Treatment of homosexuals (January 2002 - July 2005) [HUN100193.E]

General Situation

In a 29 December 2004 report on the situation of sexual minorities in Hungary, the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (GLBTQ) Encyclopedia mentioned that the "gay scene" was limited outside of Budapest, although some other cities had gay and lesbian bars or dance clubs (29 Dec. 2004a). According to GLBTQ, Budapest contains around a dozen "glbtq-friendly" bars, clubs, and cafés (29 Dec. 2004a).

Legislation

Both male and female homosexuality have been legal in Hungary (Sodomy Laws 10 July 2005) since 1961 (Transitions Online 20 Apr. 2005; ILGA 31 July 2000; GLBTQ 29 Dec. 2004b). In September 2002, the Constitutional Court lowered the age of consent for homosexuals to 14, making it equal to the age of consent for heterosexuals (AFP 4 Sept. 2002; Wikipedia n.d.; IHF 24 June 2003; GLBTQ 29 Dec. 2004b; see also Transitions Online 20 Apr. 2005). The country's constitution, while not explicitly prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, nevertheless "guarantee[s] the rights of homosexuals under clauses which prohibit ... all types of discrimination 'on any other basis'" (M2 25 Mar. 2002). However, in its 24 June 2003 report, the International Helsinki Federation (IHF) indicated that anti-discrimination legislation was "fragmented" with regard to homosexuals, "ma[king] the battle against discrimination extremely difficult." Another source stated that the country's Equal Opportunity Act, which came into force on 27 January 2004, "explicitly forbids discrimination on the basis of, among other things, sexual orientation" (Transitions Online 20 Jan. 2004). Furthermore, same-sex partnerships are recognized in Hungary (HRW 4 Sept. 2003; New Internationalist 1 May 2004), with both common-law marriages and life partnerships being entitled to legal protection (M2 25 Mar. 2002), including survivors' pensions and state-subsidized housing loans (Transitions Online 20 Apr. 2005).

In January 2004, a governmental decree "allowed married couples of the same sex to request widowhood pension[s] under the same conditions and terms as couples of different sexes" (IHF 2005). A homosexual man subsequently received a financial award under this new decree (ibid.).

Gay.com is an Internet-based service providing information to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, and part of PlanetOut Incorporated, an international online media company based in San Francisco (PlanetOut Inc. 2005). On its Website, it cited press reports, speculating that the Hungarian government might allow civil partnerships for same-sex couples (MTI 15 Aug. 2003) by 2007 (Gay.com 4 Mar. 2005). While as of August 2003 there were no government plans to introduce same-sex marriage in Hungary, the Minister for Equal Opportunities, Katalin Levai, strongly supported such an initiative (MTI 15 Aug. 2003).

Government

Sources reported that a member of the Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ), which is a member of the coalition government, was the first Hungarian politician to publicly come out of the closet (Transitions Online 20 Apr. 2005; The Budapest Sun 17 Mar. 2005). However, according to The Budapest Sun, "she and journalist Peter Radics are the only prominent figures in Hungarian public life who have publicly come out" (ibid.).

In October 2004, Hungary hosted a meeting of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) with more than 200 delegates; the session meeting was opened by Family and Welfare Minister Kinga Goncz (MTI 27 Oct. 2004).

In July 2001, a district mayor who attempted to ban Hungarian gay rights organizations from speaking at a major Central European popular festival named Pepsi Island was sued by the gay rights organizations (BBC 13 July 2001). Information on the outcome of this lawsuit could not be found by the Research Directorate within time constraints.

Media

An article published by the Media Diversity Institute (MDI) indicated that despite some evidence of anti-gay sentiment in smaller newspapers, the mainstream media, including public television and radio, were generally liberal and carried good coverage of gay events (n.d.). For at least six years, the magazine Masok (Others) has been published by a gay association (MDI n.d.). On the other hand, although national television has attempted to launch gay-friendly television shows, many homosexuals have been reluctant to cooperate because they are not ready to publicly admit their sexual orientation (ibid.).

A Hungarian television program apparently brought hidden cameras inside a public Hungarian bathhouse to document homosexual activity (Rex Wockner 3 Jan. 2005), although this could not be corroborated by the Research Directorate. Makers of another Hungarian television program were accused by Hungary's National Radio and Television Authority (ORTT) of prejudiced reporting in their portrayal of homosexuality (Nepszabadsag 16 Nov. 2001).

