Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of men or women, including spousal rape, is illegal. Although there is no crime defined as rape, the equivalent crimes are sexual coercion and sexual violence. These crimes include the exploitation of a person who is unable to express his or her will. Penalties for sexual coercion and sexual violence range from one year in prison to 15 years in aggravated cases.
The criminal code includes “violence within partnership” (domestic violence) as a separate category of offense. Regulations extend prison sentences for assault (light bodily harm) to three years, while grievous bodily harm, violation of personal freedom, or coercion may be punishable by one to five years in prison, if committed against domestic persons.
By law police called to a scene of domestic violence may issue an emergency restraining order valid for three days in lieu of immediately filing charges, while courts may issue up to 60-day “preventive restraining orders” in civil cases, without the option to extend.
Women’s rights NGOs continued to criticize the law for not placing sufficient emphasis on the accountability of perpetrators and the tendency of authorities to blame the victims. In one case, the Appeals Court of Budapest in January sentenced a 29-year-old mother to 10 years in prison for allegedly attempting to kill the father of her child by drugging and stabbing him. The couple met in 2011, and later the relationship turned abusive. In 2016 police found each of them with multiple stab wounds. Women’s rights organizations began a petition asking for a pardon for the woman, on the grounds that she was not a perpetrator of domestic violence, but a victim who had not received the proper support to leave a five-year abusive relationship. She started serving her sentence in April.
The Ministry of Human Capacities continued to operate a 24-hour toll-free hotline for victims of domestic violence and trafficking in persons. The ministry also sponsored crisis centers and secret shelters for victims of domestic violence operated by civil society organizations and church institutions. The crisis centers provided immediate accommodation and care for individuals and families for up to 90 days. The secret shelters addressed the needs of severely abused women whose lives were in danger; they were allowed a maximum stay of six months at the shelters. The newest type of service was the “crisis ambulance,” which provided mobile walk-in consultations–but not accommodation–for victims of domestic violence.
NGOs criticized the lack of training on gender-based violence for professionals and emphasized the need for broader awareness-raising efforts among the public to encourage victims to seek assistance and report violence without stigmatization. The UN Human Rights Committee’s Sixth Periodic Report expressed concern about reports that domestic violence continued to be a persistent and underreported problem.
Sexual Harassment: By law harassment of a sexual nature constitutes a violation of the equal treatment principle but is not a crime.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.
Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. According to the Economist’s 2018 glass ceiling index, women held 14.5 percent of the members of company boards, based on 2017 data. Women’s rights organizations asserted that Romani women could suffer multiple forms of discrimination on the basis of gender, ethnicity, and class, and experienced barriers to equal access in education, health care, housing, employment, and justice.
Birth Registration: An individual acquires citizenship from a parent who is a citizen. Births were registered immediately. NGOs asserted the law provides only partial safeguards against statelessness at birth because all children of foreign parents born in the country are registered on birth certificates as being of unknown nationality. In addition the NGOs claimed that children born to stateless parents or to noncitizen parents who cannot pass on their nationality to their children were in some cases born and remained stateless.
Education: Although the law provides for free and compulsory education between the ages of three and 16 and prohibits school segregation, NGOs reported the segregation of Romani children in schools and frequent misdiagnosis of Romani children as mentally disabled, which limited their access to quality education and increased the gap between Romani and non-Romani society.
Education research conducted by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences published in 2018 concluded that school segregation increased by almost 10 percent between 2008 and 2016. The UN Human Rights Committee’s Sixth Periodic Report expressed concerns that segregation in schools, especially through the rising number of church schools, remained prevalent, and the number of Romani children placed in schools for children with mild disabilities remained disproportionately high. By law church schools are exempt from requirements to enroll any student who resides within the local school district.
