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Hungary: Parliament Forced to Take Domestic Violence Seriously

According to NGOs fighting domestic violence [hu], about 70 women are killed by their partners or ex-partners every year in Hungary.

Domestic violence is an extremely severe problem in the Hungarian society, and Hungarians struggling to raise awareness of the issue were outraged when it turned out that a public proposal to put it on the Hungarian Parliament's agenda was deemed so unimportant that the parliamentary discussion was scheduled to take place in the middle of the night.

Facebook page ‘Bring attention to the issue of domestic violence in the Hungarian Parliament’ wrote on Sep. 6 [hu]:

Between March 1 and May 1 of 2012, a total of 103,159 signatures were collected to stop domestic violence. A total of 50,000 valid signatures were needed to make the Parliament to schedule the debate about incorporating domestic violence as a separate offence. The result of the unprecedented cooperation is that the Parliament will hold the debate on penalizing domestic violence on Sep. 11 at 3 o'clock in the morning.

The Hungarian MPs did debate the public proposal (they ended up starting early, before 10 PM), but some of their comments caused public outrage. Especially remarkable were the comments of MP István Varga from the governing Fidesz party.

Eva Balogh of Hungarian Spectrum shared his overall ‘bests':

The learned member of parliament opined: “The most important calling for women and ladies, especially for young ladies, is to give birth. It is obvious that if everybody gave birth to two, three or four children, a gift to the fatherland, everybody would be happy. After that task is over, every woman can fulfill herself and may work at different jobs.” And if that weren’t enough, Varga proposed that “if three or four or five children were born, members of the family would respect each other more and then the question of violence within the family wouldn’t even come up.”

Kettős Mérce shared a collection [hu] of the best remarks in Hungarian. The day after, HVG.hu news site reported [hu], a spontaneous rally was organized on Facebook against the Parliament's decision, which rejected the proposal, and against Mr. Varga's remarks. The organizers of the demonstration wrote [en]:

Last night at 2 am the parliament rejected a people's proposal on the criminalization of domestic violence. Istvan Varga, Fidesz MP in Parliament, discussing whether domestic violence should be a distinct criminal offence in the Criminal Code [following a petition signed by over 100,000 people making it mandatory for parliament to discuss it]: “the Criminal Code cannot prevent domestic violence. maybe mothers should return to raising kids instead, have 2-3 or rather 4-5 chil dren and then it would make more sense that spouses respect each other more and domestic violence would not even come up.” He then said it's all because of emancipation that women have forgotten to have kids, so there are fewer and fewer Hungarians now. We contest the misogynist discussion that represented women as incubators, against the idea that domestic violence is a consequence of women's emancipation and against the attempt of boycotting the public opinion due to the late night parliamentary discussion.

X Communications Centre, which is using methods of communication to generate positive changes in social, ethnic and democratic issues, started a viral campaign with a video featuring Hungarian celebrities and politicians, titled “A real man wouldn't hurt a woman.” A rendition of this slogan – “A real woman wouldn't hurt a man” – also went viral, observing the fact that men can also be victims of domestic violence. (X Communication Centre'sFacebook photo album with people holding placards with their slogan is here.)

Following the significant public pressure (as well as plenty of memes with Mr. Varga's words), the Parliament was eventually forced to treat domestic violence seriously. After the ruling Fidesz party changed its position, a week later, the retake of the initiative was supported by 366 deputies in favour, none against, with ten deputies abstaining, reported [hu] Politics.hu news site.

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