Why is Hungary’s new LGBTQ law causing such a stir?

Budapest - A new law in Hungary banning the "display or promotion" of homosexuality or gender change to minors has sparked widespread outcry and threats of sanctions from Brussels if the bill is not rectified.

Here are five things to know about the controversial law passed last month:

 

- What does the law say? -

 

The "Anti-Paedophilia Act" was originally aimed at toughening punishments for child abuse. But its final draft contained amendments that critics say conflate paedophilia with homosexuality.

The law bans the "promotion" of homosexuality and gender reassignment to under-18s, and says that only government-approved instructors are allowed to teach sex education in schools.

Firms cannot run ads showing support for the LGBTQ community if they are seen as targeting minors, according to the law.

Teachers and publishers have said they are concerned that classic literature books may be taken off school curricula if they are seen as breaking the law.

And broadcasters fear they could be barred from showing movies in the daytime if they feature gay characters or even show a rainbow flag.

The Hungarian parliament, controlled by nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban's Fidesz party, passed the law on June 15, although it is not clear what punishments could be meted out for breaking it.

 

- 'A disgrace'-

 

Critics say the law is even harsher than Russia's 2013 ban on gay propaganda.

Ahead of an EU summit last month leaders from 17 EU countries signed a joint statement condemning discrimination based on sexual orientation, while EU chief Ursula von der Leyen called the law "a disgrace" during a European Parliament debate Wednesday.

The legislation is "something that flies in the face of the values of the European Union," said von der Leyen, warning Budapest that it must "rectify" it or face consequences.

 

- Orban denials -

 

Orban has accused EU leaders of behaving like "colonialists" who want to "dictate" to other countries, and denies that the law is homophobic, describing von der Leyen's criticism in turn as "shameful".

"This is not a law about homosexuality, but a law about how children are educated in matters concerning sexuality," he said.

"How Hungarian parents wish to educate their kids does not belong under the jurisdiction of (Brussels), nor should it concern any other European institution," the government's press office told AFP Wednesday.

 

- Rainbow row -

 

The row also crossed into the sporting world last month when UEFA refused to allow a Euro 2020 football tournament venue in Munich to be floodlit in rainbow colours to protest the law.

UEFA drew criticism from LGBTQ groups for claiming that as a "neutral" organisation it was obliged to decline a "political" request.

Hungary's Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto hailed UEFA's decision, saying it was "dangerous to mix sport with politics".

 

- Coca-Cola boycott -

 

Some analysts say Orban's targeting of the LGBTQ community mirrors his long-running anti-migration agenda and is an effort to shore up his voter base ahead of an election next year.

The law is also seen as part of Orban's project, since he took power in 2010, to reshape Hungary into a so-called "illiberal" and socially conservative bastion.

In December, parliament approved an effective ban on adoption by gay couples, while a year ago, a ban on legally changing one's gender came into force.

The legislative wave has been accompanied by rising anti-gay sentiment, notably in government-controlled media.

In 2019, a Coca-Cola advertising campaign featuring smiling gay couples and anti-discrimination slogans prompted some prominent members of Fidesz to call for a boycott of the company's products.