Ahead of this weekend’s Budapest Pride, a Hungarian governmental authority has imposed a sizable fine upon the country’s second-largest bookstore chain for stocking the LGBTQ+ book Heartstopper without closed packing.
In the crackdown on LGBTQ+ rights that follows the controversial 2021 ‘child protection’ law, bookseller Líra Könyv was fined 12m forints (€32,000) for classifying the graphic novel in the youth literature section and for failing to place it in sealed packaging.
According to the law introduced by Viktor Orbán’s right-wing government, it is considered an offence to display LGBTQ+ content to minors in any media, including television, films, advertisements and literature. The legislation also prohibits the use of LGBTQ+ material in schools and forbids the public display of products that depict or promote transgender identities.
The prohibitions on the sale of books and educational material are part of a broader statute which includes increased penalties for paedophilia and the creation of a searchable database of sex offenders.
Orbán’s government asserts that the legislation is necessary to protect children. However, many critics believe that the regulations on books are an attempt to stigmatise and control Hungary’s LGBTQ+ community.
In a statement made to the Hungarian news agency MTI, the Budapest Metropolitan Government Office, which issued the book fine, said they had conducted an investigation into Líra Könyv.
The office said, “The investigation found that the books in question depicted homosexuality, but they were nevertheless placed in the category of children’s books and youth literature, and were not distributed in closed packaging.”
It also said it will “always take strict action against companies that do not comply with the law”.
Earlier this week, it was also revealed that Libri, the country’s largest bookseller and publisher, had begun wrapping LGBTQ+ books in plastic to prevent customers from opening them in stores.
The move, which was revealed just days before Budapest Pride, came about following a takeover of the chain by a private foundation alleged to have close ties to Prime Minister Orbán.
This morning, July 14, in support of Budapest Pride, 38 embassies and more than 10 other cultural institutions issued a joint statement urging the Hungarian government to retract the regressive anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.
The statement said that the signatories supported, “members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI+) community in Hungary and their rights to equality and non-discrimination.”
It also said they feared the legislation and political rhetoric in Hungary were “in tension with principles of non-discrimination, international human rights law and human dignity,” and they called on the government to “eliminate laws and policies that discriminate against them” which stigmatises LGBTQ+ people.
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