Hungary has passed new legislation which extends hate crime laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity for the first time in the country’s history.
President Janos Ader signed the new Hungarian Criminal Code on 13 July and it will come into force on 1 July 2013.
Although in theory homophobic and transphobic crime is punishable under current legislation, the new amended code makes specific provisions to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
It also does away with degrading terminology for same-sex sexual relations, dropping the use of offensive language which has been used in Hungarian criminal law to refer to any intercourse which is not vaginal.
The government’s move has been welcomed by LGBT activists in Hungary who have been pushing for this change for years.
Tamás Dombos, from the Háttér Support Society for LGBT People, called it a ‘surprisingly positive turn of events’ and follows attempts by far-right political party Jobbik pass a motion which bans the ‘promotion of sexual deviation’ and targets lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, as well as paedophilic, behavior.
‘As with any legislation, its merits are in its implementation,’ Dombos told Gay Star News.
‘The previous law, although not perfect, would have also enabled prosecuting LGBTI-phobic incidents as hate crimes, and still it was hardly ever enforced.
‘So, yes, adopting the legislation is an important step, but only a first step, it also has to be implemented. And for that police and other authorities have to know how to deal with such cases, there is a need for clear guidance and training for the police.’
Despite going ahead without incident, Budapest pride was threatened with violence by far-right groups, who also published the names and Facebook profiles of gay Euro Games organizers, as well as hotels where LGBT athletes stayed for the event.
Dombos adds that many LGBT groups have strongly criticized the law for diverging from current legislation on bigamy.
While the criminal code treats marriage and registered partnership in the same way, making bigamy illegal whatever legal union you are in, the new legislation reserves those rules only for spouses.
Dombos said: ‘While the practical relevance of this new provision is minimal, it demonstrates well the insistence of the conservative government to distance heterosexual marriage from other family law institutions.’