In 2018 the Metropolitan Court of Budapest ruled, in a 10-year-old case, that the Ministry of Human Capacities, which is in charge of education policy, was directly responsible for the segregation in 28 schools in 14 localities and ordered the ministry to desegregate the schools based on a plan crafted by experts. The court also prohibited the opening of first grades in the next school year if desegregation is not completed. The court ordered the ministry to collect, for the first time in the country’s case law history, ethnicity data on Romani children in primary schools through third-party identification in order to monitor segregation. The court also imposed a fine of 50 million forints ($167,000). In February the appeals court upheld the ruling but dropped the requirement to prohibit the opening of first grades.
In 2018 a trial court ruled in favor of 62 Romani children in a 2015 suit against the municipality of Gyongyospata and the Klebelsberg School Maintenance Center for their segregation in the primary school in Gyongyospata. The court ordered the state to pay compensation totaling 89 million forints ($297,000). In September the appeals court confirmed the ruling and increased the compensation to be paid to Romani children to 99 million forints ($330,000).
A report prepared during the year by Romani and pro-Romani NGOs stated one-half of Romani students dropped out of the education system. Only 24 percent of Romani students finished high school, compared with 75 percent of non-Romani students. Only 5 percent of Romani students entered university, compared with 35 percent of non-Romani students. The report noted that segregating Romani children in schools and lowering the mandatory school age to 16 years contributed to high dropout rates.
Child Abuse: Efforts to combat child abuse included a “child protection signaling system” to detect and prevent the endangerment of children; law enforcement and judicial measures; restraining orders; shelters for mothers and their children; and removal of children from homes deemed unsafe. The law provides that failure of a parent to “cooperate” with the doctors, district nurses, teachers, or family supporters in the signaling system automatically constitutes gross endangerment, even without any other signs of negligence or endangerment.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 18. The Social and Guardianship Office may authorize marriages of persons between the ages of 16 and 18.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: Buying sexual services from a child younger than 18 is a crime punishable by up to three years in prison. Forcing a child into prostitution is a crime punishable by up to three years in prison. The law prohibits child pornography. The statute of limitations does not apply to sexual crimes against children. The government generally enforced the law.
The minimum age for consensual sex is 12, provided the older partner is 18 or younger. Persons older than 18 who engage in sexual relations with a minor between the ages of 12 and 14 may be punished by one to five years’ imprisonment. By law statutory rape is a felony punishable by five to 10 years’ imprisonment if the victim is younger than 12.
Law enforcement authorities arrested and prosecuted children who were the victims of sex trafficking as misdemeanor offenders. NGOs strongly criticized this practice for blaming or punishing the victim.
Institutionalized Children: A study in Nograd County commissioned by the European Roma Rights Center and published in 2016 showed that 80 percent of the children in state care in the county were of Romani origin.
NGOs noted that institutionalized children living in state care were especially vulnerable to human trafficking for prostitution and criticized the lack of special assistance for child victims of trafficking. In a report published in 2018, the ombudsman stated that one-third of children were placed in child protection care because of their families’ poor financial circumstances.
In November 2018 a former director of the state childcare home in Bicske and an employee received eight- and three-year prison sentences, respectively, for sexually abusing several boys younger than age 18 between 2004 and 2016. In April the prosecution announced it had requested that the appeals court increase the sentences due to serious psychological traumas suffered by the victims. The appeals court affirmed the ruling in September.
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.
According to the 2011 census, 10,965 persons identified their religion as Judaism. According to estimates from the World Jewish Congress, the Jewish population numbered between 35,000 and 120,000 persons. According to a study published in 2018 by Szombat, a leading Hungarian Jewish news outlet, 82 percent of Hungarian Jews had a direct family member or ancestor who lost their life in the Holocaust. Jewish organizations considered the Holocaust to represent a defining element in the identity of Hungarian Jews, and they regarded it as vital to preserve the memory of what occurred during the Holocaust.
The Action and Protection Foundation (TEV), a Jewish group monitoring anti-Semitism, registered 32 anti-Semitic hate crimes in 2018. These were 19 cases of hate speech, 10 of vandalism, and three of assault.
