The government of Hungary is targeting transgender people with a bill that aims to block citizens from being able to change their gender marker after birth.
In a slap to the face to the country’s trans community, the bill was submitted by Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén on 31 March, which is marked as the International Transgender Day of Visibility around the world.
The bill proposes that “sex at birth” replaces “gender” in the civil registry, and states that this “sex at birth” may not be changed. This would affect all forms of identification such as ID cards, driving licenses, and passports
A memorandum explaining the rationale for the change states: “The sex entered into the civil registry is based on facts determined by doctors, declared by the registry. Given that completely changing one’s biological sex is impossible, it is necessary to lay it down in law so that it cannot be changed in the civil registry either.”
The news was met with outrage by LGBTIQ and other human rights groups across Europe. Hungary’s Transvanilla Transgender Association condemned the proposed legislation.
It said the bill “denies trans people the right to gender recognition, violating their right to self-determination and countering national and international human rights standards.”
The association’s president, Barnabás Hidasi added: “Transvanilla Transgender Association has repeatedly affirmed that legal gender recognition ensures a person’s right to self-determination, and that procedures must be existent, quick, transparent, and accessible.”
TGEU (Transgender Europe) said that the measures “go against trans people’s human rights and represent a tremendous step back for Hungarian society.”
Dunja Mijatović, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, called on the Hungarian Parliament to not adopt the amendments, asserting that the bill “is in contravention [of] human rights standards and the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights…”
In a 2002 case involving a trans person in the UK, the court found that refusal to change identification documents and legal identities could amount to discrimination and violates the right to respect for private lives.
Lydia Gall, Human Rights Watch Senior Researcher, Eastern Europe and Western Balkans, pointed out that the anti-trans move comes amid the COVID-19 pandemic which has seen Hungary’s government using the crisis “as a pretext to grab unlimited and indefinite power by proclaiming a state of emergency, enabling it to rule by decree.”
Gall added: “When governments force trans people to carry documents that don’t match their identity and appearance, every situation when documents are requested or appearance is scrutinised becomes fraught with potential for violence and humiliation.”
Marc Angel MEP, Co-President of the LGBTI Intergroup in the European Parliament, said that “This attack on the trans community is outrageous and deliberate. This move does not only intentionally silence the trans community – it seeks to erase it and deny its existence.”
Homosexuality is legal in Hungary and same-sex couples are given some protection and rights through anti-discrimination and cohabitation and registered partnership laws. The country’s 2012 Constitution, however, restricts marriage to only being possible between a man and a woman.
In 2018, the Hungarian production of the Elton John stage musical Billy Elliot was forced to shut down because of public fury sparked by a newspaper article accusing the show of being ‘gay propaganda’.