Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has strongly opposed a new children’s book featuring homosexual characters, telling the publishers on Sunday to “leave our children alone”.
“Hungary has laws on homosexuality, which are based on an exceptionally tolerant and patient approach,” Orbán said in a public radio interview.
“But there is a red line not to cross,” he continued, castigating an “act of provocation”. “To sum up my opinion: leave our children alone,” he said.
Orbán was asked about a manual published by an association of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community adapting famous tales and legends with characters from marginalised minorities such as those who are disabled, poor, Roma, and LGBT. For example, in one story Cinderella is lesbian, in another a dragon slayer is transgender.
A spontaneous civil society movement called for the book to be withdrawn from the market, and an extreme right-wing politician even tore up a copy at a press conference.
The association of booksellers and publishers condemned these reactions, comparing them to the attitude of the “Nazi and communist” censors, while the textbook took advantage of this unintended publicity to climb to the top of the sales charts.
A ‘new era’ of conservative policies in Hungary
In 2018, Orbán launched a project for a cultural “new era”, with the stated aim of defending Christian and traditional values.
It saw the removal of “Gender Studies”, an interdisciplinary field of research on social relations between the sexes, from the country’s universities.
In the same year, Elton John’s musical Billy Elliot was removed from the National Opera due to a lack of bookings, after a pro-government media campaign accused the work of promoting homosexuality.
Last May, Budapest banned the registration of sex reassignment in the civil register and the legal recognition of the gender identity of transgender people, despite numerous international protests.
Homosexuality in Hungary has been decriminalised since the early 1960s and civil unions between same-sex couples have been recognised since 1996. Hungary joined the European Union in 2004.
In September 2018, the European Parliament activated a procedure under Article 7 of the Union Treaty for violation of EU values, which in theory can lead to sanctions.