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Orbán’s Fidesz party is undermining gender equality in Hungary

“Women should stay at home as homemakers while men go to work and provide for their families”. That is part of the archaic worldview that self-proclaimed “conservatives” and members of the far-right, such as Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, like to promote. They are outright opponents of feminism and gender equality and often argue that motherhood should be a woman’s main pursuit in life.

In support of the Hungarian government’s narrative that Hungarians need to have more children to reverse the birthrate decline so that the “country doesn’t need immigrants”, the government implemented several “family-friendly policies”. For example, women who bear four children or more will never have to pay income tax again. Furthermore, the more children a family has, the less income tax they will have to pay. With benefits such as these, they seek to incentivise women to have more children, even if it comes at costs to their personal life and career.

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Though, the government’s strong “support” for families is nothing new. Shortly after Orbán’s electoral victory in 2010, the government rewrote the constitution, declaring families “as the basis of the survival of the nation” and hence dictating that families must be supported. Yet, it must be noted that Orbán only talks about  “traditional” families, as he likes to call them. Considering the Hungarian government’s repeated attacks on the LGBTQ+ community over the years, Orbán made it clear that he defines families as a union where “the father is a man and the mother a woman” – as he also declared in his speech at CPAC in August 2022.

A sexist argument

Recently, Orbán’s Hungary and the dystopian reality his government seeks to build there made the international headlines once again – this time because parliament’s economic watchdog, which is close to the government, released a report, arguing that “education is becoming too feminine”, and that this would endanger the country’s economy. 

As also claimed in the report, “an increase in female graduates could make women less likely to marry and have children.” 

While this may be factually correct, the way it is framed, it is a purely sexist argument: it encourages the notion that women should be pushed out of the workplace and back into the household. And it discourages women to seek education by portraying the ancient view that staying at home and taking care of kids is highly desirable and exemplary. 

The report then further argues that the Hungarian educational system favours “feminine traits” such as “emotional and social maturity”, which would considerably weaken sexual equality. Moreover, if masculine traits, such as technical skills, risk-taking and entrepreneurship, are not valued enough, Hungary’s economic success would be “put at risk”. 

These claims are just as problematic as they promulgate a highly gendered view, where one specific skill set and certain characteristics can only be delivered by males and others only by females. This assertion is also not timely in any way, shape, or form, and it disregards the progress civilisation has made in breaking up gender stereotypes and norms. 

Unsurprisingly, the Hungarian government’s staunch support for reestablishing outdated views on marriage, gender norms and stereotypes also perfectly fits well with its fight against homo- and transsexuality and its anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. Their dissemination of these gendered narratives, their firm disregard for gender inequality, as well as their unwillingness to acknowledge women’s rights and fight for equality, speak volumes. It also perfectly represents the sexist and anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments that they continuously propagate and stand for.  

Perhaps most outrageous about this report and the Fidesz government is the strong support for pushing women back into the kitchen and managing households instead of having a career is that these views are still propagated in the 21st century. 

And yet, Hungary is not the only developed nation to hold such views. Another prominent right-wing defender of such beliefs is the American GOP, which time and again tries to deprive women of their rights. Just recently, the majority-conservative Supreme Court overruled the landmark ruling Roe v. Wade, which gave women the right to have an abortion and gave them agency in their own lives. 

The method and objective here are the same as in Hungary and other countries ruled by far-right governments: take away women’s rights, hamper their chance of having an education and career, and force them to follow the archaic idea that women should only bear children and be keepers of a household. A worldview that is not only outdated but also eliminates the progress that we have made in the fight for women’s equality – an ongoing fight for rights which are still not equally enforced and protected around the world due to governments and parties such as Fidesz in Hungary, and the Republican Party in the United States. 

Sources

Barnes, T. (2019): Hungary is offering women £30,000 to have more babies ‘so country doesn’t need immigrants’, The Independent, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/hungary-mothers-tax-breaks-income-children-immigration-viktor-orban-birth-rate-a8773221.html

BBC (2022): Hungarians warning education becoming ‘too feminine’- report, BCC, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-62686894

European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (2022): The Fundamental Law of Hungary, FRA, https://fra.europa.eu/en/law-reference/fundamental-law-hungary-7

Walker, S. (2019): Viktor Orbán: no tax for Hungarian women with four or more children, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/feb/10/viktor-orban-no-tax-for-hungarian-women-with-four-or-more-children

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