The Hungarian parliament passed a law on Tuesday, amid heavy criticism from human rights groups and opposition parties, banning the distribution in schools of content intended to promote homosexuality and transgender issues.
The nationalist hardliner Viktor Orban, who faces an election next year, has become increasingly radical in social policy and railed against LGBTQ people and immigrants in his self-proclaimed illiberal regime that has deeply divided Hungarians.
His Fidesz party, which advocates a Christian-conservative agenda, has pinned a proposal to ban school talk on LGBTQ issues to a separate, widely-supported bill, severely punishing pedophilia and making it much harder for opponents to vote against.
The move, which critics say wrongly confuses pedophilia with LGBTQ issues, sparked a mass rally in front of parliament on Monday while several rights groups urged Fidesz to withdraw the law.
Fidesz legislators overwhelmingly backed the bill on Tuesday, while left-wing opposition parties boycotted the vote.
According to the amendments to the bill tabled last week, no content that promotes gender change or homosexuality may be shown to under 18s. This also applies to advertisements. The law establishes a list of organizations that are allowed to provide sex education in schools.
Homosexual marriages are not recognized in Hungary and only heterosexual couples can legally adopt children. Orban’s government redefined marriage in the constitution as the union between a man and a woman and restricted gay adoption.
Critics have drawn a parallel between the new law and the 2013 Russian law that bans the spread of “propaganda about non-traditional sexual relations” among young Russians.
Poland’s conservative ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, Fidesz’s main ally in the European Union, has taken a similarly critical stance on LGBTQ issues. Budapest and Warsaw are arguing with the European Union over some of their conservative reforms.
The European Parliament’s rapporteur on the situation in Hungary, the Greens MP Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield, criticized the new law on Tuesday: “Using child protection as an excuse to target LGBTIQ people harms all children in Hungary.”
Orban has won three landslides in a row since 2010, but opposition parties have now joined forces for the first time and caught up with Fidesz in opinion polls.