Hungary orders shops to sell LGBT-themed children’s books in ‘closed wrapping’

LGBT+ demonstrators march during annual Pride parade in Budapest, Hungary

The Hungarian government has ordered shops to sell children’s books seen as promoting LGBT+ themes in “closed wrapping”.

Reuters reported the government decree, which was published Friday (6 August), also included books seen as including “explicit” depictions of sexuality or narratives around gender change. The decree also told stores to sell them separately and outright banned any sale of them within a 200-metre radius of schools or churches.

The latest restriction comes months after Hungary passed a law prohibiting the “promotion” of LGBT+ lives to minors in schools, advertising and in the media.

The reviled law – which went into effect 8 July, according to the European Parliament – has been fiercely lambasted by a host of European Union (EU) leaders, with Dutch premier Mark Rutte bluntly telling Hungary to get on board with equality or leave the bloc.

The European Commission, the executive branch of the EU, filed legal proceedings last month against Hungary for “violations of fundamental rights of LGBTIQ people”.

In a statement, the commission said Hungary’s anti-LGBT+ legislation violates several EU laws and principles. It added the law “violates human dignity, freedom of expression and information, the right to respect of private life” and the “right to non-discrimination”.

However, in the face of public backlash, Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orbán has remained steadfast in his support for the anti-LGBT+ law. He even accused the European Commission of “legalised hooliganism” after it decided to take action against the country.

Long before the “LGBT+ propaganda” law was passed, the Hungarian government ordered a publisher of LGBT+ books to add a disclaimer on a queer fairytale anthology. The Government Office of the Capital City Budapest warned the tome, titled Wonderland Is For Everyone, “depicts behaviour inconsistent with traditional gender roles”.

Hungary LGBT+ storybook "Wonderland Is For Everyone" same-sex couple

A person looks inside the LGBT+ storybook “Wonderland Is For Everyone” at a bookstore on 23 June 2021 in Budapest, Hungary. (Getty/Janos Kumme)

In July, Hungary issued a fine of 250,000 forints (£599) to another publisher of an LGBT+ themed children’s book for failing to warn parents about its queer content. The book follows two children, who both have same-sex parents.

Last month, Boldizsar Nagy, a gay editor of children’s books and who worked on Wonderland Is For Everyone, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that he planned to flee the country after receiving homophobic death threats.

“I fear a little bit and that is why [myself and my partner] plan to leave the country,” he said. “This is my life, but because things are getting very insecure here, I feel I should do this from another country.”

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