Research of Median Public Opinion Institute conducted on behalf of TEV published in July indicated that approximately 33 percent of the population held anti-Semitic views. Another survey on anti-Semitic attitudes issued by the Anti-Defamation League in November found 42 percent of Hungarian respondents harbored anti-Semitic attitudes; 71 percent said it was probably true the Jewish community had too much power in the business world, and 59 percent believed Jews talked too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust.
Leading Jewish groups, Holocaust scholars, and others continued to express concern about the government’s planned opening of the House of Fates, a proposed new Holocaust museum and education center in Budapest that would focus on non-Jewish Hungarians’ rescue efforts of Hungarian Jews. These groups and individuals criticized the project as an attempt to obscure the involvement of the World War II-era Hungarian state and its leader, Miklos Horthy, in the Holocaust. Controversy around the museum concept delayed its opening. The Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation (EMIH), which owned the museum, prepared a new concept and presented it on June 4 at the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance meeting in Luxembourg. In November, EMIH chief rabbi Slomo Koves stated the museum should be ready to open in 18 months.
Jewish groups expressed concerns about praise by government officials for Hungarian World War II-era leaders and Hitler allies known for their anti-Semitism and about public rhetoric that could incite anti-Semitism and hate speech. On September 4, the Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary (Mazsihisz) issued a statement condemning government officials’ participation in the unveiling of a statue of Gyula Kornis in the town of Vac. Kornis was a monk and leading educator in the Horthy era who helped to prepare and implement the country’s anti-Semitic education laws in the 1920s. Mazsihisz criticized the presence of government officials in the ceremony honoring the man who “wanted to exclude nearly one million people from the nation because of their origin.”
On November 16, far-right party Mi Hazank (Our Homeland), joined by a few hundred participants, marched in Budapest to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Horthy’s entry into Budapest. Fidesz parliamentarian Janos Lazar laid flowers at Horthy’s grave, praising him as “a heroic soldier, a true Hungarian patriot whom we should remember by bowing our head.” Mazsihisz president Andras Heisler stated he was deeply disappointed by Lazar, who as a previous leader of the Prime Minister’s Office had striven to build good relations with Jewish organizations and had accepted Jewish values but had now denied them with his act.
On August 18, five young men in Nyiregyhaza told a Jewish community activist on the street that he and his wife were “filthy Jews” who “belong in the gas chamber.”
On August 20, the Living Memorial social movement stated on its Facebook page that unknown assailants vandalized its memorial to Hungarian Holocaust victims. The Living Memorial, located on Budapest’s Liberty Square and consisting of memorabilia of victims and their families, was created in protest against the government’s controversial memorial to “the victims of the German occupation” of 1944. Critics of this memorial, including prominent Hungarian Jewish groups, believed it whitewashed the country’s complicity in the Holocaust. Also on August 20, the national Saint Stephen’s Day holiday, the far-right website kuruc.info published an article entitled, “Liberty Square was waiting for National Day to be cleaned–our reader cleaned up the Jewish garbage,” including a photograph of memorial objects in a nearby garbage can.
In November posters appeared in Budapest showing two journalists from the independent online news site Index.hu in front of an Israeli flag with the caption, “We have also come from beyond the border.” The poster featured the Index.hu logo next to the words, “Constant complaining, latent anti-Hungarian feelings, betrayal of the homeland.” TEV reported the case to police.
The country successfully hosted the European Maccabi Games, often referred to as the “Jewish Olympics,” in Budapest between July 29 and August 7. Prime Minister Orban stated on that occasion that his government provided protection and major support to the Hungarian Jewish community for preserving its identity and for the renaissance of Hungarian Jewish life.
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
The constitution and the law prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, communicational, and psychosocial disabilities in employment, education, air travel and other transportation, access to health care, or the provision of other state services.
Both the central government and municipalities continued to renovate public buildings to make them accessible to persons with disabilities. There were no data available on the percentage of government buildings that complied with the law, but NGOs asserted many public buildings remained inaccessible. NGOs also noted that public transportation had limited accessibility.
