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.
In July the Supreme Court convicted a man and sentenced him to 11 years in prison for drugging his former partner and putting acid on her sexual organs. The trial court in 2016 had sentenced him to four years, which was increased to nine years by an appeals court in 2017. The Supreme Court annulled the ruling and ordered a new procedure in which the appeals court upheld its nine-year sentence. After an appeal, on July 12, the Supreme Court delivered a final ruling and 11-year prison sentence.
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 operated shelters for victims of domestic violence. The government sponsored a secret shelter house for severely abused women whose lives were in danger.
NGOs criticized the limited availability of proper victim support services and lack of training for professionals. 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: Under the 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.
The Hungarian Women Lobby, the NANE Women’s Rights Association, and the Patent Association 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.
In 2017 the Equal Treatment Authority ruled in favor of a Romani woman who was harassed with ethnic slurs by hospital staff while giving birth. This was the first case before the authority that involved harassment based on ethnicity in the area of health care. The hospital was required to publicize the decision and pay a fine.
Birth Registration: An individual acquires citizenship from a parent who is a citizen. Births were registered immediately. NGOs asserted that 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 February concluded that school segregation increased by almost 10 percent between 2008 and 2016. According to the Civil Public Education Platform, the number of schools where the ratio of Romani children exceeds 50 percent increased from 270 in 2007 to almost 350 in 2015. 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 April the Metropolitan Court of Budapest delivered a decision in a case that had been pending for 10 years. In its ruling the court established the ministry in charge of education was directly responsible for segregation existing in 18 schools in 14 localities and ordered the ministry to desegregate the schools based on a plan to be prepared by experts. The court–for the first time in the country’s case law–ordered the ministry to collect ethnic data of Romani children in primary schools based on third-party identification in order to monitor segregation. The court imposed a fine of 50 million forints ($200,000) to fund civil society monitoring of the desegregation processes. The ruling was not final.
In 2016 the Appeals Court of Pecs adopted a decision ordering the desegregation of a Romani-only school in Kaposvar. Despite the judgment, the municipality, in cooperation with the local school authority and the county government, attempted to restore segregation by allowing and supporting a private foundation to establish a new school in the same building in which the segregated school was operating. The municipality proposed to offer education in a private school for the Romani children residing in the close vicinity of the building and thus avoid their integration into mainstream schools. The Ministry of Human Capacities intervened to prevent the private school from opening. In October 2017 the Supreme Court affirmed the lower court ruling that segregation is illegal and ordered the desegregation of the school. Local activists reported that the Romani children who were the subject of the desegregation case were placed in Romani-only classes in nearby schools and that, therefore, they were still segregated.
In 2015 a lawsuit was filed on behalf of 62 children against the municipality of Gyongyospata and the Klebelsberg School Maintenance Center for their segregation in the primary school in Gyongyospata, for damages stemming from the low quality of their education, and for nonpecuniary damages related to their segregation. On October 16, the trial court ruled in favor of the children, ordering the state to pay them compensation totaling 89 million forints ($356,000).
A report prepared during the year by Romani and pro-Romani NGOs stated that half of Romani students drop out of the education system. Only 24 percent of Romani students finish high school, compared to 75 percent of non-Romani students. Only 5 percent of Romani students entered university, compared to 35 percent of non-Romani students. The report noted that segregation of 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, if a parent does not “cooperate” with the doctors, district nurses, teachers, or family supporters in the signaling system, it 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 five to 10 years’ imprisonment if the victim is younger than 12.
Law enforcement authorities arrested and prosecuted children exploited in 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 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 human trafficking. A documentary by BBC Three in February reported that, after being placed in the care system by local authorities, Romani children were exposed to risks of drug abuse and physical and sexual violence from both older children and staff.
In a report published in March, the ombudsman stated that one-third of children placed in child protection care were removed because of their families’ poor financial circumstances, which violated the children’s rights.
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.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. The overwhelming majority of Jews lived in Budapest.
The Action and Protection Foundation registered 37 anti-Semitic hate crimes in 2017, according to its report for the year. These were 13 cases of vandalism and 24 cases of hate speech.
