While most European Union member states are primarily concerned with tackling the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent economic crisis, the Hungarian and Polish governments’ are focusing on opposition to the EU’s plan to “promote gender equality and women’s empowerment”.
For Fidesz, social conflicts are not problems to be solved with good governance, but rather tools for politicking. Hence, Fidesz is getting ready to launch an anti-gender mobilization campaign intended to rescue the traditional family from the so-called “gender ideology” model. This will antagonize political movements and initiatives that fight for gender equality and the recognition of sexual minorities.
While the Hungarian populist right-wing government tries to identify issues where its own opinion enjoys majority support, the opposition parties are the ones that mostly represent minority opinions. As an example, during the refugee crisis in 2015, most Hungarians shared the government’s position of rejecting refugees to Hungary. For the 60-40 strategy to work, it was necessary for Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to keep the topic on the public agenda with the help of state media and to misrepresent the opposition’s position. As such, while the Hungarian opposition never referred to the statements of George Soros in their discussions Orbán and Fidesz managed to successfully spread fake news about the existence of such a connection.
It was during the 2015 refugee crisis that Fidesz became more and more hostile toward gender issues. A 2015 study by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung points to the so-called movements against “gender ideology” in Hungary that reject the segregation of biological sex and socially constructed gender, the emancipation of sexual minorities, and the provision of reproductive rights, including the widespread authorization of abortion at the discretion of the woman concerned.
Among the first anti-gender tensions initiated by Fidesz involved the forced cancelation of the gender studies masters program at the Eötvös Loránd University Faculty of Social Sciences in 2018. It then continued with a mandate to register the birth sex of transgender people and a restriction on adoptions by individuals in 2020. Tolerance towards gays and lesbians in Hungary decreased sharply between 2014 and 2016 from a mean of 3.25 to 2.84 on a five-level Likert scale, according to the European Social Survey.
For Fidesz, “gender ideology” might seem to be an ideal “hot potato” issue for energizing and strengthening his own supporter base in several ways. First, as the European Social Survey data show, public opinion in Eastern Europe is more negative about same-sex adoption than in Western Europe. Thus, the “decadent” West and the “healthy” East could be set against each other. Second, the government may frame its family policy as an alternative to immigration. Third, implicit homophobic messages by the ruling party can be framed in relation to gender.
Such a campaign would undoubtedly mobilize the opposition to demand a national consultation or referendum. However, with its super-majority in parliament, the Orbán government could any day pass legislation in support of the “gender ideology” campaign’s message.
On the bright side, thanks to the scandal that broke out in December of this year when József Szájer, an MEP of the Fidesz party, admitted to participating at a gay orgy during the COVID-19 lockdown in Brussels, it will be much more challenging for Fidesz to mobilize an anti-gender movement in 2021.
There are also other reasons that anti-gender mobilization in Hungary would not have the same impact as the asylum and immigration policy did in 2015. Among them is the fact that Fidesz could not import the battle against the right to abortion from Poland. Hungarians as a whole are much less religious than the Polish, and, therefore, have a more accepting attitude toward this particular right. Without the topic of abortion, the Hungarian government would need to narrow its “gender ideology” campaign to sexual minorities alone.
The article is syndicated by 4Liberty.eu Network