NGOs claimed public elementary schools were not obligated to enroll children with disabilities. They also asserted many children with autism, intellectual disability, or profound and multiple disabilities were often segregated in special schools or were forced to be home schooled without financial compensation to the family.
The government reviewed its 2019-36 deinstitutionalization strategy to reduce the number of persons with disabilities living in institutions with capacities greater than 50 persons, but NGOs reported no meaningful progress and received complaints about mistreatment, forced medicalization, and inhuman living conditions in large-scale institutions. In April a human rights NGO received audio and video recordings about physical and verbal abuse of persons with disabilities living in an institution in Baranya County. The ombudsperson called on the director of the institution to conduct an investigation. A grassroots movement advocated for creating a personal assistance service to facilitate independent living of persons with disabilities instead of their institutionalization or 24-hour family care.
The constitution provides that a court may deprive persons with disabilities who are under guardianship of the right to vote due to limited mental capacity. NGOs noted that depriving persons with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities of their legal rights violated international conventions on the rights of persons with disabilities.
In August the disabled persons’ federation Meosz announced it was suing the progovernment media outlet PestiSracok.hu for publishing an article that offended the human dignity of persons with reduced mobility. In a response to Coca-Cola advertisements promoting tolerance of same-sex couples, a journalist from the outlet wrote in that article that while “we do not hate disabled people…we do not fill our children’s heads with the nonsense that it is just as natural to live in a wheelchair as to walk on two feet and that it is not worse, only different.”
Roma were the country’s largest ethnic minority. According to the 2011 census, approximately 315,000 persons (3 percent of the population) identified themselves as Roma. A University of Debrecen study published in 2018, however, estimated there were 876,000 Roma in the country, or approximately 9 percent of the country’s population. The study claimed the 2011 census underestimated the size of the Romani community, since Romani respondents often preferred not to disclose their minority status. To avoid biased responses, the researchers gathered data from municipal governments and from Romani self-government bodies instead of asking respondents to self-report their ethnicity.
Human rights NGOs continued to report that Roma suffered social and economic exclusion and discrimination in almost all fields of life. According to a 2017 study by the Pew Research Center on religious belief and national belonging in Central and Eastern Europe, 54 percent of respondents in the country would not be willing to accept Roma as members of their family, 44 percent as neighbors, and 27 percent as citizens of their country.
On May 9, the Appeals Court of Debrecen affirmed a lower-level court ruling that the municipality of Miskolc was responsible for direct discrimination and harassment of local Romani inhabitants by conducting raids in the segregated neighborhood and carrying out evictions without providing alternative housing. This was the country’s largest antidiscrimination lawsuit, covering a period of five years and affecting the rights of several thousand persons.
In January and October 2018, a group of young Roma was denied entry to dance clubs in Nyiregyhaza and Budapest. In December the Equal Treatment Authority ordered the security firm employed by Gozsdu Courtyard in Budapest to pay a fine of 500,000 forints ($1,670) for discrimination.
In January media broadcast recordings of Tamas Sneider, the leader of the opposition party Jobbik, making racist comments and promising to defend the country against Roma. In May approximately 400 persons attended a protest against “Gypsy crime” organized by the far-right party Mi Hazank (Our Homeland) in Torokszentmiklos in the southern part of the country.
Segregation of Romani children in schools and their frequent misdiagnosis as mentally disabled remained a problem (see section 6, Children). Observers claimed the public education system continued to provide inadequate instruction for members of minorities in their own languages as required by law and that Romani-language schoolbooks and qualified teachers were in short supply.
The law establishes cultural autonomy for nationalities (replacing the term “minorities”) and recognizes the right to foster and enrich historic traditions, language, culture, and educational rights as well as to establish and operate institutions and maintain international contacts.
