April 6, 2020 at 4:24 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Hungary bill would ban transgender people from legally changing gender
The Hungarian Parliament in Budapest (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Advocacy groups have sharply criticized a bill that would prevent transgender people in Hungary from legally changing their gender.

The Transvanilla Transgender Association, a Hungarian trans advocacy group, in a press release notes Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén on March 31 introduced the proposal as part of an omnibus bill. The Hungarian Parliament the day before by a 137-53 vote margin approved a controversial measure that gave Prime Minister Viktor Orbán even more power in order to combat the coronavirus pandemic in the country.

Statistics from Johns Hopkins University and Medicine indicate Hungary has 744 confirmed coronavirus cases with 38 deaths. Austria, which borders Hungary, has 12,286 confirmed coronavirus cases with 220 deaths.

“The bill comes at a time when Hungary — and the whole world — is preoccupied with the coronavirus crisis,” said the Háttér Society, a Hungarian LGBTQ advocacy group, in a press release.

The Háttér Society notes the proposal would violate previous Hungarian Constitutional Court rulings from 2005, 2007 and 2018 that affirmed “the legal gender and name change for transgender people are a fundamental right.” The Háttér Society also says the bill would violate “consistent case law” from the European Court of Human Rights.

Hungary is a member of the European Union. It also recognizes the European Court of Human Rights.

“Legal gender recognition is the baseline of the safety of transgender persons in Hungary,” said the Háttér Society in its press release. “Without the ability to legally change their gender marker, they face harsh workplace and healthcare discrimination, have to explain themselves every time they present their university degree, can be accused of stealing when they use their credit cards and questioned whenever they use their ID to pick up a package from the post office.”

“With the possibility of losing the opportunity for changing their gender marker, transgender persons, already being one of the most vulnerable minorities in Hungary, are threatened with numerous faces of discrimination,” it added. “This bill threats with rising rates of depression, self-harm and suicide among the transgender community, and on the other hand, is completely useless. Besides making transgender people the enemy in the public eye, the bill has absolutely no merit or positive effect in any capacity.”

Dunja Mijatović, the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner, has criticized the bill. The European Parliament’s LGBTI Intergroup, Transgender Europe, ILGA-Europe, Human Rights Watch and the Human Rights Campaign have also followed suit.

“Case law from the European Court of human rights clearly establishes the right to legal gender recognition for transgender people,” said ILGA-Europe Advocacy Director Katrin Hugendubel on Monday. “International human rights actors must act firmly and swiftly to stop this extreme rollback in a settled area of human rights law.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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