Budapest equality program to cover sexual and gender minorities

Budapest

The equality program adopted by the local assembly of Budapest for the period 2017-2022 lists sexual and gender minorities as a specific target group, and includes a detailed analysis of their situation. The program was adopted amidst high level of political homophobia and transphobia in Hungary.

On December 7, 2016 the local assembly of the Hungarian capital city of Budapest adopted an equality program for the period of 2017-2022. As opposed to its predecessor, the new program includes sexual and gender minorities as a specific target group among nine others the city administration plans to work with in the coming years.

According to the Act on Equal Treatment and the Promotion of Equal Opportunities introduced in 2003, local governments can adopt equality programs that analyze the situation of vulnerable groups and put forward interventions needed to deal with the identified problems in a comprehensive manner.  Since 2009 the adoption of equality programs is a prerequisite if the local government plans to apply for state or European Union development funds. The legislation mentions five equality target groups the programs must cover, which do not include sexual or gender minorities, but local governments are free to extend the program to more target groups if they wish to do so.

The Hungarian LGBT Alliance, the national umbrella organization already proposed the inclusion of LGBT people as a specific target group in 2010, when the previous equality program was up for debate. The then socialist-liberal leaders of the local government, however, rejected the proposal claiming general antidiscrimination provisions are enough. The current program devotes a whole chapter to the situation of sexual and gender minorities covering topics such as social attitudes, fear of coming out, discrimination and violence, problems in the field of employment, healthcare and parenting, and the specific vulnerability of LGBT youth.

“We were pleasantly surprised with the turn of events” says Tamás Dombos, board member of the Hungarian LGBT Alliance. “Budapest is currently under a clear conservative leadership, and Mayor István Tarlós is particularly known for his homophobic stance. It is yet to be seen, if the program will bring about any meaningful action, but it is already important as a symbolic statement”.

Budapest, the capital city of Hungary with a population of 1.75 million, was once a stronghold of liberalism run by a coalition of socialist and liberal parties between 1990 and 2010. The shift of the country’s electorate to the right in 2010, however, brought to power Mayor István Tarlós, a notoriously homophobic local politician. In 2001, as Mayor of District III he banned “any programs with a homosexual content” at the popular Sziget youth festival; the ban was later successfully challenged in court. In 2011 he revoked support from the Eurogames LGBTQ sport event offered by his predecessor. In 2015 he called the Budapest Pride March “unnatural and disgusting”. The March was first held in Budapest 20 years ago in 1997, and last year it drew over 20 thousand participants.