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Hungary MPs approve package of anti-LGBTQ measures

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Budapest (AFP)

Hungarian MPs on Tuesday approved a package of new measures targeting the country's beleaguered LGBTQ community, the government's latest salvo in defence of "traditional" values.

One law overwhelmingly passed by MPs loyal to the nationalist, culturally conservative government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban effectively bars same-sex couples from adopting children by restricting adoption to married couples.

Exceptions to the ban will have to be approved by the minister for family affairs.

The government has sharpened its anti-LGBTQ rhetoric in recent months, with Orban commenting in October that homosexuals should "leave our children alone" when discussing a row over a children's book containing gay characters.

On Tuesday MPs also approved a change to the constitution reading: "The mother is a woman, the father is a man".

The government explained the change by saying "new ideological processes in the West" made it necessary to "protect children against possible ideological or biological interference".

The same amendment defines children's sex as that assigned to them at birth and "ensures the upbringing of children according to... (Hungary's) Christian culture".

In May 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.

- 'Dark day' -

David Vig, Hungary director of Amnesty International said that "these discriminatory, homophobic and transphobic new laws are just the latest attack on LGBTQ people by Hungarian authorities".

"This is a dark day for Hungary’s LGBTQ community and a dark day for human rights," Vig said.

The constitution adopted after Orban came to power had already defined marriage as being exclusively between a man and a woman.

A key figure in the drafting of that document, Jozsef Szajer, resigned as an MEP last month after being caught at what Belgian police said was an illegal all-male sex party that breached virus lockdown rules.

Apart from brief statements condemning Szajer's actions, the government and the pro-Orban press have largely ignored the embarrassing scandal and continued espousing their culturally conservative messages.

On Monday, Minister for Families Katalin Novak sparked an outcry with a video message on her Facebook page in which she said women should not always try to compete with men professionally.

"Don't think that at every moment or our lives we have to all compare ourselves and have the same job, the same salary as the other," Novak said in her remarks, which were criticised by feminist activists.

Also on Tuesday MPs passed a change to the country's electoral law which means that parties wishing to contest national elections will have to stand candidates in at least 14 out of 19 provinces and put forward a much higher number of individual candidates than previously required.

The government says this is to prevent sham parties claiming state funds.

However, many in the opposition suspect the real purpose is to hinder the chances of allied opposition candidates standing against Orban's Fidesz party in particular seats in the next legislative elections in 2022.

A poll conducted last week put a hypothetical joint opposition list marginally ahead of Fidesz.

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