Danger for Women, Queers In Hungary

A Dyke Abroad: While the world watches people in North Africa and the Middle East struggle for democratic reforms, Christian extremists in Hungary have been busy unraveling them.

Hungary’s new constitution, recently approved and slated to go into effect in January 2012, is a particular triumph for demagogues, grafters, and bigots of all stripes. Railroaded through the parliament by the right-wing party Fidesz, which seized control last year with an unprecedented two-thirds majority of the seats, it declares Hungary a Christian nation in the first few lines, and goes on from there to beef up presidential powers and undermine the rights of women and LGBT people.

Article M of the constitution reads, “Hungary protects the institution of marriage between man and woman, a matrimonial relationship voluntarily established, as well as the family as the basis for the survival of the nation.”

That clause not only bans full equality in marriage for the foreseeable future, but seems to lay the groundwork to challenge a 1996 law recognizing inheritance and pension rights for couples of any orientation in a common-law marriage as well as a 2007 law that allows same-sex couples to register officially as partners. The partnership law gives gays and lesbians most of the same rights as heterosexual spouses, with the notable exceptions of access to adoption and artificial insemination.

The constitution also attacks abortion rights by declaring, “Human dignity is inviolable. Everyone has the right to life and human dignity. The life of a fetus will be protected from conception.”

Rogue women and queers could easily be considered enemies of the state under these new provisions.

The new constitution also rewards heterosexual people with extra votes with a bizarre provision that parents can vote on behalf of their underage children. A couple with seven kids, for example, will be given that many additional votes to cast. This unequal representation is only one of the many provisions that is getting scrutiny from the European Union’s constitutional law advisory body.

Ironic, since Hungary holds the EU presidency this year.

One of the Constitution’s three authors, József Szájer, who is a member of Hungary’s majority party as well as the vice president of the center-right European People’s Party bloc in the EU Assembly, asserts his country’s new constitution is absolutely in line with the values of the Union. He expounded on the implications of a constitutional clause he said demonstrates Hungary’s historic commitment to defending EU values, claiming, “We don’t say that, but that would mean our fights with the Turks in the Middle Ages to the 1956 revolution, when European values have been defended.”

And at a moment when the new government is raiding pension funds and levying crisis taxes on banks and the energy, telecom, and retail sectors, the constitution strips Hungary’s courts of the right to provide independent oversight of the budget. It also allows the president to dissolve the parliament if a budget is not approved to his satisfaction.

For lesbians and gay men, the new fascistic, Christian regime outlined in the constitution signals the end of an era of relative tolerance and the beginning of an anti-gay campaign designed not only to prevent gains, but also to roll back progress recently achieved.

In the US, at the height of the culture wars of the early ‘90s –– when antidiscrimination gains were battled all over the country –– we learned that homophobic crusades have consequences far beyond overturning a few laws. Physical attacks and harassment multiply. So do murders.

Last week, a study in Oregon showed that you don’t even have to witness active anti-gay campaigns to find negative impacts on LGBT kids. It is enough to live in a politically conservative area for suicide attempts by gay teens to increase compared to kids in areas defined as progressive. Researchers distinguished conservative and progressive areas through an index devised to measure the percentage of same-sex couples, Democrats, liberal views, gay-straight alliances, and anti-bullying and anti-discrimination policies.

What’s interesting is that living in more conservative districts also leads to more suicide attempts by straight students. It makes sense. The less visible diversity is, the more pressure to conform. At an age very much characterized by insecurity, fear, and self-loathing, pressures to conform can as easily turn toward self-harm and suicide as it does outward into bullying somebody lower on the totem pole.

In Hungary, fighting back is going to be tough. Since the Fidesz party was elected last April, its leaders have not only been busy writing a new constitution, but also taking over previously independent organizations and creating a media council with the mandate to impose huge fines on journalistic outlets for indefinable crimes like offending “human dignity.”

The future of women and queers in Hungary depends a lot on how long the still relatively independent media is able to hold out. The climate of victimization will also be influenced by how successful the Christian extremist Fidesz party is in delivering on promises to reduce Hungary’s 45 percent unemployment rate.

For baby dykes, activists, and anybody who’s ever wanted to save the world, visit the Lesbian Avenger Documentary Project at lesbianavengers.com. Check out Kelly Sans Culotte at http://kellyatlarge.blogspot.com/.