 2011 (Human Rights Watch 18 Feb. 2011; HCLU 26 Feb. 2011) and in 2012 (ibid. 16 Apr. 2012; Pink News 16 Apr. 2012).

2. State Protection

According to a representative of Háttér, although there were several legislative and institutional advances in LGBT rights before 2010, the government led by the Fidesz party has taken no actions to protect or support sexual minorities and has adopted "legislation clearly limiting the rights of LGBT people" (12 June 2012).Takács et al. note that with the 2010 election to parliament of the Jobbik party, "directly racist and homophobic forms of public communication started to increase" and there has been a "lack of political support" for LGBT issues (2012, 90, 101).

In its national report submitted to the UN Human Rights Council in February 2011, the government of Hungary indicated that the ETA deals with discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and sexual identity, among other characteristics, and can investigate cases of alleged discrimination and impose punishments or remedial action as necessary (Hungary 16 Feb. 2011, para. 14). On its website, the ETA provides summaries of three cases of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation that it adjudicated in 2010, two of which resulted in a positive finding (n.d.). However, the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights has reportedly criticized the "inadequate resource allocation" to the ETA by the government (UN 21 Feb. 2011, para. 4). The Háttér representative explained, in correspondence with the Research Directorate on 12 June 2012, that the ETA's budget has been cut in half since the election of the Fidesz government. The representative added that the ETA has reportedly been pressured to disregard complaints relating to sexual orientation (Háttér 12 June 2012). The UN report also indicates that the President of the ETA can be removed from his or her post without justification, by the Prime Minister of Hungary (21 Feb. 2011, para. 4).

2.1 Legislation

Same-sex domestic partnerships can be legally registered in Hungary, although same-sex marriage is not permitted (Takács et al. 2012, 80, 101; ILGA-Europe 2012, 81). The new Constitution of Hungary, adopted in April 2011, defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman (Háttér 12 June 2012; AI 20 Apr. 2011; ILGA-Europe 2012, 83). The Family Protection Act, adopted in December 2011 (Háttér 12 June 2012), defines a family as a household whose members are legally married or related by blood (Hungarian Helsinki Committee et al., 5 Mar. 2012). ILGA-Europe adds that the act has also been amended by the government to extend this definition of the family across the entire Hungarian legal system (2012, 83). According to the representative of Háttér, the Constitution and the Family Protection Act were adopted without consultation with LGBT organizations (12 June 2012). Additionally, sources indicate that same-sex partners cannot adopt children together, nor can they adopt their partner's children (Takács et al. 2012, 80, 103; ILGA-Europe 2012, 81).

The 2003 Act on Equal Treatment and the Promotion of Equal Opportunities explicitly prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity (AI 20 Apr. 2011). The legislation is reported to cover education, housing, health care (ibid.), employment, and access to goods and services (ibid., ILGA-Europe 2012, 83). However, the 2011 constitution does not explicitly prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity (AI 20 Apr. 2011; ILGA-Europe 2012, 83; Háttér 12 June 2012).

According to Country Reports 2011, the penal code prohibits hate speech, "inciting against a community" and "violence against a member of the community," although it does not explicitly prohibit hate crimes against sexual minorities (24 May 2012, Sec. 6). In its 2011 submission to the UN Human Rights Council, Hungary stated that violent hate crimes can be punished with prison terms of up to five years, while inciting hate crimes can lead to a sentence of up to three years (16 Feb. 2011, para. 32, 33). ILGA-Europe notes that hate crime legislation is interpreted to "implicitly" cover crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity (2012, 82). This statement is corroborated by the representative of Háttér (12 June 2012).

2.2 Police and Judiciary

According to the representative of Háttér, laws prohibiting hate crimes against LGBT people are "seldom enforced" (12 June 2012). Several sources mention that the police often treat alleged hate crimes as regular assaults, disregarding the discriminatory nature of the violence (Háttér 12 June 2012; US 24 May 2012, Sec. 6; Chance for Children et al. Nov. 2010, 1, 6). For example, ILGA-Europe reports that protesters planning to disrupt the 2011 pride march were investigated for possible incitement to hate crimes, but the police abandoned the investigation on the grounds that

calling for the extermination of gays via signs containing drawings and symbols does not incite to active hatred, is not a clear violation of societal norms, and is thus not punishable under existing law. (2012, 82)

According to the Háttér representative, LGBT people subject to homophobic threats or violence have a "very varied" experience, with some police officers doing "good quality" and "sensitive" policing, and others using "discriminatory and harassing treatment" and ignoring reported incidents of crimes (12 June 2012). Sources indicate that police are not trained on investigating hate crimes and there are no protocols to guide them (Háttér 1 Apr. 2011; US 24 May 2012, Sec. 6).

The 2010 survey by Háttér and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences found that 13.4 percent of violent attacks against LGBT people were reported to the authorities (Háttér 12 June 2012). Fifty-two percent of respondents did not report because they did not believe that anything could be done, while forty-four percent did not trust the authorities to take action (ibid.). The fear of "secondary victimization" by the police and lack of awareness of the law were also identified as barriers to reporting hate crimes (ibid. 1 Apr. 2011).

