Never a dull moment in Hungary. Today the media is full of a late night parliamentary debate on a topic that the House had to take up by popular demand (almost 100,000 signatures were collected). It was clear, however, even before the collection of signatures, that the government parties were not too keen on introducing a separate section in the Criminal Code on domestic violence. Yet the supporters of the petition were undeterred.
First of all, the debate–an hour and a half long–was held so late that there were no cameras and barely any reporters present. Népszabadság came up with this double entendre headline: “Give birth! Darkness in the Hungarian Parliament.”
One of the loudest voices in the debate was István Varga, a lawyer in civilian life who boasts owning a 10,000-volume library. The learned member of parliament opined: “The most important calling for women and ladies, especially for young ladies, is to give birth. It is obvious that if everybody gave birth to two, three or four children, a gift to the fatherland, everybody would be happy. After that task is over, every woman can fulfill herself and may work at different jobs.” And if that weren’t enough, Varga proposed that “if three or four or five children were born, members of the family would respect each other more and then the question of violence within the family wouldn’t even come up.” It was this sentence that prompted someone to create the following meme and circulate it on Facebook:
According to another Fidesz lawmaker, one reason for domestic violence is that “a mistaken school system resulted in an increase in women’s ego in an inappropriate sense.” Well, that wasn’t the actual wording, but it’s the gist of “egy elhibázott oktatási rendszer egy rossz értelemben vett női megmutatást hozott be a családba.” Don’t try to become anything on your own.
Who is this Varga? I must say I had never heard of him, but apparently he is a busy fellow. He rose in parliament 69 times during the last session. He is sixty years old and does himself have a large family. He has five children of his own and another he and his wife are bringing up. He began his career in MDF and served eight years in parliament (1994-2002) when it seemed that his political career was over. But then in 2010 Viktor Orbán discovered him and put him on the county list of Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok.
After the change of regime he became a member of a committee charged with investigating crimes of communists during the Soviet period. He was so eager that Prime Minister József Antall called him ” the hanging Varga.” He is apparently a walking historical chronology. He usually begins his speech by saying “today 324 years ago….” He made his most infamous historical allusion during the discussion of the new constitution: “We need a new constitution because on the day Prime Minister Viktor Orbán took the oath of office King Andrew II was crowned in Székesfehérvár in 1205 and the Golden Bull is associated with Andrew II.” The Golden Bull (1222) is the Magna Carta of Hungary.
The women in the Fidesz parliamentary caucus–there are mighty few–refused to say anything about the incident. One announced that she didn’t hear it, another suggested that the journalist should be more interested in the case of Béla Biszku, the high communist party official who might be responsible for a number of political murders after the 1956 revolution. A third one muttered something about all those polite gentlemen in parliament. It was only Gabriella Selmeczi, the spokeswoman for Fidesz, who was outraged. I must say she surprised me, but it seems that she at least understands that the party cannot afford to alienate women voters. Antal Rogán, parliamentary whip, later joined forces with Selmeczi and distanced himself and the party from István Varga’s outrageous remarks.
But some damage has been done, even though it may not be irreparable. Tonight there was a small demonstration, organized on Facebook, and another is planned for Sunday. 168 Óra described the mood: “They are heading toward Kossuth Square and they are angry.” The organizers wrote that “it is intolerable that there are members of parliament who think that a woman is nothing else but an incubator of the state and whose only job is producing babies. She has no other purpose in life. It is intolerable that the opinion can be heard in parliament that domestic violence can be solved if women are not emancipated.”
Varga’s remarks about the causes of domestic violence were of course absurd, but he was just pushing the Fidesz goal to produce ever more little Hungarians beyond its logical limits. Even within its logical limits it’s not defensible.
Today George Szirtes translated a bit of Varga.
Out of the mouths of idiots
Looks like he’s a graduate of Todd Akin’s course on “How To Help Your Party Lose the Women’s Vote with Just One Speech!”.
