Budapest: Report of the Alternative Conference – May 2012

Posted on 2012/05/22 by


During the 8th European Conference of Feminist Research in Budapest, the Radical Queer Affinity Collective promoted the networking between researchers, local activists and the queer feminist international community. Together with activists such as Labrisz, NGO for lesbian visibility, Nane, NGO to fight men’s violence against women, Patent, NGO against patriarchy, Transvanilla, transgender organization and Angéla Kóczé, Roma people rights activist, we organized an “alternative conference”: a Forum (a Solidarity Forum), a sit-in with the percussionists Rhythm of Resistance, along with a Puszi Pussy Party, raising funds for the KLIT project, queer feminist sexy shop and library in Budapest.
One hundred researchers and activists joined the Solidary Forum on May 18th 2012, dozens of which gathered the day after to draft an important document on the Hungarian and European situation. The same document has been signed by 316 people and will be shortly sent to the Hungarian Parliament and to the national press not affiliate with the right wing party.
Here you find the document: A protest release about the Human Rights crisis in Hungary, by the participants to the conference “The Politics of Location Revisited: Gender@2012 8th European Feminist Research Conference”.

Background: report on the situation in Hungary from the Solidarity Forum.
Roma people in Hungary represents the biggest majority in the country, about 2% of the population according to the 2001 census. In the last years discriminatory policies and violence increased so much that Angéla Kóczé, Roma activist, defined the population’s living conditions as a “modern slavery”. In particular, in a situation where unemployment and poverty are considered as personal failure and a shame, the new unemployment law goes to the detriment of many rural communities, that end up working in the lands belonging to the main political party, i.e. Fidesz, with the minimum salary and without their own hygienic – sanitary conditions, food or water. They use to call it “public work”, to which “unemployed” are obliged (up to 80% in some isolated Roma villages), otherwise they would lose the social protection for 3 years.
The new law on education reduces the mandatory education to 16 years. The consequences affect once again the Roma community, that faces a more serious early school leaving, bringing to even lower chances to have access to qualified jobs. This creates a vicious circle between unemployment and different kind of undeclared employment, such as trafficking for prostitution.
The new cases of violence go from the well known murder between 2006 and 2008 (6 victims), the attacks against Gyöngyöspata from a neo-Nazi paramilitary group in 2011, up to everyday threats and assaults.
Europe doesn’t help: on the other hand, the whole Europe is nowadays pursuing racist and discriminatory policies against Roma people, deported from France, controlled and isolated in camps.

Transvanilla is a transsexual association that tries to enter the group of NGOs fighting for homosexuals’ rights, that usually pretend to be LGBTQ, that are funded to “create a transsexual community” already existing and then turn out to be structures lead by white, gay men, belonging to the high – intermediate class. So transphobia turns out to be widespread not only in the streets and at work, but also in the same queer community. There is quite no visibility for transsexuals in Hungary, even if the movement was founded in 2007 thanks to people spreading the word and internet networks. Transvanilla is an “umbrella organization”, trying to spread information about intersexuality, a gender nowadays unknown, an hidden and unintelligible phenomenon at local level.
Tina, an activist, told the Forum about the weird law process undergone by some transsexual people. Up 2001, there wasn’t any legislation available, since a law made it easier to change data on documents, not taking into account several, necessary, social security measures. All the documents and actions needed for surgeries, not refunded, the dysphoria diagnosis, the surgery and then the hormone therapy. Only those people who have enough money at their disposal can afford a surgery abroad, due to the lack of resources, also in hospitals, and the insufficient quality of operations. Hormone therapy black market also relies on the lack of accessibility to legal treatments. A request for better regulations is not included in the ones submitted by the transsexuals movements, since they fear to get an even worst regulation compared to the existing one.
Gabor, from the Patent association, underlined as the LGBTQI community is nowadays targeted by reforms and repressive policies. The first years after the 2000 represented a “progressive” era for civil rights: the legal age – since then regulated – for homosexual sex has been abolished; access to the army was granted, minority protection policies against discrimination at work were promoted. Up to 2009, when civil partnership has been recognized for homosexual couples.
At the same time, since 2006 the Hungarian far right wing has been joining each Pride, aiming at attacking the LGBTQI community with stones and paper bombs. In 2009 police strengthened the protection measures on the occasion of the Pride, through high fences that, on the one hand, avoid the direct contact with neo-Nazi but, on the other hand make the Pride invisible. Further obstacles to the parade are, every year, missing authorizations, that force the organizers to bring the case to the court for the right to demonstrate to be respected. In 2010, neo-Nazis attacked a crowded gay bar and a sauna with paper bombs: considered as “vandalism”, the attempted murder has not been recognized as a charge.
Nowadays the 2012 Pride has been banned (here the video of the demonstration) and then confirmed. It seems, anyway, that the Fidesz party is trying to let a measure be approved before June (the Parade is scheduled on July 8th 2012) in order to “legally” ban the Pride. The new constitution, into force since January 1st 2012, bans the homosexual marriages, in contrast with the civil partnerships law, establishing the union “between a man and a woman”. Therefore we unfortunately expect an amendment to the law on civil partnerships.