Non-Governmental Organizations

Founded in 1988 as Hungary's first gay organization, the Homeros Society provides a telephone service which is particularly useful for sexual minorities who live in rural communities (GLBTQ 29 Dec. 2004b). Other organizations devoted to assisting sexual minorities in Hungary include the "more political" Szivárvány (Rainbow) Coalition, founded in 1994; the Háttér Society for Gays and Lesbians in Hungary, which was formed in 1995 and does outreach work outside of Budapest, operates a telephone help-line, set up an AIDS prevention project and an archive, organizes the annual gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer (GLBTQ) pride and film festivals, and has a gay legal aid clinic; the Habeas Corpus Working Party, founded in 1996 and mainly composed of "young queer intellectuals;" and Labrisz, founded in 1999, with the goal of fighting sexism and heterosexism and giving a public voice to lesbians (ibid. 29 Dec. 2004a).

Police

According to IHF, "[i]nvestigative authorities frequently humiliated crime victims who reported criminal acts that took place against them because of their sexual orientation" (IHF 24 June 2003). No further information on the treatment of homosexuals by police could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within time constraints.

Religious Opposition

There were reports of some Hungarian religious organizations declaring their opposition to homosexuality (IHF 2005; MTI 15 Aug. 2003). For instance, a Hungarian church representative informed the MTI Hungarian News Agency that they were opposed to the "expansion of rights" for same-sex couples (ibid.). The Karoli Gaspar Calvinist University expelled one of its student after he openly declared his homosexuality (ibid. 1 July 2004). However, in February 2004, the Metropolitan Court ordered the University to reinstate the student (AP 20 Feb. 2004) on the basis of a law on equal treatment and equal opportunity (MTI 1 July 2004).

Societal Attitudes

Two sources described Hungary as having a relatively liberal climate for homosexuals (Gay Times n.d.; Budapest Sun 7 Apr. 2005), especially when compared to neighbouring Poland or Serbia (ibid.), with the Budapest Sun noting that Hungary usually sends a relatively large contingent of athletes to the "Gay Games" (ibid.). A political scientist quoted in Transitions Online claimed that Hungarians have recently become much more tolerant toward homosexuality, but he said this might be due to "changing patterns of conformity [rather] than to a true change of heart" (20 Apr. 2005).

However, other reports described Hungarian society as "culturally conservative" (GLBTQ 29 Dec. 2004a) and indicated that homosexuals were generally rejected by Hungarian society (IHF 24 June 2003), and "face[d] animosity" (Interfax 17 Jan. 2002) or general "hostility" (Hungarian Radio 16 Jan. 2002). The author of an article published in the Boston-based Gay & Lesbian Review indicated that authorities in Hungary were comparatively more discriminatory towards homosexuals than were authorities in the neighbouring Czech Republic (1 Nov. 2003). This information could not be corroborated by the Research Directorate. The European Report said on 8 October 2003 that public sensitivity to discrimination against sexual minorities was a recent phenomenon.

Several sources reported on gay pride parades that took place in Budapest without incident (Budapest Sun 8 July 2004; ibid. 7 Apr. 2005); sources also noted the presence of small counter-demonstrations (Duna TV 3 July 2004) as well as police protection (MTI 5 July 2003), the latter allegedly required to shield marchers from people who had threatened violence (GLBTQ 29 Dec. 2004a). However, on 10 July 2004, MTI reported on a Budapest demonstration by a group of 100 youths, including many skinheads, from the Blood and Honour Cultural Association (BHCA). The goal of the demonstration was to protest against the previous week's gay pride parade, with participants singing a Nazi song, and describing homosexuals as "anti-national beings" (MTI 10 July 2004). Finding the association's objectives "unconstitutional," the Municipal Prosecutor's Office began civil litigation against the BHCA with a trial date set for October 2004 (ibid.).

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 additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References


Agence France-Presse (AFP). 4 September 2002. "Hungary Scraps Law Discriminating Against Homosexuals." (Factiva)

Associated Press (AP). 20 February 2004. "Court Says Religious University Must Readmit Student Expelled for Being Gay." (Dialog)

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 13 July 2001. "Hungary Festival Row over Gay Programme." http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/1437431.stm [Accessed 12 July 2005]

The Budapest Sun. 7 April 2005. Vol. 8, Issue 14. Thomas Escritt. "Gay Rights and Wrongs." http://www.budapestsun.com/full_story.asp?ArticleId={A900B7D83D614B06A2A2606CB185CE72}&From=News [Accessed 13 July 2005]

_____. 17 March 2005. Vol. 8, Issue 11. Thomas Escritt. "Gay MPs to be 'Outed' as Sexuality Issue Gains Political Momentum." http://www.budapestsun.com/full_story.asp?ArticleId={E798FF308F7649AD8279AC4C98094B99}&From=News [Accessed 13 July 2005]

_____. 8 July 2004. Vol. 7, Issue 28. "Turn-Out Down for Gay Pride." http://www.budapestsun.com/full_story.asp?ArticleId={401B3EE5E70440768D1E67125F677089}&From=News [Accessed 13 July 2005]

