Hungary is a country close to my heart. I have spent a fair bit of time there investigating violence against women and girls, including trafficking into the sex trade, baby farming and adoption scams. I have become friends with feminist campaigners there, as well as others on the progressive Left. For some years now, many small and barely funded NGOs have been stripped of the right to organise — charities that help victims of sexual assault, gypsies and travellers, asylum seekers and minorities, all of whom suffer grotesque human rights violations.
And things are about to get a whole lot worse for a lot of people as Viktor Orban plans a further clampdown on human rights.
Not that you’d know it from reading the Pink News.
It does not even contain a nod to the abuse, violence and discrimination faced by lesbians and gay men under Orban. It barely mentions that this is part of a wider pattern that goes far beyond discrimination towards transgender people.
I recall travelling across Hungary to the Romanian border during the 2018 election and seeing horrific posters depicting migrants and asylum seekers as vermin. It was Orban’s election ticket. There is now a suggestion that borders will be closed to keep out foreigners.
Orban and his merry men are virulently anti-lesbian and gay rights, and also deeply misogynistic. Women are routinely and blatantly blamed when they are sexually assaulted, being told by police, ‘You can do something about it’ — in other words, prevent it happening.
But, in the ever-increasingly narcissistic narrative about trans people having to wait for ‘life-saving’ transgender surgery because of the strain on medical services under Covid-19, this becomes, according to the translobby’s favourite newspaper, all about trans — to the exclusion of other oppressed and marginalised groups.
The Bill is proposing an indefinite state of emergency under which the government will suspend whichever laws it chooses and impose up to five years of imprisonment for those media refusing to be part of the government propaganda machine. It is preparing to wriggle out of the European Convention on Human Rights obligations, which will put all vulnerable citizens at risk of abuse and discrimination.
Right now, Hungary is an EU country that is becoming a totalitarian regime. I am hoping that all progressives unite against Orban and his quest for totalitarianism — and look at the wider picture. This obsessive, disproportionate focus on the rights of transgender people to self-identify gets much more traction in the press than does the global pandemic of violence against lesbians.
It is time that the transgender rights lobby recognises that there are many other groups at risk under totalitarian regimes, and that those to blame are the fascists, not the feminists.