Publishers, bookstores, and writers across Hungary are preparing for the entering into force of a new law adopted by the country’s parliament last month, which bans LGBT content in materials that are accessible to children.
The law in question – proposed by the ruling center-right party Fidesz and advocated by Hungary’s long-time Prime Minister Viktor Orban – is supposed to be banning the depiction or promotion of gender transitions and homosexuality in media and school curriculums.
The same law, which was adopted last month, is part of a legislative package that also ups pedophilia penalties and establishes a database of sex offenders, all of those declared by the Hungarian government to be measures needed for the protection of children.
The law, however, has caused much confusion among Hungary’s literary circles because of the still unspecified guidelines for its interpretation, according to a report by the Associated Press.
Many professionals in the affected fields remain uncertain if they might be prosecuted if children somehow end up with materials such as books that contain LGBT material.
Because of that, some bookstores such as Hungary’s second-largest bookselling chain, Lira Konyv, have already installed signs declaring that they sell materials containing “non-traditional content”.
Lira Konyv’s creative director, Krisztian Nyary, is quoted as saying that the law contains the word “depict” with respect to transgenderism and homosexuality.
He notes that it could be construed as meaning “anything”, including works such as some of the poems of Ancient Greek poetess Sappho or some of the sonnets of William Shakespeare.
Last week, Lira Konyv was already slapped with a fine to the equivalent of $830 since according to the Hungarian government it failed to label clearly a children’s book showing families with same-sex couples as parents.
A government office in Hungary’s capital Budapest announced the fine, stating that the fact the bookstore did not designate the book as “deviating from the norm” meant that it broke rules on consumer protection.
According to Nyary, the fine, which doesn’t even fall under the new law, has established a precedent paving the way for greater sanctions on booksellers and publishers over LGBT content that could be accessible to minors.
Now, all of 90 bookstores operated by Lira Konyv across Hungary are now featuring the sign warning some of the books it sells contain “non-traditional content.”
Hungary criticized by other EU countries
Officials from the institutions of the European Union, of which Hungary has been a member since 2004, as well as its Western European member states have lambasted the country’s leadership and especially Prime Minister Viktor Orban, arguing that his government is seeking to marginalized LGBT individuals.
On Thursday, the European Commission, the executive of the EU, even announced legal action against Hungary and another Eastern European member of the Union, Poland, where some cities have established “LGBT-free zones”.
When questioned by reporters at the recent summit of the EU member state leaders about the new law banning LGBT content for children, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban declared that the law is not homophobic but it is about children and their parents having the right to make decisions on their children’s education and upbringing.
Orban also said that he fought for the rights of homosexuals when he fought against the former communist regime in Hungary since during communism acts of homosexuality were criminal offenses.