Judit deals with the rights of those women, victims of male violence. The 1994 establish NGO Nane, specialized in domestic abuse cases or violence from the partner. Thanks to the networking with other associations and bodies, the organization fights against women trafficking, sexual and child abuses. NGOs approach is based on human rights and sexual diversity.
Every year there are about 100 feminicides, along with children killed by family members.

The legal situation about male violence against women is terrible: the law on rape does not reflect women’s experience, describing it as “excessive violence”, not involving, therefore, consent. Those women, victims of rape, have to demonstrate that they resisted, that they fought, in order to be recognized as victim. Compared to domestic abuse, the legal system doesn’t recognize its complexity and seriousness, not taking into account stalking, as well as psychological and economic violence, etc. We haven’t at our disposal any legislation on reproduction rights, often targeting women in violent heterosexual relationships. Sexual harassments haven’t any legal recognition. Protective orders could take up to 6 months to be issued by the tribunal and no legislation as well deals with multiple discriminations or connections among discriminations, hampering the recognition, for example, of Roma women’s’ condition, victims of violence because they’re Roma.

A legislation about women would be necessary and important as well, in particular in a country such as Hungary, well known trafficking cross point between eastern and western Europe. The cases brought to the courts are, only, 3 or 4 per year.
As far as the women’s issue is concerned, we need to highlight the attack against the law on the abortion, legal and available nowadays. The new constitution protects the embryo since the very first moment, jeopardizing the law’s constitutionality. The title of the law on abortion includes the word “protection” in its title and we don’t know how far the government can go in the use of this word, in order to hamper the liberty. Meanwhile, anti abortion campaigns spread around TVs and public spaces, in a country where catholic religion gains more and more power thanks to reforms and funding.

The RQAC concludes the forum talking about the experiences of our fellow activists in the transnational feminist and queer fight in Hungary. The group has been established in 2011 by fellow women activists from different backgrounds. Nowadays, the projects launched are: Zine Q?, issued every six months, including experiences, stories and article on key issues for the feminist and queer fight; the “Coming Out Monologues”, a theatre show inspired by 12 stories of queer fellow activists, KLIT the first feminist bookshop / sex store in Budapest, to be opened in September. Even before creating the group, the activists used to work together, on different occasions against homonationalism and homonormativity: in 2011 indeed, they defended three transgender Roma girls, who were not allowed to enter the Alter Ego (a gay bar) on the occasion of a Pride party! Not even Pride’s organizers – after several meetings – admitted that that was a sign of racism, considering it as “classist”.

The principles on which the group is based are listed in a declaration.
The main message (and activity) of the group on the occasion of the Forum and generally speaking in the organization of events other than the conference is to “create a network” and the “visibility”.
Hungary is facing a dark age in its history: with organized groups of neo-Nazi going around the city, activism is considered dangerous or even simply as a steady attack. This is the experience of those who distribute leaflets, who hang posters, who are victims of comments, shouts, insults whatever they do.

The interconnection between sexism and xenophobia is then “highlighted” by the way the press has been presenting events such as protests and pickets up to now: “foreign chicks”, for example, is how they describe women and fellow activists gathered in front of the tribunal, to show solidarity with a woman who dared to denounce her violent partner.
So the main message and the meaning of the events organized in May in Budapest is the importance of the fight against isolation resulting from fear, against a vicious circle that weakens organizers as well as activists, making them more vulnerable. The closure of cultural centers in the last years, the steady threat, the instability of public spaces as well as the weekly marches of neo-Nazi, just in front of everyone, these things all should urge us to communicate, be visible and unite. We need to work together, in a network.

Barbara Mazzotti (author)

Hwa Yi Xing (notes)
Maria Elena Belli (translation)