Harmful Political Theatre

Why Viktor Orbán's ‘child protection referendum’ makes no sense, and why it does

17 August 2021

Zoltán Kovács


Back in June, the Hungarian Parliament adopted a new law, the so-called ‘Child Protection Act’, that resulted in a major international controversy and infringement procedures launched by the European Commission over its measures targeting the LGBTQ+ community. Seeking to reinforce these provisions on the European stage, Viktor Orbán recently announced a referendum on the regulations. Is it about protecting children, or is it a tool for Viktor Orbán in his domestic and European political battles?

‘In recent weeks, Brussels has launched an unquestionable attack against Hungary over the Child Protection Act. […] They take offence at the fact that what has become a permanent reality in Western Europe cannot happen here. There, LGBTQ+ activists regularly visit kindergartens and schools; they are the ones educating children about sexuality. They want that to happen here, which is why bureaucrats in Brussels are making threats, launching infringement procedures, in short, abusing their powers.’

This was the lead-up to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s announcement of the ‘child protection referendum,’ where, according to Viktor Orbán, ‘the future of our children is at stake’ as the ongoing international debate around the so-called ‘Child Protection Act’ puts ‘such international pressure’ on the country that ‘only the unified will of the people’ can protect it.

The law in question was adopted on 15 June. Its first draft was primarily aimed at introducing heavier criminal sanctions on paedophilia; however, a last-minute amendment to the bill added the sections that limited LGBTQ+ themes in media and sexual education. According to its critics, the law conflates sexual minorities with paedophiles and unnecessarily restricts freedom of expression, possibly erasing LGBTQ+ issues from the public discourse.


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Zoltán Kovács


Zoltán Kovács is a journalist at Telex.hu and editor of the portal's English section.


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