Only 10,000 volumes? Piker!
Is domestic violence not a crime in Hungary? I can only imagine what these clowns would say about spousal rape.
Oh, not in Hungary. If the wife of a Fidesz male fan would want to vote for anyone else, their husband would beat them up. Except if they had three kids already, but then why wouldn’t she vote for Fidesz?
I think the ladies who marched on Kossuth Square would take exception to that. 🙂
All power to them, but I bet they were not Fidesz supporters to begin with. I wish they were, and this would be their wake-up call.
From your mouth… 🙂
This maybe only a one off by my experience from watching a case of domestic violence unfold is that the police do not take this crime very seriously. It’s clear from their actions that they’d just rather see these cases melt away. Even threat uttered in the presence of the police will not cause them to take action. The courts move way too slowly for this type of crime and while “justice” is being doled out, it is very unlikely that you could get anything that is the equivalent of a restraining order….. meaning the violence and intimidation is likely to continue. Heaven help you if the perpetrator has “friends” in the right places.
At least this cretin didn’t mention that another cause of domestic anxiety is feelings of male inadequacy because they know their wives are smarter than them. He could have then proposed a ban on state funding of education for women beyond the age of 16, saving the government billions and helping to make sure women knew their place was Kinder, Küche, Kirche (children, the kitchen and church).
Varga proposed that “if three or four or five children were born, members of the family would respect each other more and then the question of violence within the family wouldn’t even come up.”
Good morning, Hungary! What a great way to wake me up…
Jeez, where does this logic come from? That 10000-volume library didn’t help a brain cell of his.
If anything, when you find that you actually couldn’t afford diapers money after the 4th child, it will cause frictions in a marriage.
darkness in more areas.
is there any other choices than leaving such a place?
What the police take seriously is money-
Physically attacking/harming someone – be it a stranger in the street or your spouse within the confines of your own home – IS a crime in Hungary. Personally I don’t see a need for – or indeed any logic behind – introducing a separate paragraph in the Criminal Code on domestic violence. What WOULD be needed, though, is a number of changes to the procedural regulations so that the victim receives adequate protection after reporting the incident(s) to the authorities. The way I see it, the biggest problem with the handling of domestic violence in Hungary – apart from the mere existence of idiots like Varga – is that if you go to the police saying your spouse has hit you, nobody will protect you from his/her wrath unless [s]he is immediately put into custody, which does not happen all that often. So you have to return home to a violent/aggressive spouse AFTER you’ve grassed on them.
The Hungarian “paragrafus” is a “section” in English & not a “paragraph”. The English “paragraph” means “bekezdés”, which can also occur in legal texts, mainly in judgements or opinions, but not the same as “section”, obviously.
Thank you for calling my attention to it. Stupid mistake but yesterday was a crazy day.
Just curious, where would you put the tough procedural regulations on protecting the victim if there is no “domestic violence” mentioned in the Criminal Code… you just described how this situation is different from physically attacking strangers (i.e. you share your home with the attacker). Even if procedural regulations are not part of the Criminal Code, if procedures are introduced addressing this special case of physical attacks, they should be able refer to something in the Code why these are in place…. I’m not a lawyer, but it’s hard to see how special procedures defending the victims of a crime that “doesn’t exist” in the Criminal Code.
“..boasts owning a 10,000-volume library”
– Guess, who’s using the dust-buster on those 10,000 volumes..?
Then again, what would anybody expect, when even in The Fundamental Law of Hungary one find in Article I:
“(1) The inviolable and inalienable fundamental rights of MAN shall be respected and
defended by the State as a primary obligation.”
– There is no WOMAN, see?
But seriously, when the government declares that they will restore the prior to 1944 status even the exterior of the Parliament (Kossuth-square), won’t surprise me that much, when the interior getting adapted as well.
