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Fierce debate about domestic violence

September 14th, 2012

Left-wing commentators claim that Fidesz wants to send women back to the kitchen, after a Fidesz MP suggested that the low birthrate is the main problem with Hungarian families. A pro-government columnist contends that the opposition is deliberately misinterpreting the statement.

Fidesz MP István Varga, during the Parliamentary debate on a proposal initiated by women’s rights NGOs to include sanctions against domestic violence in the penal code, said that “Women should primarily focus on raising children, and we should discuss how families could have three, four or five kids rather than only one or two. This would help us to honour each other more, and domestic violence would not be an issue. … After helping the country by giving birth to two, three or four children, … women can find and emancipate themselves.” He also said that “beating the mother of one’s children is contemptible”. The opposition parties criticized Varga for his remark, which they interpreted as a male chauvinist slur. The leadership of Fidesz also distanced itself from Varga’s words, but added that the governing party considers the explicit inclusion of domestic violence in the penal code unnecessary, since all kinds of physical violence associated with domestic violence are sanctioned by the current law.

In Népszava, János Dési finds it peculiar that in Hungary the desecration of national symbols is sanctioned by the law, while victims of domestic violence will not be protected by a specific law. The left-wing columnist suggests that Varga’s highly retrograde views on the role of women are part of the conservative worldview promoted by Fidesz.

We are really grateful [to Varga] for outlining how Fidesz imagines 21st century Hungary,” Róbert Friss writes in Népszabadság. Friss notes that the governing right-wing parties do not seem to endorse gender equality. He admits, however, that domestic violence cannot be prevented by the penal code. It would require well-thought through social policies designed to help poor families, Friss notes. He contends that such a social policy does not seem to be a priority for the Orbán government, which only promotes the middle classes.

In Mandiner, Gergely Szilvay suggests that it is rather unrealistic ito expect every family to have at least three kids. The conservative blogger agrees with the government, nonetheless, that the current penal code sanctions each and every form of domestic violence, but he also wonders why the right-wing parties oppose the explicit mention of such acts so vehemently. Even if such an amendment could not in itself prevent brutal acts of domestic violence, its inclusion in the penal code could send an important symbolic message, Szilvay suggests.

The opposition uses the opportunity to depict Fidesz as a party of male chauvinism and violence by making so much of the incident, Ágnes Seszták maintains in Magyar Nemzet. The conservative columnist finds the often quoted statistics exaggerated, and doubts if one million Hungarian women are really the subject of domestic violence. Seszták claims that the opposition parties misinterpret Varga’s unfortunate statements. She maintains that the Fidesz MP only wanted to highlight the tragic demographic situation caused by the steep decline in the birth rate.

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