Hungary: Gender discrimination concealed under conservative family values

The United Nations Working Group on discrimination against women today called on the Government of Hungary "not to disguise gender discrimination under an ideology of conservative family values," and urged it to address the issue of discrimination against women and their empowerment as a stand-alone goal.

"There can be no success in empowering Hungary's women in the political or the economic spheres without addressing the discriminatory stereotyping, the sexist rhetoric against women, LBTI and minority people, and the disproportionate burdening of women with almost sole responsibility for unpaid care work," said the expert group's Chairperson, Frances Raday, at the end of an official visit* to the country.

"Elimination of discrimination against women in all spheres of life must be addressed as a key priority by the Government, through education of its children to gender equality and human rights, through its national human rights institution, the courts and the media," Ms. Raday said. She also urged the Hungarian authorities to ensure the viability of NGOs dealing with women's transformative human rights.

The human rights expert noted that the 2011 Fundamental Law guarantees women's right to equality with men in Hungary and protection of the family as essential to national survival. While recognizing the family as the basic unit of society entitled to protection, she cautioned that "a conservative form of family, should not be put in an uneven balance with women's political, economic and social rights and with their empowerment."

The expert emphasised that "the implementation of women's human rights and the empowerment of women, in all spheres of life, is essential for the welfare of families."

Ms. Raday stressed that the implementation of the anti-discrimination provisions in the law has been insufficient to eliminate gender discrimination in practice. Hungary, she noted, ranks 44 on the UN Human Development Index, out of 188 countries, but it lags behind on the Gender Gap Index, ranking 99 out of 145 countries.

"Women are significantly disempowered in Hungary's political life with an extremely low representation in Parliament, at 10% of MPs, and a total absence from the Cabinet," she said. "The underlying factors for this situation, namely the pervasive and flagrant stereotyping of women, including by some political leaders, as unsuited to political power and the insistence on a woman's role as primarily wife and mother, are extremely alarming."

The Working Group's Chairperson also warned that there has been a shift to conservative family values in education. The new school books contain numerous gender stereotypes, depicting women almost exclusively as wives and mothers and, in some cases, demeaning mothers as less intelligent than fathers.

The expert recognised that the Government has introduced measures to ease the integration of work and family. However, together with its recognition of the economic need for women to go out and work, it has based its policy "on the idealisation of women's role as stay at home mothers of ideally three children." She explained, "This creates an irreconcilable dilemma for women."

Ms. Raday called for further investment in the education of Roma girls, who are subject to intense multiple discrimination in every aspect of their lives, and for special measures to integrate them into regular jobs, noting professional and entrepreneurship success of Roma women who were given an opportunity.

"I was extremely concerned to learn that unemployed persons including women, who cannot afford to pay an insurance premium, no longer have insurance coverage for preventive health care," she said. "Since a high percentage of women are not employed, they are at risk of not being health insured and therefore their right to access basic preventative health care violated."

The expert also called for measures to be promptly adopted to respond to the urgent needs and preserve the rights of migrant women and girls at the Hungarian borders.

"The Working Group strongly encourages the Government to give full effect to the guarantee of equality for women and men in the Fundamental Law and to all aspects of its National Strategy for the Promotion of Gender Equality," the expert concluded.

During the official visit, which took place from 17 to 27 May, the Chairperson of the Working Group visited Budapest, Eger, Bicske and Pecs, where she met with Government officials at national and local levels, female Members of the Parliament from the governing and opposition parties, representatives of civil society organizations and of the UN system, as well as academic experts and individual women.

The conclusions and recommendations of this visit will be developed in a report that will be presented to the Human Rights Council in June 2017.

Source: United Nation Human Rights