Violence Against Women in Hungary
Hungary
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Population of women: 5,238,900/9,973,100
Life expectancy of women (at birth):  78
School life expectancy for women:  16
Women's adult literacy: 99%
Unemployment of women: 8.1%
Women engaged in economic activity: 43%

Source
: U.N. Statistics Division, Social Indicators, updated June 2011

 

 

Last Updated December 13, 2010; updates regarding Roma November 18, 2014

 

 

General Information

Hungary is a land-locked central and eastern European country situated between Ukraine, Romania, Croatia, Austria, and others. It is currently a democratic republic, comprised of the President as official head of state, the Prime Minister as head of government, and the Council of Ministers, and has been a market economy since 1990. The country has a 365 member unicameral parliament as its top legislative organ, which is responsible for electing the Prime Minister. Hungary’s electoral system conducts free and fair elections, which allow political parties to alternate in power at both the local and national levels. Its judicial system consists of a Supreme Court and a Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court has the power to check decisions made by the legislative and executive branches. From:  ”2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Hungary,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, U.S. Department of State, March 11, 2010; “Background Note: Hungary,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, U.S. Department of State, October 7, 2010; The World Factbook – Hungary,” United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Publications, August 3, 2010; Nations in Transit 2010– Hungary”, Freedom House, last visited December 7, 2010.

Gender Equality

At 52.5% of the total population, women comprise the majority of people living in Hungary. Attitudes toward women continue to be negative and conservative. According to a recent CEDAW Country Report, Hungarians tend to be conservative regarding gender roles. Women are perceived as primary caregivers who maintain the family unit and cater to the male head of the house. However, one of the most concerning changes in Hungarian media after the political transition in 1989 was the growth of the country’s pornography industry, and increasing distribution of such materials. Other media have capitalized on this change by introducing pornography into daily life in television programming. In addition, women are objectified in print advertising and media, often featured on large posters in sexually suggestive ways as a means of promoting a product. Some key initiatives were implemented in the middle of the decade to combat these images; however, there are no new data to determine the effects of these programs. From: Sixth Periodic Report of States Parties: Hungary to the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination, United Nations, (CEDAW/C/HUN/6), June 15, 2006.

In 2003, in accordance with Article 70/A of the Constitution of Hungary, Hungary’s Parliament adopted Act CXXVof 2003 on Equal Treatment and the Promotion of Equality of Opportunities. The Equal Treatment Act defines the obligors and beneficiaries of equal treatment, and what equal treatment means for the entire Hungarian legal system. Though it is a general law, one of its most important target groups is women. Additionally, the definition of discrimination is an integral part of the Act. From: Sixth Periodic Report of States Parties: Hungary to the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination, United Nations, (CEDAW/C/HUN/6), June 15, 2006.

The Constitution of Hungary contains several provisions prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender. Article 66 guarantees equality between women and men. Article 70(A) endeavors to implement equal rights for all by prohibiting discrimination on the basis of a number of grounds, including gender, and it also provides for strict punishment of discrimination. From: the Constitution of Hungary, August 20, 1949. The Parliamentary Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioner for Civil Rights (‘ombudsman’) are responsible for investigating or initiating the investigation of cases involving a breach of constitutional rights. Individuals may file an oral or written complaint alleging a violation of their constitutional rights or the threat of such violation, provided the complainant has exhausted all possible legal remedies or that no legal remedies exist. From: Parliamentary Commissioner for Civil Rights Website, last visited December 7, 2010.

The Equal Treatment Act has also established a public administration organization known as the Equal Treatment Authority (ETA). The ETA is responsible for ensuring that state bodies comply with the principles of equal treatment. The organization is invested with ten key powers, four of which are relevant to eliminating discrimination against women. The ETA may:

(1) order termination of the state constituting infringement,

(2) prohibit continuation of the behavior constituting infringement,

(3) publish its decision establishing the infringement, and

(4) impose a fine for discrimination.

From: Sixth Periodic Report of States Parties: Hungary to the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination, United Nations, (CEDAW/C/HUN/6), June 15, 2006.

In addition to Hungary’s national initiatives to realize equal rights, Hungary also has many international obligations regarding its commitment to implementing gender equality. Hungary joined the European Union and NATO in 2004. The country has also ratified the following international treaties: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1974); The International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (1974); the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1980), and acceded to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 2000.

