Hungary Defies Critics With New Family Law

By Susan Yoshihara, Ph.D.

(New York – C-FAM) Hungarian leaders have passed a law protecting the traditional family, defying ongoing criticism that their new constitution would curtail abortion and homosexuality.

The new law says the family, based upon marriage of a man and a woman whose mission is fulfilled by raising children, is an “autonomous community…established before the emergence of law and the State” and that the State must respect it as a matter of national survival. It says “Embryonic and foetal life shall be entitled to protection and respect from the moment of conception,” and the state should encourage “homely circumstances” for child care. It obliges the media to respect marriage and parenting and assigns parents, rather than the State, primary responsibility for protecting the rights of the child. The law enumerates responsibilities for minors, including respect and care for elderly parents.

The purpose of the law is “to create a predictable and safe regulatory environment for family protection and the promotion of family welfare, and to enforce the Fundamental Law,” the nation’s new constitution, which came into force on January 1st and was passed by a vote of 262-44 last April.

The Fundamental Law nullified Hungary’s communist-era constitution and dates its democracy from the revolution against the Soviet Union in 1956 and Soviet collapse in 1990. Hungary is the last Central European nation to pass a post-communist constitution.

The constitution calls for the protection of life from conception and bans torture, human trafficking, eugenics, and human cloning. It recognizes marriage as the “conjugal union of a man and a woman.”

Amnesty International said the article protecting life from conception could “undermine the rights of women and girls” that are “enshrined in several treaties signed and ratified by the Republic of Hungary such as the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).” The group said the article defining marriage “may pave the way to the introduction of an explicit ban on same-sex marriages which contravenes international and European anti-discrimination standards…enshrined by Article 23 of the ICCPR [the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights].”

Human Rights Watch likewise invoked UN human rights treaties in a letter urging Hungary’s president to “amend the constitution to ensure respect for women’s reproductive rights.” The human rights goliath expressed concern that the non-discrimination clause for “race, color, sex, disability, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, wealth, birth or any other circumstance whatsoever” excludes reference to sexual orientation or gender identity which they said was guaranteed in the ICCPR.

International legal experts have dismissed the claims of the human rights groups saying Hungary has the right to pass a constitution without interference. They point out that no UN treaty even mentions abortion, sexual orientation, or gender identity and that the UN General Assembly has never accepted such redefinitions.

European legal expert Roger Kiska sees the new Hungarian laws as part of a growing trend among European states to push back at such interpretations and protect human life and the family. Former US ambassador to Hungary Mark Palmer said the expulsion of Hungary from the EU is “now no longer unthinkable,” but Hungarian analyst Julia Lakatos downplayed the controversy, telling CSMonitor, “Much of the criticism from abroad is exaggerated.”

Susan Yoshihara is Senior Vice President for Research at the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM). This article first appeared in the Friday Fax, an internet report published weekly by C-FAM, a New York and Washington DC-based research institute (http://www.c-fam.org/). This article appears with permission.

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