BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungary’s government on Friday ordered booksellers to place children’s books that depict homosexuality in “closed packaging,” the latest move in an escalating campaign that rights groups have decried as an assault on the LGBT community.
The order also forbids the public display of products that depict or promote gender deviating from sex at birth, and bans the sale of all books or media content that depict homosexuality or gender change within 200 meters (650 feet) of a school or church.
The decree came after Hungary’s parliament passed a law in June forbidding the display of homosexual content to minors, a move that was seen by critics of the country’s government as an attempt to stigmatize lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Hungary’s right-wing populist prime minister, Viktor Orban, says the measures – which were attached to a law that allows tougher penalties for pedophilia – seek only to protect children.
But critics of the legislation compare it to Russia’s gay propaganda law of 2013, and say it conflates homosexuality with pedophilia as part of a campaign ploy to mobilize conservative voters ahead of elections next spring.
Many politicians in the European Union, of which Hungary is a member, have slammed the legislation. The executive Commission of the 27-nation bloc launched two separate legal proceedings against Hungary’s government in July over what it called infringements on LGBT rights.
The measures have some writers and booksellers in Hungary on edge, unsure if they would face prosecution if minors end up with books that contain plots, characters or information discussing sexual orientation or gender identity.
In July, authorities fined the distributor of a children’s book that features families headed by same-sex parents, arguing it contained “content which deviates from the norm.”