 

Employment

Currently, Hungary has an 8.0% overall unemployment rate, with women’s unemployment being equal to that of men. From: “Social Indicators,” United Nations Statistics Division, June 2010. Roma experience unemployment at a rate four to five times higher than the general population. From: “Alternative report submitted to the UN CEDAW Committee for consideration in relation to the examination of the combined seventh and eighth periodic reports of Hungary,” Hungarian Women’s Lobby and the European Roma Rights Centre, January 2013.

In 2009, women earned 17% less than men for substantially similar work. The ETA recognized employer discrimination against women in eight of the 19 complaints it received in one year. In addition, at the time of the report, many women, particularly those that were pregnant or elderly, faced significant discrimination in the workplace. From: ”2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Hungary,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, U.S. Department of State, March 11, 2010.

 

Education

According to the 2006 CEDAW Country Report, the number of girls in primary and secondary schools increased over the last 15 years. There was, however, persistent gender segregation in the choice and types of vocational and secondary schools, which has repercussions for girls’ future earning potential. For example, girls tended to choose vocational schools in “light” industries and trade, while boys chose the more technical, “heavy” industries which yield higher wages. From: Sixth Periodic Report of States Parties: Hungary to the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination, United Nations, (CEDAW/C/HUN/6), June 15, 2006.

Female participation in tertiary education has increased significantly. The proportion of women that have received or are receiving higher degrees exceeds that of men. In 2006, women comprised 62% of all Hungarians in college, and also comprised 55% of those seeking post-graduate degrees. However, there still tend to be more men than women at the highest level of tertiary education (Ph. D), though the gap is narrowing. From: Sixth Periodic Report of States Parties: Hungary to the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination, United Nations, (CEDAW/C/HUN/6), June 15, 2006.

 

Government Representation

Women are still significantly underrepresented in Hungary’s government. In 2008, women comprised 36% of government officials, legislators, and managers. Additionally, women are underrepresented in parliament – in three of the four parties in Hungary, women represent 0-10% of all MPs. The Hungarian Socialist Party is the only party that has a well-established contingent of female parliamentary representatives. From: Sixth Periodic Report of States Parties: Hungary to the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination, United Nations, (CEDAW/C/HUN/6), June 15, 2006.

Women seem to be increasingly represented in the international sector of government. In the European Parliament, composed of EU-elected officials, women comprised 37% of the Hungarian delegation in 2006. Other post-communist states averaged only 23% female representation in their delegations to this body, and older EU member states had a 33% average. The number of female diplomats is also rising. One-third of Hungarians in permanent Foreign Service positions are women; women are also one-third of those carrying official diplomat status. From: Sixth Periodic Report of States Parties: Hungary to the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination, United Nations, (CEDAW/C/HUN/6), June 15, 2006.

 

The Status of Minority Women

Hungary recognizes 13 national and ethnic minorities within its borders. Of these, the Roma are the largest minority group at an estimated population of 600,000. Following Hungary’s transition to a market-based economy in 1990, a disproportionate number of Roma lost their jobs. They continue to face many challenges in Hungarian society, including but not limited to: high unemployment rates, lower life expectancy, discrimination, and lower levels of educational attainment. Roma unemployment rates exceed those of all other ethnic groups in the country, as a result of discriminatory employment practices still in place. From: Human Rights Council Fourth Session: Implementation of General Assembly Resolution 60/251 of March 15 2006, Report of the Independent Expert on Minority Issues: Mission to Hungary, (A/HRC/4/9/Add.2) January 4, 2007.  

