Protesters and human rights officials urged lawmakers in Hungary on Monday to reject legislation banning any content portraying or promoting homosexuality or sex reassignment to anyone under 18.
Thousands of LGBT activists and others demonstrated in front of the Parliament in Budapest in the evening, chanting “we are here!” as they urged lawmakers to abandon plans for the bills.
“We have a lot to do before tomorrow’s vote: We have to tell, we have to write to every member of Parliament, why this bill is anti-child, anti-family and anti-human,” David Vig, director of Hungary’s branch of Amnesty International, told those gathered.
Fidesz, Prime Minister Viktor Orban's conservative ruling party, presented the legislation last week and plans to vote on the bills Tuesday. They include a measure aimed at fighting pedophilia along with other amendments prohibiting transmitting information about LGBT people or same-sex relationships to youth.
Fidesz describes the legislation as an effort to protect children from pedophilia.
But Lydia Gall, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, said equating sexual and gender diversity with pedophilia hurt the dignity of LGBT people and risked putting them in danger.
Gall called the legislation “a cynical, distasteful and deliberate attempt by the Orban government to trample the rights of LGBT people and essentially make them invisible in Hungarian society.”
Dunja Mijatovic, the commissioner for human rights at the Council of Europe, the continent's leading human rights body, asked Hungarian lawmakers to reject the legislation.
“I urge you to remain vigilant against such initiatives to push through measures that limit human rights or stigmatize ... some members of society,” Mijatovic said in a statement Monday.
The Hungarian amendments would outlaw any depiction or discussion of different gender identity and sexual orientation in public, including in schools and the media.
Some human rights groups have compared the planned ban to a discriminatory 2013 Russian law banning so-called gay “propaganda,” widely viewed as a tool of discrimination.
Mijatovic said such legislation reinforces prejudice against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. She also argued that international human rights groups have established that young people have a right to comprehensive sex education, which is not possible if there is a ban on any discussion of LGBT issues.
“The proposed legislative amendments run counter to international and European human rights standards. It is misleading and false to claim that they are being introduced to protect children,” she said.
The legislation is expected to be approved, given that Fidesz has a majority.
The opposition in Hungary is divided on the matter.
The right-wing Jobbik party said Monday it plans to vote for the anti-pedophilia bill and amendments, despite what it said were some flaws, because it agrees that the “promotion” of gender change and “all kinds of sexual orientations” shouldn’t be allowed in schools.
Other parties plan to boycott the vote. The center-left Democratic Coalition said it would boycott the entire Tuesday session to protest Fidesz’s “hate-mongering" and "discriminatory politics.”