Hungary’s anti-gay law sees under-18s banned from World Press Photo exhibition over LGBTQ+ images

A person holds up a sign of Hungary's leader Viktor Orbán holding a rainbow scarf during an LGBTQ+ protest

Under-18s were barred from attending the World Press Photo exhibition in Budapest, Hungary, because some images contained LGBTQ+ people.

The annual exhibition, which showcases “the best and most important photojournalism and documentary photography of the [past] year”, was held at the Hungarian National Museum between 22 September and 5 November. 

Minors were banned because the display included a set of images by Filipino photojournalist Hannah Reyes Morales. 

Her five photographs, entitled Home for the Golden Gays, depict a community of older LGBTQ+ people from the Philippines, who have lived together for decades and care for one another as they grow older, staging shows and pageants to make ends meet. 

In response to the photographs, Hungarian politician, Dóra Dúró, a member of the right-wing nationalist political party Jobbik, filed a complaint with the cultural ministry, and the images were found to violate the 2021 Child Protection Act, which criminalises the discussion of LGBTQ+ people in schools and in the media.

Joumana El Zein Khoury, the executive director of World Press Photo, expressed shock and concern that youngsters were not allowed to see the “so positive, so inclusive” series of photographs.

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“The fact that there is limited access for a certain type of audience is something that shocked us terribly,” she said. “It’s mind-boggling that it’s this specific image, this specific story, and it’s mind-boggling that it’s happening in Europe.”

Award-winning photographer Tamas Revesz, who has organised Hungary’s exhibitions for more than 30 years and was previously a World Press Photo jury member, said images of the war in Ukraine are “a thousand times more serious and shocking” than the LGBTQ+ pictures.

Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orbán, who has led an anti-LGBTQ+ regime, wears a white shirt, orange tie and blue jacket as he stares somewhere off camera
Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán. (Getty)

Hungary’s right-wing government, led by prime minister Viktor Orbán, has been cracking down on the LGBTQ+ community in the country for the past few years.

In 2020, politicians voted to end the legal recognition of trans people and changed its definition of gender to mean only “biological sex based on primary sex characteristic and chromosomes”, making it impossible for people to legally transition.

Following this, the nation introduced the Child Protection Act, and in September president Katalin Novák used her platform at the UN General Assembly to attack “anti-family” rhetoric.