Roma women are especially at a disadvantage in Hungarian society, and tend to bear the brunt of discriminatory practices in the public and private spheres due to a combination of racism and sexism. From: Human Rights Council Fourth Session: Implementation of General Assembly Resolution 60/251 of March 15 2006, Report of the Independent Expert on Minority Issues: Mission to Hungary, (A/HRC/4/9/Add.2) January 4, 2007.Surveys demonstrate that 35-45% of Roma women have not completed grammar school, a figure that is 10% higher than that for Roma men. This trend persists into higher levels of education as well. From: Sixth Periodic Report of States Parties: Hungary to the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination, United Nations, (CEDAW/C/HUN/6), June 15, 2006. Romani girls face verbal and physical abuse by classmates. Teachers rarely punish offenders, even when abuse is reported by parents. The combinations of poverty, patriarchal attitudes, and early marriage and childbearing all impact the number of years Romani girls remain in school. Exacerbating the problem is the practice of placing Romani children in special schools or classrooms for the mentally disabled even though they suffer no disability. The practice of segregation along ethnic lines has increased in recent years. Romani girls rarely go on to higher education. From: “Written Comments of the European Roma Rights Centre Concerning Hungary For Consideration by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women at its 39th Session.” July 2007.

Additionally, Roma families tend to live in worse conditions than do families in the majority population; many Roma households have no running water, electricity, or other basic services. Because Roma women are the primary homemakers and caretakers in most families, the lack of basic services places a large burden upon them to develop alternative coping mechanisms to keep their households functioning. From: Human Rights Council Fourth Session: Implementation of General Assembly Resolution 60/251 of March 15 2006, Report of the Independent Expert on Minority Issues: Mission to Hungary, (A/HRC/4/9/Add.2) January 4, 2007.

While both Roma women and men face discrimination in all aspects of life in Hungary, Roma women are at a distinct disadvantage in job skills. Only 5.8% of Romani women have vocational skills, compared to 17.5% of Romani men. From: Submission to UN CEDAW Committee to the General Recommendation on Girls’/Women’s Right to Education, European Roma Rights Centre, 7 July 2014.There is also evidence that Roma girls are segregated into special schools or special classrooms within schools where they receive a substandard education. From: Submissions to UN CEDAW Committee to the General Recommendations on Girls’/Women’s Right to Education.

 

Domestic Violence

According to the 2009 U.S. State Department Human Rights Report, Hungarian law “does not specifically prohibit domestic violence or spousal abuse.”  Instead, domestic violence is adjudicated under existing assault and battery crimes in the criminal code. Assault and battery charges carry a maximum of eight years in prison. In 2003, the Hungarian Parliament passed Resolution 45/2003 (IV. 23) OGY, legislation addressing the development of a national strategy to prevent and manage domestic violence. In 2007, three additional domestic violence-related laws and regulations were passed: Section 176/A of the Criminal Code was updated to include harassment and stalking; the Protocol for Crisis Management Centers was implemented; and a protocol [provide link] was created to guide the national police. From: The UN Secretary General’s Database on Violence Against Women, last visited December 7, 2010.

In June 2009, the Hungarian Parliament enacted the Restraining Act in Cases of Violence between Relatives. According to this law, police may issue a restraining order that is valid for three days, and the courts can issue longer-term restraining orders. The legislation has been criticized by women’s NGOs for failing to provide adequate protection for victims, and for failing to place sufficient emphasis on offender responsibility. Recent family violence research states that approximately 20% of Hungarian women have been victimized by domestic violence. Most domestic violence incidents went unreported, largely due to the stigma of fear and shame on the part of the victim. Prosecution was also difficult and rare due to societal trends of victim-blaming. From ”2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Hungary,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, U.S. Department of State, March 11, 2010.

To address the problem of domestic violence, in 2009 the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor created an internet site, oversaw 11 shelters for victims of domestic violence, and operated a 24-hour hotline. The ministry also opened four “halfway houses” around the country for victims and their families, capable of accommodating 16 families for up to five years. Despite all this, remedies available to victims of domestic violence remain scarce. From: ”2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Hungary,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State, March 11, 2010.

Gender based violence is an acute problem for Roma women, who are further victimized if they seek justice or help from the police. Widespread distrust of police due to police surveillance and harassment creates reluctance on the part of Roma women to seek help. From: “HUNGARY - Submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review,” 11th session of the UPR Working Group of the Human Rights Council, November 2010. Forty-two percent of Roman women who answered questions about violence indicated they experienced domestic violence currently or in the past. Only 20% of those responding involved the police in an abuse complaint, and the police responded effectively in only 1 out of 7 cases. From: “Written Comments of the European Roma Rights Centre Concerning Hungary For Consideration by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women at its 39th Session,” July 2007.

