Hungary: New Constitution Enshrines Discrimination

The new Hungarian constitution approved by parliament contains provisions that could lead to discrimination, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW). President Pál Schmitt should send the constitution back to Parliament to address these and other human rights issues, HRW said 19.4.11.
The proposed constitution was passed on April 18 by a vote of 262 to 44, with 1 abstention. It includes provisions that could lead to discrimination against women, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, and people with disabilities, HRW said.
"The ruling Fidesz members of Parliament pushed through a constitution that puts Hungary at odds with its obligation to uphold and respect human rights," said Amanda McRae, a Western Balkans researcher for HRW. "The president needs to use his authority to fix this fundamental document before it becomes law and enshrines discrimination."

In a letter to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on April 15, HRW raised concerns about provisions in the constitution that put the rights of people with disabilities, women, and LGBT people at risk.
HRW is also concerned that civil society and opposition groups in Hungary were largely excluded from the process of drafting and reviewing the constitution. Numerous groups in and outside of Hungary called for essential changes and more time to debate and review the document, but the constitution, which was introduced for public debate in mid-March, passed the Parliament with few changes only a month later.

The adoption of this new constitution comes in the midst of a number of other human rights concerns in Hungary. In recent months, a new law went into effect that restricts media freedom; vigilante groups have attacked and held demonstrations against Roma, with little government condemnation of such actions; and concerns have been raised about the treatment of asylum seekers and other migrants in Hungary, including those who are pushed back to Ukraine from the Hungarian border and face abuse in Ukrainian detention.

Although civil society and opposition groups have questioned the need for a new constitution, members of the ruling party Fidesz, which currently holds a two-thirds majority in the Parliament, have said that a new constitution is necessary to finish the transition from communism to democracy. The current Hungarian constitution dates from 1949 but was significantly amended in 1989 following the collapse of communism in Hungary.

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