The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. In addition the law prohibits certain forms of hate speech and prescribes increased punishment for violence against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community. Victims of discrimination have a wide choice of remedies, including a procedure by a designated government agency (the Equal Treatment Authority), enforcement of personality rights via civil court procedure, and sectoral remedies in media law. Only the civil procedure allows for the awarding of pecuniary and nonpecuniary damages. The Constitutional Court also offers possibilities to challenge allegedly discriminatory legislation. NGOs reported that the Equal Treatment Authority, ombudsman, and courts enforced these antidiscrimination laws.
In July 2018 authorities suspended the implementation of a law granting transgender persons the right to legal gender recognition; as of August no requests for legal gender recognition had subsequently been processed. The ombudsman criticized the situation. The Constitutional Court’s December 2018 deadline for parliament to adopt legislation allowing transgender persons without Hungarian citizenship legally residing in Hungary to have their legal gender recognized expired without any legislative action.
During the month-long Budapest Pride Festival, protesters disrupted six events, including, in some cases, with acts of physical violence against event organizers. According to LGBTI groups, police failed to act promptly to secure the events. After the Budapest Pride March, protesters harassed, kicked, and spat on a couple who had participated in the event. Police conducted and closed a criminal investigation, and the case was pending with the prosecution at year’s end.
In September far-right activists disrupted an LGBTI event at Aurora NGO center, and in October a neo-Nazi organization burned the rainbow flag flying at Aurora. LGTBI organizations highlighted that neither the relevant government officials nor the public bodies responsible for promoting nondiscrimination and respect for human rights condemned these events at the time. In November, Budapest police announced they had brought in for questioning nine persons in connection with the attack and ordered an investigation to be carried out on suspicion of disorderly conduct.
During the year the Equal Treatment Authority issued several decisions in cases concerning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In one case it fined the Budapest Mayor’s Office one million forints ($3,300) for blocking access to all LGBTI-related websites from its local network; the new mayor of Budapest elected in October lifted the ban after assuming office.
In May, National Assembly Speaker Laszlo Kover compared same-sex couples who want to adopt children to pedophiles. In June, Fidesz deputy caucus leader Istvan Boldog called for a ban of the Pride March. In August he called for the boycott of Coca-Cola for its advertising campaign featuring same-sex couples. The local government in Pest later levied a 500,000-forint ($1,670) fine against Coca-Cola for this ad campaign.
Section 7. Worker Rights
a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining
The labor code provides for the right of workers to form and join independent unions without previous authorization and conduct their activities without interference, although unions alleged requirements for trade union registration were excessive. The labor code prohibits any worker conduct that may jeopardize the employer’s reputation or legitimate economic and organizational interests and explicitly provides for the possibility of restricting the workers’ personal rights in this regard, including their right to express an opinion during or outside of working hours. Violations of this law could result in a fine to compensate for damages in case the employer turns to court, although this labor code provision was rarely implemented and there were no reported instances during the year. With the exception of law enforcement and military personnel, prison guards, border guards, health-care workers, and firefighters, workers have the right to strike. In other spheres of the public sector, including education or government services, minimum service must be maintained. The law permits military and police unions to seek resolution of grievances in court. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and provides for reinstatement of workers fired for union activity.
Workers performing activities that authorities determine to be essential to the public interest, such as schools, public transport, telecommunications, water, and power, may not strike unless an agreement has been reached on provision of “sufficient services” during a strike. Courts determine the definition of sufficient services. National trade unions opposed the law on the basis that the courts lacked the expertise to rule on minimum service levels and generally refused to rule on such cases, essentially inhibiting the right to strike.
The government effectively enforced laws providing for freedom of association and collective bargaining. Penalties were generally adequate to deter violations. In the public sector, administrative and judicial procedures to determine adequate services were sometimes subject to lengthy delays and appeals.
Authorities and employers generally respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. Trade unions alleged that national prosecutors restricted trade union activities and in some cases reported antiunion dismissals and union busting by employers. There were also reports of unilateral termination of collective agreements. Unions reported the government continued to attempt to influence their independent operation.