Sexual Assault

While rape (which legally includes spousal rape) is illegal in Hungary, it often goes unreported. Sexual assault is considered rape if the assault involves the use of force and/or threats, or if the perpetrator uses a woman’s incapacity as a manifestation of her will. From: ”2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Hungary,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, U.S. Department of State, March 11, 2010; and the Hungarian Criminal Code, Legislationline.org, last visited December 7, 2010. Penalties for rape range from two to eight years in prison, or up to 15 years in cases of aggravated rape. In 2009, the Hungarian Prosecutor’s Office brought charges of rape in 103 cases against 116 suspects, all of whom were tried and convicted. From: ”2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Hungary,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, U.S. Department of State, March 11, 2010

 

Trafficking in Women

According to the U.S. Department of State’s 2010 Trafficking Report, “Hungary is a source, transit, and destination country for trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation,” and also a source country for forced male and female labor. From: Trafficking in Persons Report 2010,” U.S. Department of State, June 14, 2010.  Women trafficked from Hungary are usually forced into prostitution in destinations that include the UK, the Netherlands, Denmark, Austria, Germany, Spain, Italy, Ireland, Greece, Switzerland, and the USA. Hungarian women are also trafficked internally, with women from the eastern regions forced into prostitution in the capital or along Hungary’s border with Austria. The US Department of State has also reported that Western European men travel to Hungary specifically for sex tourism, which can involve trafficking victims. The country also serves as a transit hub for trafficking. Ukrainian and Romanian women in particular are trafficked through Hungary to destination countries. Victims being transported through Hungary can be subject to further abuses prior to reaching their final destination. From: Trafficking in Persons Report 2010,” U.S. Department of State, June 14, 2010.

Although Roma constitute only about 7% of the general population of Hungary, a study conducted by the ERRC found that approximately 40% of trafficking victims are Roma. From: “Alternative report submitted to the UN CEDAW Committee for consideration in relation to the examination of the combined seventh and eighth periodic reports of Hungary”, European Roma Rights Centre, January 2013. Roma women that grew up in orphanages are especially vulnerable to being trafficked. While Roma children make up 13% of the child population of Hungary, children in state children’s homes who are at least half Roma, constitute 58% of the population of those homes. From: “HUNGARY - Submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review,” 11th session of the UPR Working Group of the Human Rights Council, November 2010. 

According to the U.S. Department of State’s 2010 Trafficking Report, Hungary is not in compliance with the minimum standards of the elimination of trafficking, but it has been making efforts to meet these standards. In 2009, the Hungarian government increased the penalties for trafficking children under the age of 12 by amending Paragraph 175/b of the criminal code to enforce imprisonment ranging from sentences of one year to life. That year there was also an increase in the number of convictions and prison sentences for traffickers; however, none of these offenders received convictions for labor trafficking. From: Trafficking in Persons Report 2010,” U.S. Department of State, June 14, 2010. For detailed information on the changes to 175/b see the report.

Hungary’s government has demonstrated limited and inconsistent progress in victim assistance initiatives. In 2009, the government guaranteed funding to an NGO-run shelter from March 2010-June 2011. The shelter did not, however, assist any victims during the reporting period as of June 14th, 2010; additionally, the shelter is only capable of aiding Hungarian victims, effectively excluding foreign-born trafficking victims from receiving assistance. Finally, government-administered hotlines referred only nine victims to NGOs for support in 2009, a stark decrease from 50 referrals in 2008. The government was unable to identify any specific services victims received during the 2009 reporting period. From: Trafficking in Persons Report 2010,” U.S. Department of State, June 14, 2010.

The government has encouraged trafficking victims to assist in trafficking investigations, with some success. Foreign victims were granted a 30-day ‘reflection period’ to choose between aiding investigations or being repatriated; the disparity in victim treatment has been criticized by NGOs. From: Trafficking in Persons Report 2010,” U.S. Department of State, June 14, 2010.

Hungary made few significant efforts to prevent trafficking in 2009. The government did not sponsor any anti-trafficking campaigns targeting the general public or potential trafficking victims. It did, however, allocate funds to a public campaign whose aim was to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. The campaign began in 2009 and was targeted at potential consumers of prostitution. It included print advertisements in gas stations, radio advertisements, and information on the Ministry of Justice’s website. Additionally, the government funded an NGO to train employees with knowledge of trafficking risks at shelters for unaccompanied minors, as well as tools to actively monitor immigration and emigration patterns for indications of trafficking activity. From: Trafficking in Persons Report 2010,” U.S. Department of State, June 14, 2010.

