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BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party has proposed legislation that bans disseminating what it calls content promoting gender change or homosexuality in schools, a move which activists said resembled Russia’s 2013 “gay propaganda” law.

Nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government, which faces elections in early 2022 and promotes a strongly Christian-conservative agenda, has moved further against the LGBT+ community since last year. Poland’s ruling PiS party, Fidesz’s main European Union ally, has taken a similar stance for years.

The latest amendment, submitted to parliament on Thursday by Fidesz lawmakers to a bill that punishes paedophilia, says youngsters under 18 cannot be shown pornographic content, or any content that encourages gender change or homosexuality. This also applies to advertisements, the bill says. It also proposes setting up a list of organisations allowed to hold sex education sessions in schools.

“The new legislation proposed by Fidesz would seriously curb freedom of speech and children’s rights,” the Hatter rights group said in a statement, likening the bill to Russia’s gay propaganda law.

“This move endangers mental health of LGBTQI youngsters and prevents them getting access to information … and affirmative support.”

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Hatter and six other rights groups called on Fidesz to withdraw the bill, which could go to vote next week.

In Russia, a 2013 law bans disseminating “propaganda on non-traditional sexual relations” among young Russians.

Gay marriage is not recognised in Hungary and only heterosexual couples can legally adopt children.

Orban’s government, which stepped up anti-LGBT rhetoric as the coronavirus crisis hit the economy, has redefined marriage as the union between one man and one woman in the constitution, and limited gay adoption.

It also outlawed legal status for all transgender people, including those who had already made the switch – retroactive legislation that the constitutional court has deemed unconstitutional.

Last year a children’s book, “Wonderland Is For Everyone”, that aimed to help youngsters learn to accept minorities and fight social ostracism, caused a stir in Hungarian politics, with the government labelling it “homosexual propaganda” that should be banned from schools.

Orban has scored three successive landslides since 2010, but opposition parties have united against Fidesz for the first time and caught up with it in opinion polls.

On Thursday Orban flagged a hike in the minimum wage and reaffirmed plans for a big tax refund to families in 2022, setting the stage for his reelection campaign.

(Writing by Krisztina Than; Editing by Giles Elgood)

Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.

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