Duna Television [Budapest, in Hungarian]. 3 July 2004. "Budapest Gay Parade Went Off Without Incident But with Counter-Demo." (BBC International/Dialog)

European Report [Brussels]. 8 October 2003. "Enlargement: Social Discrimination Must End in New and Old Member States." (Dialog)

Gay & Lesbian Review [Boston]. 1 November 2003. Vol. 10, No. 6. Alan Brady Conrath. "A Tale of Two Eastern European Cities." (Dialog)

Gay.com. 4 March 2005. Ben Townley. "Hungary Moves to Recognize Gay Couples." http://www.globalgayz.com/hungary-news.html [Accessed 12 July 2005]

GLBTQ: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender & Queer Culture. 29 December 2004a. "Hungary." http://www.glbtq.com/social-sciences/hungary,2.html [Accessed 13 July 2005]

_____. 29 December 2004b. "Hungary." http://www.glbtq.com/social-sciences/hungary.html [Accessed 13 July 2005]

Gay Times [London]. N.d. "Lesbian and Gay Hungary." http://www.gaytimes.co.uk/gt/default.asp?topic=country&country=484 [Accessed 14 July 2005]

Human Rights Watch (HRW). 4 September 2003. "U.S.: Full Marriage Rights for Same-Sex Partners." http://www.hrw.org [Accessed 4 Sept. 2003]

Hungarian Radio [Budapest, in Hungarian]. 16 January 2002. "Human Rights Watch Criticizes Anti-Semitism, Discrimination in Hungary." (British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Monitoring/Factiva)

Interfax Hungary Business News Service. 17 January 2002. "Human Rights Watch Issues Report on Hungary, Roma Situation Criticized." (Factiva)

International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF). 2005. "Hungary." Human Rights in the OSCE Region: Europe, Central Asia and North America, Report 2005 (Events of 2004). http://www.ecoi.net/pub/ds891_03103hun.doc [Accessed 12 July 2005]

_____. 24 June 2003. "Hungary." Human Rights in the OSCE Region: Europe, Central Asia and North America, Report 2003 (Events of 2002). http://www.ihf-hr.org/documents/doc_summary.php?sec_id=&d_id=1322 [Accessed 18 July 2005]

The International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA). 31 July 2000. "Hungary." World Legal Survey. http://www.ilga.info/Information/Legal_survey/europe/hungary.htm [Accessed 12 July 2005]

M2 Presswire. 25 March 2002. "Human Rights Committee Takes up Hungary's Fourth Periodic Report; Experts Praise Reforms, Express Concern over Minorities." (Factiva)

Media Diversity Institute (MDI). N.d. Laszla Laner. "How Gay Friendly is the Hungarian Media?" http://www.media-diversity.org/articles_publications/how%20gay%20friendly%20is%20the%20hungarian%20media.htm [Accessed 12 July 2005]

MTI Hungarian News Agency. 27 October 2004. "International Conference on Lesbian, Gay Rights." (Dialog)

_____. 10 July 2004. "Blood and Honour Association Demonstrates Against Gays." (Dialog)

_____. 1 July 2004. "Gay Interest Association Sues Calvinist University for Discrimination." (Dialog)

_____. 15 August 2003. "Churches Oppose Key Family Law Regulation in New Civil Code." (Dialog)

_____. 5 July 2003. "Gay and Lesbian Parade in Budapest." (Dialog)

Nepszabadsag [Budapest, in Hungarian]. 16 November 2001. "Media Body Condemns Hungarian TV for Unbalanced Reporting on Homosexuals." (FBIS-EEU-2001-1119/WNC)

New Internationalist [London]. 1 May 2004. Eduardo Galeano. "Rainbow Warriors (View from the South)." (Dialog)

PlanetOut Inc. 2005. "Overview." http://www.planetoutinc.com/company/ [Accessed 20 July 2005]

Rex Wockner. 3 January 2005. "Media Targets Hungarian Bathhouse." (Gay.com Website) http://www.globalgayz.com/hungary-news.html [Accessed 12 July 2005]

Sodomy Laws. 10 July 2005. "Hungary." http://www.sodomylaws.org/world/world.htm [Accessed 12 July 2005]

Transitions Online [Prague]. 20 April 2005. Judit Szakacs. "A Gay Old Time." (Factiva)

_____. 20 January 2004. Judit Szakacs. "Hungary: Gay, Calvinist, and Expelled." (Factiva)

Wikipedia. N.d. "Sodomy Law." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodomy_law [Accessed 12 July 2005]

Additional Sources Consulted


Internet sites, including: The Economist, European Country of Origin Information Network (ECOI), Freedom House, Hungarian Helsinki Committee, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), United States Department of State, World News Connection (WNC).