During the year, TEV published its 2017 annual report on anti-Semitism, which concluded that approximately 37 percent of the population held anti-Semitic views.
According to a study published in June by Szombat, a leading Hungarian Jewish news outlet, two-thirds of Hungarian Jews believed anti-Semitism in the country was a serious problem, although fewer than half said they had experienced it firsthand. The study reported that 48 percent of survey respondents said they had heard anti-Semitic remarks on the street in the year preceding the survey.
Jewish groups expressed concerns about Prime Minister Orban’s past praise (and support from other government officials) for World War II-era anti-Semites and Hitler allies and about public messaging that could incite anti-Semitism. Several events took place to honor Miklos Horthy, who served as Regent of Hungary from 1920 to 1944. Horthy implemented anti-Semitic laws in 1920 and issued nearly 300 anti-Jewish laws and decrees before the March 1944 occupation of the country by Nazi Germany. Horthy allied Hungary with Nazi Germany and oversaw the deportation of Hungarian Jews to concentration camps.
Leading Jewish groups, Holocaust scholars, and others expressed concern about the announcement that the government in 2019 would open the House of Fates, a new Holocaust museum and education center in Budapest that would focus on the rescue efforts of non-Jewish Hungarians. These groups and individuals criticized the project as an attempt to obscure the involvement of the country and Horthy in the Holocaust.
On July 16, state-financed public television appointed Beatrix Siklosi to run its cultural channel. When Siklosi previously was nominated as chief editor of religious programming for public television in 2014, media reported she had made racist and anti-Semitic comments on social media. The Catholic, Reformed, Lutheran, and Jewish communities published a letter stating that Siklosi was unacceptable to them. Siklosi resigned from the position but remained in charge of nationalities programming.
The November 29 edition of the government-friendly weekly Figyelo published on its cover page a photo montage of Andras Heisler, president of the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities (Mazsihisz), surrounded by banknotes. On December 3, World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder said the magazine cover contained “one of the oldest and vilest caricatures of the Jewish people.”
On July 19, Prime Minister Orban visited Israel and met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. After their meeting, Orban stated that Jews could feel safe in Hungary and that his government had zero tolerance for anti-Semitic statements.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt.
Persons with Disabilities
The constitution and the law prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, or intellectual 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 that 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.
The government continued to implement its 30-year (2011-41) strategy to reduce the number of persons with disabilities living in institutions with capacities greater than 50 persons, but NGOs reported no meaningful progress. Between 2007 and 2013, only approximately 600 of 23,000 such persons moved to group homes or smaller institutions with up to 30 beds. NGOs also claimed the strategy covered only 10,000 of the 23,000 persons with disabilities living at large institutions.
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. The international NGO Mental Disability Advocacy Center criticized this as an “unsophisticated disguise for disability-based discrimination.”
In 2017 the ombudsman announced a finding that the state was failing in its duty to provide suitable and accessible education for students with disabilities in violation of international agreements. The ombudsman found that, as the state had no data on the exact number of students with disabilities, it failed to establish institutions to serve them, and that there was a lack of properly trained teachers.
Roma were the 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 February, however, estimated there were 876,000 Roma in the country, constituting 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, instead of asking respondents to self-report their ethnicity, the researchers gathered data from municipal governments and from Romani self-government bodies.
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 Hungary would not be willing to accept Roma as members of their family, 44 percent as neighbors, and 27 percent as citizens of their country.
Domestic media reported in July that the Hungarian Scouts Association (HSA) refused to accept Romani children from a school in a village in the northeastern part of the country that helps underprivileged (mainly Romani) children graduate high school. When the school tried to enroll Romani students in an HSA summer camp, the HSA rejected them on the grounds the camp was open only for registered scouts. The HSA subsequently denied the school’s application to form a scout troop. In February the HSA wrote a letter to the school principal stating that it had “reservations about a scouting group made up exclusively of Roma.” HSA president Judit Poto told media in July the students’ religious practice was an important factor in the case.
Segregation of Romani children in schools and their frequent misdiagnosis as mentally disabled remained a problem (see section 6, Children). Observers claimed that 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.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
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 (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. There were no reported cases of violence against LGBTI persons.