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Hungary votes to end legal recognition of trans people

Activists say new law will increase discrimination, especially as Hungarians must often display their ID cards

Hungary’s parliament has voted to end legal recognition for trans people, passing a bill that rights activists say pushes the country “back towards the dark ages”.

The new law defines gender as based on chromosomes at birth, meaning previous provisions whereby trans people could alter their gender and name on official documents will no longer be available.

The votes of rightwing prime minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party pushed the legislation through by 134 to 56, with four abstentions. It is likely to be signed into law by the president, János Áder, a close ally of Orbán.

Although Orbán passed a bill during the coronavirus pandemic to allow him to rule indefinitely by decree, the transgender bill was part of a larger package of legislation that went through parliament in the normal way. It was proposed by the deputy prime minister on 31 March, International Transgender Day of Visibility, and amendments submitted by opposition parties were discarded one by one on Tuesday.

The law has been roundly condemned both at home and abroad. Bernadett Szél, an opposition MP who spoke out strongly against the bill in parliament, described it as evil.

Trans people and advocates say the bill will lead to increased discrimination against the community, especially as Hungarian daily life requires people to show their identity cards frequently. It also means that trans people will not be able to choose a name that fits with their identified gender, as Hungarian law requires first names to be chosen from a list kept by the country’s Academy of Sciences, which is sorted according to gender.

“It basically means coming out as trans to complete strangers, all the time,” Ivett Ördög, a 39-year-old trans woman living in Budapest, told the Guardian last month.

The Háttér Society, a Hungarian trans rights group, said on Tuesday that the law violated international human rights norms and went against the case law of the European court of human rights, as well as previous rulings of the Hungarian constitutional court.

Since 2017, legal gender changes in the country have effectively been frozen, and now the backlog of people waiting for the legal procedure will all be rejected, along with any new applicants. Because the new category will list “sex at birth”, there are also fears it could be used to target trans people who have already legally changed their gender.

Krisztina Tamás-Sáróy of Amnesty International said: “This decision pushes Hungary back towards the dark ages and tramples the rights of transgender and intersex people. It will not only expose them to further discrimination but will also deepen an already intolerant and hostile environment faced by the LGBTI community.”

Orbán’s government has increasingly used anti-LGBT rhetoric as part of a perceived culture war, and has made “traditional family values” a mainstay of many of its policies. The speaker of parliament, an Orbán ally, last year compared gay couples that adopt to paedophiles.


Baghdad demands apology after EU embassies raise 'LGBTQ rainbow flag' in Iraqi capital

An LGBTQ flag that was raised by western diplomats in Iraq's capital Baghdad prompted a swift backlash online, forcing the missions to U-turn on the move.

The embassies of Canada, the UK and the EU in Iraq have deleted a controversial tweet that showed the missions raising a "LGBTQ banner" alongside the Iraqi flag in the capital Baghdad.

The rainbow flag was raised in Baghdad on Sunday to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, prompting both praise and a severe backlash from Iraqis online.

"Together with @CanadainIraq and @UKinIraq, today in Baghdad we join EU Delegations worldwide in raising the rainbow flag to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia and highlight the rights of Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender people," the European Union Delegation to the Republic of Iraq said in a tweet on Sunday, which was also translated into Arabic.

While some received the gesture positively, others - including leading Iraqi politicians and figures - unleashed a barrage of criticism at the European Union Delegation, which spearheaded the move.

Iraq's foreign ministry issued a statement on Sunday to denounce the the raising of the flags, which it said was against "the noble morals of all divine religions".

"We remind all the missions operating in Iraq to adhere by the laws of the country, and to follow diplomatic norms," it said.

Deputy Speaker of Parliament Bashir Hadad, meanwhile, described the move as a "clear provocation to the feelings of the Iraqi people".

"We do not allow the hoisting of the homosexual flag on our land […] We have directed the foreign relations, religious affairs, and other relevant committees to take the necessary measures against this behaviour," he said in a statement.

"The [EU] mission must immediately lower the flag and apologise for their action which should not be repeated again," he added.

Influential Shia cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr's Sairoon bloc claimed the gesture was "unacceptable", coming during the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

"We refuse and condemn any behaviour that contradicts the culture and religion of the Iraq people. We ask the European mission in Iraq to lower the flag," read a Sairoon statement.

"We are in a blessed and holy month for all Muslims, and the foreign diplomatic missions in Iraq need to take into account the peculiarities of Muslim peoples," it added.

The cleric later issued a series of tweets on his official account, in which he took aim at the LGBTQ community saying they were "mentally ill and in need of recovery and guidance".

The raising of the flag was an "attack on all People of the Book, not just Muslims", he added, referring to Christians and Jews.

Despite the uproar from some conservative segments of Iraq's political establishment, other Twitter users praised the gesture.

"I hope that Iraq will someday be a tolerant place for all Orientations and genders , a very good step," one Twitter user said.

"Wow, there are people speaking on behalf of the Iraqi people as if they were asked personally asked. Leave people alone and learn to accept those that are different from you," another user said.

There is no direct legal provision in Iraq banning same-sex relations, but the law does criminalise extra-marital bonds.

LGBT activists say rights for their community are non-existent in the Iraq, where homosexuality, transgenderism, and cross dressing are highly taboo among Muslims and minority Christians alike.

Tags: democracy doesnt work that way, european union, hungary, important issues, iraq, lgbtq / gender & sexual minorities

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