Hungary’s media regulator has published guidelines for broadcasters to put LGBTQ films in the same category as slasher movies while LGBTQ youths are denied access to educational information.
Publication of the guidelines follows the June adoption of a law banning the “display and promotion of homosexuality” among under-18s despite criticism from LGBTQ activists, rights groups and the European Union itself.
According to Reuters, the new guidelines do not absolutely ban the portrayal of homosexuality or gender issues and do not affect the age classification of films in which these subjects are not considered a “defining feature”. However, programs depicting what the regulator called the “virtues,” or the “uniqueness” of homosexuality or gender nonconforming experience would earn a higher age rating, it said.
“The protection of minors does not mean that certain issues are a taboo. Rather, it assesses the entire context and message with regard to the age-appropriate intellectual and processing capabilities of minors,” the regulator NMHH, said.
This means that under the revised guidelines, Oscar-winning Spanish director Pedro Almodovar’s All About My Mother or Showtime’s hit lesbian series The L Word would get the same age restriction rating as the horror series Saw or The Exorcist, the regulator said.
Facing an election next year, ultra-conservative Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has cracked down on social policy to bring them into line with traditional Christian values, putting Hungary out of step with the European Union.
Orban says the law will protect children, while EU leaders say the reforms discriminate against LGBTQ people and go against EU values.
“Programs that portray sexuality for its own sake, or promote homosexuality or gender change fall under the fifth (not recommended to under-18s) age classification,” the NMHH said in its updated publication.
Conservative legislation is on the rise in Hungary to the extent that in July activists erected a 30-foot-high rainbow-colored heart opposite the country’s neo-Gothic parliament on July 8, vowing to wage a civil disobedience campaign against a new law that prohibits the display of content depicting homosexuality or sex reassignment.
The law bans educational programs on sexual orientation in schools unless they are approved by the government.
At the demonstration, rights groups said the Hungarian law denies thousands of LGBTQ young people crucial information and support, and violates national and international human rights standards.
“We think that the only path we can pursue is civil disobedience, and we will not change anything about our activities,” Luca Dudits, a spokesperson for Hatter Society, Hungary’s largest LGBT advocacy group, told The Associated Press. Dudits added that the law puts LGBTQ youth “in danger of bullying and harassment in schools and in their families as well.”
Many European leaders have demanded the law’s repeal, saying it violates the bloc’s values. At the time, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the European Parliament in Strasbourg the law was “a disgrace.” Other leaders said the law is not a one-off case, but “rather constitutes another intentional and premeditated example of the gradual dismantling of fundamental rights in Hungary.” The parliamentarians urged the European Commission to take swift action against Hungary unless it changes tack.
The debate over the law reflects a larger one within the 27-member EU, where a handful of countries are led by populist, right-wing leaders.
Along with Poland, Hungary’s closest EU ally, Orban has challenged the bloc over issues like migration, which he sees as an assault on Christian culture. Last year, the two countries united to delay passage of the EU’s budget and COVID-19 economic recovery package over provisions that would allow the withholding of payments to countries that fail to uphold democratic standards.
The European Union has a poor track record when it comes to disciplining countries within its ranks but this month it opened several new fronts in its increasingly contentious battle with its own member countries over the bloc’s core values and rule of law.
According to Bloomberg, the EU has threatened Poland with daily fines over LGBTQ discrimination and judicial independence. Driven by several prime ministers, the bloc is applying pressure to Poland and Hungary to reverse legislation or lose access to billions of euros.
Now, it appears the EU has finally decided to take on Hungary and Poland as rogue states, a push that became apparent at an EU summit in June where the problems were identified and addressed with financial leverage.
Luxembourg’s openly gay prime minister, Xavier Bettel, addressed Orban directly and told him how difficult it was to come out. Being gay isn’t a choice, Belgium’s Alexander De Croo told the Hungarian leader being gay is not a choice, but being homophobic is. And Krisjanis Karins of Latvia said if Orban considers himself a Christian he should practice tolerance.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte took it a step further saying if Hungary wasn’t willing to abide by the EU’s values, it should trigger Article 50, the mechanism for leaving the EU that has only been used once, by the U.K.
“The European Commission is finally showing its teeth,” Nathalie Tocci, visiting professor at the Harvard Kennedy School and director of the Institute of International Affairs in Rome, said according to Bloomberg. “In Europe, this is the first fundamental practical step for the EU as such to acquire the status of a guarantor of liberal democracy within the bloc.”
Hungary stands to miss out on 7.2 billion euros while Poland would forfeit 23.9 billion euros if they lose their EU status.