 

Sexual Harassment

Harassment, including that which occurs in the workplace, is a criminal offense under the Equal Treatment Act. Sexual harassment, however, is not specifically designated as an offense under this law, and remains a widespread problem throughout Hungary. Only one violation of the Equal Treatment Act has been filed as a sexual harassment suit since 2005. From: ”2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Hungary,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, U.S. Department of State, March 11, 2010.

In July 2004, a female secretary working in the Government Office for Equal Opportunities filed a complaint about sexual harassment in the workplace. Her complaint was rejected, and the complainant was ordered to pay her former superior compensation of one million Hungarian forints ($4,700 US), in a civil procedure initiated by the alleged perpetrator. From: ”2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Hungary,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, U.S. Department of State, March 11, 2010.

 

Compiled From:

”2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Hungary,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, U.S. Department of State, March 11, 2010

32/2007 (OT 26) HNP HQ 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 Minors, Hungarian Parliament, 2007

Act IV of 1978 on the Criminal Code GENERAL PART Aim of the Criminal Code Section 1 Chapter II: Scope of the Criminal Code Temporal Scope Section 2, Hungarian Parliament, August 18, 2005. [Available at: http://www.legislationline.org]

Act CXXV of 2003 on Equal Treatment and Promotion of Equal Opportunities, Hungarian Parliament, December 22, 2003 

Alternative report submitted to the UN CEDAW Committee for consideration in relation to the examination of the combined seventh and eighth periodic reports of Hungary,” Hungarian Women’s Lobby and the European Roma Rights Centre, January 2013

“Background Note: Hungary,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, U.S. Department of State, July 8, 2010

“CEDAW Finds Hungary Violated Convention in Sterilization Case, European Roma Rights Centre, November 13, 2006

Combined Fourth and Fifth Periodic Report of States Parties: Hungary to the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, United Nations, (CEDAW/c/HUN/4-5) September 21, 2000.

Constitution of Hungary, Hungarian Parliament, August 20, 1949

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, United Nations, December 18, 1979

Human Rights Council Fourth Session: Implementation of General Assembly Resolution 60/251 of March 15 2006, Report of the Independent Expert on Minority Issues: Mission to Hungary, (A/HRC/4/9/Add.2) January 4, 2007

Hungary Country Page, UN Secretary-General’s Database on Violence Against Women, last visited December 13, 2010

Hungary Country Page, European Union, last visited December 13, 2010

HUNGARY - Submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review,” 11th session of the UPR Working Group of the Human Rights Council, November 2010

Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Hungary: Domestic violence, including in the Romani community; legislation and availability of state protection and support services, UNHCR Refworld, September 18, 2009.

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, United Nations, December 16, 1966

The International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, United Nations, December 16, 1966

Nations in Transit 2010– Hungary”, Freedom House, last visited December 13, 2010

North Atlantic Treaty, NATO, April 4, 1949

Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, United Nations, October 6, 1999

Protocol for Crisis Management Centers, Hungarian Parliament, 2007

Resolution 45/2003 (IV. 23) OGY, Hungarian Parliament, 2003

Roma People in Europe in the 21st Century: Violence, Exclusion, Insecurity,” European Association for the Defense of Human Rights, October 2012

Sixth Periodic Report of States Parties: Hungary to the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination, United Nations, (CEDAW/C/HUN/6), June 15, 2006

Section 176/A of the Criminal Code, Hungarian Parliament, 2007

“Social Indicators,” United Nations Statistics Division, June 2010

Submission to UN CEDAW Committee to the General Recommendation on Girls’/Women’s Right to Education, European Roma Rights Centre, 7 July 2014

Trafficking in Persons Report 2010,” U.S. Department of State, June 14, 2010

The World Factbook – Hungary,” United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Publications, August 3, 2010

Written Comments of the European Roma Rights Centre Concerning Hungary For Consideration by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women at its 39th Session.” European Roma Rights Centre, July 2007