While the law provides for reinstatement of workers fired for union activity, court proceedings on unfair dismissal cases sometimes took more than a year to complete, and authorities did not always enforce court decisions.
b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
While the law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, observers asserted the government failed to enforce it effectively. Penalties for forced labor were comparable to penalties for other serious crimes.
Groups vulnerable to forced labor included those in extreme poverty, undereducated young adults, Roma, and homeless men and women. Hungarian men and women were subjected to forced labor domestically and abroad, and labor trafficking of Hungarian men in Western Europe occurred in agriculture, construction, and factories. The government increased law enforcement efforts and sustained its prevention efforts.
Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
The constitution generally prohibits child labor. The law prohibits children younger than 16 from working, except that children who are 15 or 16 may work under certain circumstances as temporary workers during school vacations or may be employed to perform in cultural, artistic, sports, or advertising activities with parental consent. Children may not work night shifts or overtime or perform hard physical labor. The government performed spot-checks and effectively enforced applicable laws; penalties were sufficient to deter violations.
Through the end of 2017, the employment authority reported four cases, involving four children, of child labor younger than 15. The employment authority also reported 10 cases involving 12 children between the ages of 15 and 16 who were employed without the consent of their parents or legal representatives during the school year, as well as 15 cases involving 23 children between the ages of 16 and 18 who were employed without the consent of their parents or legal representatives. The employment authority noted the increase result of tighter legislation, which requires presentation of parental permission during an inspection.
d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation
The constitution and laws prohibit discrimination based on race, sex, gender, disability, language, sexual orientation and gender identity, infection with HIV or other communicable diseases, or social status. The labor code provides for the principles of equal treatment. The government failed to enforce these regulations effectively. Penalties were generally inadequate to deter violations.
Observers asserted that discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to Roma, women, and persons with disabilities. According to NGOs, there was economic discrimination against women in the workplace, particularly against job seekers older than 50 and those who were pregnant or had returned from maternity leave. A government decree requires companies with more than 25 employees to reserve 5 percent of their work positions for persons with physical or mental disabilities. While the decree provides fines for noncompliance, many employers generally paid the fines rather than employ persons with disabilities. The National Tax and Customs Authority issued “rehabilitation cards” to persons with disabilities, which granted tax benefits for employers employing such individuals.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
In 2018 the net national minimum monthly wage for full-time employment of unskilled workers and the special minimum monthly wage for skilled workers exceeded the poverty level.
The law sets the official workday at eight hours, although it may vary depending on industry. A 48-hour rest period is required during any seven-day period. The regular workweek is 40 hours with premium pay for overtime. On January 1, amendments to the labor code became effective that increased the limit on maximum overtime from 250 to 400 hours per year. The code also provides for 10 paid annual national holidays. Under the new code, overtime is to be calculated based on a three-year time period, i.e., employees have a right to overtime pay only if, over a three-year period, they have worked an average of more than 40 hours per week. Observers noted the provision could allow employers to avoid paying overtime for work in one year by requiring employees to work less than full time during both or one of the two other years if it lowered their average workweek over the entire three-year period to 40 hours or less. The changes to the labor code led to a series of worker demonstrations in late 2018 and early 2019, following which most employers agreed not to take advantage of the overtime calculation provision of the new labor code and continue paying overtime in the following pay period.
The government set occupational safety and health standards, which were up to date and appropriate for the main industries. Workers have the right to remove themselves from situations that endangered their health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and authorities effectively protected employees in such situations. Labor inspectors regularly provide consultations to employers and employees on safety and health standards. Labor laws also apply to foreign workers with work permits. Labor standards were not enforced in the informal economy.
The employment authority and the labor inspectorate units of government offices monitored and enforced occupational safety and health standards and labor code regulations. According to the Labor Protection Directorate of the Finance Ministry, 23,738 injuries occurred at workplaces, most of them in the mechanical engineering and manufacturing industries in 2018. There were 79 workplace fatalities, most of which took place in the manufacturing, processing, transport and warehousing, education and administration, retail, and construction sectors.