Viktor Orbán stepped up his war on LGBT rights on Tuesday as Hungary’s parliament passed legislation banning the promotion of homosexuality in schools.

Mr Orbán’s government claimed that the latest in a string of anti-gay measures was aimed at protecting children and fighting paedophilia.

The bill outlaws LGBT people from featuring in educational material or TV shows for the under-18s. It means that films featuring gay character or seen as promoting homosexuality could only be shown at night with an 18-plus certificate.

Movies that could be affected include Bridget Jones’s Diary, the Harry Potter films and Billy Elliot, broadcaster RTL Klub Hungary said.

Companies would also be forbidden from running adverts showing support for the LGBT community if the commercials are thought to target under-18s. More than 5,000 people protested outside Hungary’s parliament as it passed the amendments.

Critics of the bill said it would  “severely restrict” freedom of expression and children’s rights. Attila Kelemen, 23, was among thousands who protested against the amendments, saying it was getting “more and more uncomfortable” to live in Hungary “not only for gays, but practically also for everybody”.

“To mix up homosexuality with sexual crimes is disgusting,” the school psychologist told AFP.

The new law is the latest in a string of anti-gay measures passed by the government of Viktor Orbán

Credit: REUTERS

The legislation passed with 157 votes in favour and one vote against in the parliament controlled by Mr Orbán’s ruling Fidesz party.

The opposition boycotted the vote except for lawmakers from the far-Right Jobbik party which supported the changes. It is not clear what punishments could be meted out for those seen as breaking the new legislation.

“In order to ensure… the protection of children’s rights, pornography and content that depicts sexuality for its own purposes or that promotes deviation from gender identity, gender reassignment and homosexuality shall not be made available to persons under the age of 18,” the legal text said.

Sexual education classes “should not be aimed at promoting gender segregation, gender reassignment or homosexuality”, it added.

David Vig, director of Amnesty International Hungary, said that the law “will expose people already facing a hostile environment to even greater discrimination”.

Last December, Hungary’s parliament adopted a package of measures enshrining what the government sees as the traditional family, effectively banning adoption by same-sex couples.

In May 2020, a ban on legally changing one’s gender came into force, with rights groups warning this would expose transgender Hungarians to discrimination.

In 2018 a government decree effectively banned universities from teaching courses on gender studies.

The latest ban will put Mr Orbán on another collision course with Brussels. The EU has already raised concerns with Hungary, a member state, over its media crackdowns and lack of respect for the rule of law.

Clement Beaune, France’s Europe minister, said Paris would follow the issue closely. “We cannot let our fellow citizens think that on fundamental subjects Europe is ‘à la carte’”, said Mr Beaune on a visit to Vienna.

The EU could impose funding restrictions on Hungary over the legislation, the bloc’s equality chief told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Tuesday.