Legislative Trends and New Developments

last updated January 13, 2010

Contributed by: Julia Spronz and Judit Herman, Hungarian National VAW Monitors

In Hungarian law, most of the crimes and offenses of violence against women are codified in the Penal Code. However, distinct categories of offenses directed against women (e.g. domestic violence as such, stalking, and sexual harassment as well as certain instances of trafficking) do not appear as sui generis crimes. Individual cases may be covered by several entries in the Penal Code, while some typical forms of violence against women remain completely unaddressed, making it impossible for victims to file charges and for law enforcement officials to have ‘a case’. Experience and research show, however, that in many cases even the existing laws are not enforced1. One of the reasons is that most offenses committed within the family are prosecuted on the basis of a private motion, and the safety of the victims is not guaranteed during the procedure.

In the same spirit, the Constitution of the Hungarian Republic contains only a general prohibition of discrimination of all kinds. The most recent Act CXXV of 2003 on Equal Treatment and Promotion of Equal Opportunity has a similar concept insofar as it does not treat women as a distinct group with specific needs, but speaks of them as among other marginalized groups, such as  ethnic minorities, the disabled, etc. This generalized approach that fails to acknowledge women’s special status and needs has received some criticism from NGOs dealing with this issue.

 

Domestic violence

Domestic violence per se is not codified in Hungarian law, although some components of the process and dynamics of battering relationships can be found in the Civil and Penal Codes. An important legislative development concerning domestic violence is Resolution of Parliament No. 45/2003 (IV. 16.) (English) which, among other things, resulted in a legislative process on the restraining order. After a two-year-long delay, in February 2006, the Hungarian Parliament approved the final draft, thus creating a restraining order applicable in cases where there is an ongoing criminal procedure. The law came into force on 1 July. (For more information on this see separate item in the What’s New section.) More about DV in Hungary.

The crimes associated with domestic violence which can be found in the Hungarian Penal Code are the following:

  • Homicide (Emberölés)
  • Homicide Committed with Diminished Responsibility (Eros felindulásban elkövetett emberölés)
  • Complicity in Suicide (Öngyilkosságban közremuködés)
  • Abortion (Magzatelhajtás)
  • Battery (Testi sértés)
  • Failure to Provide Care (Gondozás elmulasztása)
  • Constraint (Kényszerítés)
  • Violation of the Freedom of Conscience and Religion (A lelkiismereti és vallásszabadság megsértése)
  • Violation of Personal Freedom (Személyi szabadság megsértése)
  • Kidnapping (Emberrablás)
  • Trespassing (Magánlaksértés)
  • Violation of Privacy (Magántitok megsértése)
  • Defamation (Rágalmazás)
  • Slander (Becsületsértés)
  • Causing Danger on the Highways (Közúti veszélyeztetés) Section 186
  • Detailed description…

For the Instruction of the High Commissioner of the Hungarian National Police on the carrying out of tasks connected to the management of domestic violence and to the protection of the minors, translated and provided to the Advocates by the Hungarian Delegation, see the list of laws under the Regional Conference on Domestic Violence Legal Reform, held in Sofia, Bulgaria, on February 12-14, 2008.

 

Trafficking

Trafficking in women for the purpose of sexual exploitation is a serious problem in Hungary. While Hungary primarily serves as a transit country, it is also a country of origin and destination. Most victims are trafficked from Russia, Romania, Ukraine, Moldova and Bulgaria to and through Hungary to Western European countries, Japan, and the United States. Hungarian victims of trafficking are mostly from the eastern part of the country where unemployment is high.

Crimes associated with trafficking which can be found in the Hungarian Penal Code are the following:

  • Trafficking in Human Beings (Emberkereskedelem) Section 175/B
  • Pandering (Kerítés) Section 207
  • Promotion of Prostitution (Üzletszeru kéjelgés elosegítése) Section 205
  • Living on Earnings of Prostitution (Kitartottság) Section 206
  • Detailed description…

 

Sexual assault

Although sexual assault and sexual violence, in general, are largely codified by the Penal Code, latency and attrition are still a major problem. Apart from psychological factors typically characterizing such offenders, this is also due to the lack of awareness among professionals in legislation and law enforcement. As for the wording of the law, several criticisms have been voiced by NGOs on the grounds that sexual violations are, among others:

  1. improperly named in Hungarian law (e.g. 'blood contamination' for incest);
  2. ruled under the name of crimes against sexual morality;
  3. not taking into accunt the reality of victims of sexual violence (i.e., the definition of sexual violence should be based on the lack of consent rather than the sexual action of a perpetrator);
  4. the period of limitation is ruled according to general regulations, which results in the lack of prosecution after 8-10 years after the violence; and
  5. it is problematic in terms of ages of consent (young people over 14 are not protected from adults).
Although in the past few years certain changes have been introduced to the Criminal Code (such as the outlawing of 199.§ and 200.§ which set a higher age of consent for gay couples as compared with heterosexual couples), there is still much to accomplish.

The crimes associated with sexual assault which can be found in the Hungarian Penal Code are the following:

  • Rape (Eroszakos közösülés) Section 197
  • Assault Against Decency (Szemérem elleni eroszak) Section 198
  • Seduction (Megrontás) Section 201, Section 202
  • Incest (Vérfertozés) Section 203
  • Obscenity (Szeméremsértés) Section 208
  • Private Motion (Magánindítvány) Section 209
  • Detailed description…

 

Sexual harassment

There is no criminal codification in Hungarian law prohibiting sexual harassment as a distinct criminal act or offense. At the moment, this type of behavior is codified in one legal place only as a broad description of ‘harassment’ (Act of Non-Discrimination). This definition, however, is incomplete, since it fails to capture the quid pro quo type of workplace sexual harassment often experienced by women. As of spring 2006, the codification of ‘harassment’ as a misdemeanor has been delayed.

However, this type of behavior can in theory still be sanctioned either by the extended interpretation of the crime ‘slander’ or as a violation of the Civil Code’s general provision protecting the rights of the person. The Labor Code also contains some provisions that can serve as a basis for reference in cases of sexual harassment in the workplace. These sections are, inter alia, the prohibition of discrimination or proper conditions for safety and health at the workplace.

The crimes associated with sexual harassment which can be found in the Hungarian Penal Code are the following:

  • Act of Non-discrimination ‘harassment’
  • Slander Section 180 of Penal Code
  • Protection of Inherent Rights in the Civil Code, Section 75, 76, 78
  • Labor Code provisions about the workplace, Section 4
  • Prohibition on Discrimination and the Obligation of Priority, Section  5, 102, 103
  • Detailed description…

Documents cited:

Constitution of Hungary

General criticism from NGOs on the sexual chapter of the Hungarian Penal Code

Resolution of Parliament No. 45/2003. (IV. 16.) English version Hungarian version

Hungarian Penal Code (in Hungarian only)

Report of Julia Spronz and Judit Wirth on law implementation in cases of VAW English version Hungarian version

Sources:

1. Research of Krisztina Morvai on law implementation in cases of child abuse