New Hungarian Criminal Code sanctions homophobic and transphobic hate
Budapest, July 16, 2012 – The President of Hungary signed the new Hungarian Criminal Code on July 13, 2012, which specifically includes references to sexual orientation and gender identity in its provisions on hate speech and hate crime and does away with degrading terminology on same-sex sexual relations. The law will enter into force on July 1, 2013.
Preparatory work for a new Criminal Code to replace the heavily modified current legislation originally passed in 1978 started back in 2001. The new Code stretches over 120 pages and contains several provisions directly affecting LGBT people.
Following intensive lobbying by LGBT and human rights NGOs, the new Code extends the groups specifically covered by hate speech and hate crime provisions. While homophobic and transphobic hate has – in theory – been punishable under current legislation which sanctions incitement to hatred against certain group of the population and assault and coercion committed because of the victim’s belonging to a certain group of the population, unlike race, ethnicity and religion, sexual orientation and gender identity has so far not been specifically mentioned in the relevant provisions. The new Code extends the groups specifically covered to include sexual orientation, gender identity and disability.
The new law also reforms the terminology and categorization of sexual offences: while the previous legislation was based on a strong separation between vaginal intercourse and any other form of sexual activity, the new legislation does not differentiate between forms of sexual activity. This also means that the degrading terminology used in Hungarian criminal law for centuries to name sexual activities other than vaginal intercourse – including any form of same-sex sexual activity – (“fajtalanság”, literal translation: “racelessness”) will no longer be in use. The age of consent will remain 14 years equally for same- and different-sex sexual relations.
LGBT groups have strongly criticized the law for diverging from current legislation on bigamy: while the Criminal Code in force treats marriage and registered partnership in the same way, thus entering into a new marriage or registered partnership while someone is still married to or in a registered partnership with another person was a criminal offence, the new legislation maintains bigamy rules only for spouses. 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.