According to the Háttér representative, no cases of violence against LGBT people have been prosecuted as hate crimes (12 June 2012). He added that even when the police have arrested a suspect for committing a hate crime, the prosecutor's office reduces the charge to "a less severe crime" (Háttér 12 June 2012). Corroborating information for this statement could not be found by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

3. Support Services

The Háttér representative indicates that Háttér provides four core services to LGBT individuals: a telephone hotline providing information and counselling; free legal aid for victims of discrimination or violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity; an HIV/AIDS prevention and support program; and a library of resources on Hungarian LGBT issues and history (12 June 2012). He added that although Háttérhas received limited government funding in the past, as of June 2012, funding had been reduced to 1,200 Euros [C$1,534 (XE 27 June 2012)] a year for three years from a single source, the Budapest municipal government (Háttér 12 June 2012).

Regarding support services outside of Budapest, the Háttér representative provided the following information:

[A]ll major LGBT NGOs operate in Budapest. There are some registered NGOs and informal groups outside of the capital, but they are limited to social activities (parties, social events), and do not offer support services. Háttér's helpline is available free of charge from all over the country. Háttér's legal aid service offers email and telephone based legal counseling for clients from all over the country, but personal consultations and representing clients at courts/authorities is available only in Budapest. (12 June 2012)

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Amnesty International (AI). 20 April 2011. "Hungary: Newly Adopted Constitution at Odds with Human Rights." [Accessed 30 May 2012]

Chance for Children Foundation, European Roma Rights Centre, Foundation for the Women of Hungary, Hungarian Association for Persons with Intellectual Disability, Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, Hungarian Helsinki Committee, Legal Defence Bureau for National and Ethnic Minorities, Minority Rights Group International, People Opposing Patriarchy, and The City is For All. November 2010. Submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review. [Accessed 15 June 2012]

Equal Treatment Authority (ETA). N.d. "Cases of the Authority." [Accessed 12 June 2012]

Freedom House. 2011. "Hungary." Freedom in the World 2011. [Accessed 15 June 2012]

Fresh Thought Association (FRIGO). N.d. [Accessed 30 May 2012]

Háttér Support Society for LGBT People. 12 June 2012. Correspondence sent from a representative to the Research Directorate.

_____. 1 April 2011. Submission by Háttér Support Society for LGBT People in Hungary for the OSCE ODIHR 2010 Annual Report on Hate Crimes. [Accessed 30 May 2012]

Human Rights Watch. 11 April 2012. "Hungary: Revoke Denial of Pride March Route." [Accessed 30 May 2012]

_____. 18 February 2011. "Hungary: Ruling on Gay March a Human Rights Victory." [Accessed 30 May 2012]

Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU). 16 April 2012. "Pride is Free, Court Puts Police Back in its Place." [Accessed 12 June 2012]

_____. 12 April 2012. "Again, the Banning of the Budapest Pride March Requires Legal Remedy." [Accessed 12 June 2012]

_____. 26 February 2011. "Budapest Pride March to the Parliament Given Green Light." [Accessed 12 June 2012]

Hungarian Helsinki Committee. January 2011. "General Climate of Intolerance in Hungary." [Accessed 30 May 2012]

_____. N.d. "History." [Accessed 13 June 2012]

Hungarian Helsinki Committee, Eötvös Károly Policy Institute, and Hungarian Civil Liberties Union. 5 March 2012. Fact Sheets on Some Cardinal Changes Related to the Rule of Law in Hungary. [Accessed 30 May 2012]

Hungary. 16 February 2011. Human Rights Council. National Report Submitted in Accordance with Paragraph 15(a) of the Annex to Human Rights Council Resolution 5/1. (A/HRC/WG.6/11/HUN/1) [Accessed 30 May 2012]

International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA)-Europe. 2012. Annual Review of the Human Rights Situation of LGBTI People in Europe in 2011. [Accessed 30 May 2012]

_____. N.d. "What is ILGA-Europe?" [Accessed 13 June 2012]

Pink News [London]. 16 April 2012. Stephen Gray. "Court Overrules Police to Give Go-Ahead to Budapest Pride. [Accessed 18 June 2012]

_____. 1 February 2012. Stephen Gray. "Gay EuroGames Will Mark 'the End of the World', Politician Fears." [Accessed 18 June 2012]

Queerty. 29 December 2011. "Budapest Mayor Not Thrilled to be Hosting LGBT EuroGames Next Year." [Accessed 12 June 2012]

Takács, Judit, Tamás Dombos, György Mészáros, and Tamás P. Toth. 2012. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Bother: Homophobia and the Heteronorm in Hungary." [Accessed 30 May 2012]

United Nations (UN). Human Rights Council. 21 February 2011. Compilation Prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Accordance with Paragraph 15(b) of the Annex to Human Rights Council Resolution 5/1.(A/HRC/WG.6/11/HUN/2) [Accessed 30 May 2012]

United States. 24 May 2012. Department of State. "Hungary." Country Reports on Human Rights Pratices for 2011. [Accessed 30 May 2012]

_____. 8 April 2011. Department of State. "Hungary." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2010. [Accessed 30 May 2012]

XE. 27 June 2012. "Currency Converter Widget." [Accessed 27 June 2012]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: A representative of the Labrisz Lesbian Association could not provide information for this Response. Attempts to contact the representatives of the following organizations were unsuccessful: Hungarian LGBT Alliance, Equal Treatment Authority, Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

Internet sites, including: Association of Nonprofit Human Services of Hungary; ecoi.net; Factiva; Freedom House; gay.hu; gayguide.net; Human Rights First; International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission; Hungarian LGBT Alliance; Jobbik; Labrisz Lesbian Association; Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights; patent.org.hu; politics.hu; United Nations - Refworld.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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