Hungary Faces 'Worrying Course' on Women's and Refugee Rights, Expert Says
Advocates press the country to step up for equality.
Hungary is “backsliding” on women’s rights and refugee protections, according to the European Commission of Human Rights, the Associated Press reports.
Commissioner Dunja Mijatovic expressed concerns Monday over the country’s current laws and media restrictions after visiting last week and issuing a statement to the government calling for action to protect women, asylum seekers, and the press.
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Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s administration has been accused by activists of pushing several policies that violate human rights in Hungary. Mijatovic called on the administration to "reverse its worrying course'" on human rights, according to the AP.
I also urge the Hungarian authorities to refrain from using anti-migrant rhetoric and campaigns which fan xenophobic reactions among the population https://t.co/OS2wj8iTcU— Dunja Mijatovic (@Dunja_Mijatovic) February 11, 2019
Members of the Hungarian media admitted to manipulating the news in favor of Orbán’s anti-migrant focused campaign during his 2018 run for parliament, which he won. The same year, Hungary approved jailing people convicted of helping asylum-seekers, according to the AP. Then on Sunday, as part of his effort to keep immigrants out of Hungary, Orbán declared families with four or more children will be exempt from paying income tax for life. Women with three children or more will see other perks like financial assistance for car purchases under the plan.
“We want Hungarian children,” he explained, as the force behind the new nationalist agenda.
Hungary initially allowed immigrants into the country post-World War II to fill the labor shortage gaps due to low birth rates, but Orbán wants to introduce a new solution to the issue.
Critics argue the tax exemption policy pressures women to make decisions about their bodies for the country’s political gain, adding to the list of many gender inequalities that make it one of the worst countries in the EU for women. Hungary has a high poverty rate, 14.5%, which puts a strain on women of childbearing age to participate in the program to themselves, and their families.
Female politicians and activists have been at the forefront of Orbán opposition –– in December, they led protests against legislation passed by parliament also known as the “slave law,” allowing employers to demand overtime from workers and delay payment for three years.
The Hungarian government denounced Mijatovic’s request for action to defend human rights, labeling it a “political attack,” and said it doesn’t plan on loosening its migration policy anytime soon.
Mijatovic insists the government needs to loosen restrictions on human rights organizations, activists, and media who are critical of the government, stop detaining asylum seekers at border entry points, and tighten domestic violence laws.