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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban speaks during a session of the Parliament in Budapest, Hungary, March 30, 2020.
Zoltan Mathe/MTI/AP
Girls & Women

Hungary Backs Out of International Treaty That Aims to Stop Violence Against Women


Why Global Citizens Should Care
Gender-based violence affects 1 in 3 women worldwide. Ending violence against girls and women is key to achieving Global Goal 5 — gender equality. Take action in support of this and other issues here

Hungary has rejected signing an international treaty intended to stop violence against women.

Hungarian parliament refused to ratify the Istanbul Convention on Tuesday. Led by the Council of Europe and first introduced in 2011, the convention is the first international binding agreement to prevent gender-based violence like female genital mutilation and marital rape.  

Human rights advocates are condemning the country’s decision. 

"The Istanbul Convention is the fundamental Council of Europe mechanism, which standardizes and makes concrete state obligations in terms of domestic violence," Daniel Balson, Europe and Central Asia director for advocacy at Amnesty International, told Global Citizen.

Hungary joined the convention with the majority of EU member states in 2014, but the Budapest Assembly prevented ratification. The Hungarian government upheld a declaration that said the convention promoted "destructive gender ideologies" and "illegal immigration," according to the Guardian.

Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party said that the country agrees with the treaty, but Hungarian law already protects against gender-based violence. The party also objected to uses of the word "gender" in the treaty and the commitment to accept refugees persecuted over sexual orientation or gender.

"This is part of this roiling pattern in order to set the overall tone of the country, the public discourse against women's rights," Balson said. "Fundamentally, their objections are largely based on simply, easily verifiable lies about the convention — that it somehow structures gender relationships or the format of the family. None of this [is] true. It simply moves to protect women and girls from domestic violence."

Female politicians protested with signs of sexist quotes male politicians made during the vote against ratification on Tuesday, according to Business Insider.

Lorinc Nacsa, a member of the Christian Democrats, said the treaty would make the immigration process faster or easier, according to the Guardian.

Hungary’s decision puts women especially at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic, Balson said. Domestic violence incidents have doubled in the country since the start of the crisis, according to the organization.

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The Hungarian government announced on Monday that police can order perpetrators of gender-based violence to stay away from victims and provide them with alternative housing. Amnesty International warns the provision does not offer much help for women whose violence cases have yet to be investigated.

Hungary is one of the European countries with the least female representation in government and has come under scrutiny for how it addresses gender issues. When Prime Minister Viktor Orban first stepped into office, he cut down the country’s gender equality unit. Orban also banned gender studies from universities in 2018 and the government tried to pass a law to end the legal recognition of transgender people in April. 

"The Orban government's decision not to sign the convention dovetails closely with the government's willingness to marshal hostility towards gender equality, and use this question of the role of women and girls in society for political gains and for political purpose," Balson said.

Amnesty International is urging Hungary to revoke this declaration and ratify the Istanbul Convention, and take all actions necessary to protect women and girls against violence.