The mindset of most MP-s even dating back to the middle ages, probably to keep those glorious traditions alive while living in the past.
Brave “new” world, isn’t it?
The link provided by e1848 has a key sentence from the Speaker of the House. So if anyone thinks that this is only the opinion of Varga, here it goes again, because ot is the opinion of the Fidesz. (THe same hogwash what they did with the Azerbaijan issue.)
” When minority green party LMP proposed holding discussions during the day, House Speaker Laszlo Kover said that the issue wasn’t weighty enough to warrant more attention.
An estimated 70 women are killed by their partners every year in Hungary, accounting for about 39% of all manslaughter cases in the country, according to two women’s rights groups. ”
70 WOMEN DIES by their partners hands each year! THey are talking about Roma crime in Hungary, how about man crime? And our True Hungarian Speaker of the House with his curly mustache dare to say that this issue does not warrant more attention. Maybe Fidesz members are beating up their wives at home, and they scare to act.
There is the wider issue of Hungarian society condemning and seeking punishment for all forms of domestic violence – including physical punishment of children for real or imaginary misdemeanours. Fidesz will never support such a measure, because the motto of their rule is “I do it because I can.”
Battery is an existing criminal offence. There’s no need to amend the Criminal Code to include 384 different versions of it. What’s needed is a set of modifications to the lower-ranking regulations that describe the protocols the authorities must follow in specific cases, e.g. when the crime is committed at home, and at the expense of a family member.
@ Eva S. Balogh: “the debate – an hour and a half long – was held so late that there were no cameras and barely any reporters present”
Not sure what cameras you’re missing but there must have been some sort of imaging device around to capture this: http://index.indavideo.hu/video/Dr_Varga_Istvan_felszolalasa_a_Parlamentben
What we should underscore again is the mind blowing incompetence of the FIDESZ members of the parliament.
It’s one thing when they think our women are rabbits. The more important issue here is that this has nothing to do with the subject – the protection of the victims of domestic violence. Either by changing the penal code or the regulations for the police to take special care of victims if the assaults are happening in their own home.
This is again the FIDESZ political zombies parroting their aberrant political views instead of focusing on how to improve the lives of their constituents.
PS: Speaking about police competence (again). Today’s bruhaha. The TEK SWAT team stormed a college event today where the students were shooting a Start Wars parody and one of the guys, Luke Skywalker in a bath robe, had a plastic toy gun …
Eva S. Balogh: “the debate – an hour and a half long – was held so late that there were no cameras and barely any reporters present”
Not sure what cameras you’re missing but there must have been some sort of imaging device around to capture this: http://index.indavideo.hu/video/Dr_Varga_Istvan_felszolalasa_a_Parlamentben
The parliament’s late sessions are not broadcast.
The Hungarian problem is so large and all-encompassing that it’s well nigh impossible to begin to dissect it. As I’ve tried to point out, the political culture is such that laws are primarily made with ‘wriggle space’…partially, that’s to give their many lawyer buddies a lot of work. So, the problem goes back farther than 1990, but that’s a convenient stopping off point to realize that the original constitution had more holes than swiss cheese…on purpose. It was not a serious piece of work. Of course, the latest effort
is just slapstick….
Tyrker: Not sure what cameras you’re missing but there must have been some sort of imaging device around to capture this: http://index.indavideo.hu/video/Dr_Varga_Istvan_felszolalasa_a_Parlamentben
Hm, I just wonder then whether the speech was aired on the main TV channels in Hungary. And if so, at what time and how often. And has he been invited by the popular talk shows to explain his original viewpoint?
That is what I was alluding too. It wasn’t aired. Most likely that is one of the reasons why they scheduled the debate so late.
I realize that there must have been plenty of changes to both the criminal law and the the procedural protocols since the 80s…. but the last time I had experience with domestic violence (unfortunately growing up in a family that had domestic violence), the standard reply of the police had been that they are not getting involved in domestic disputes (unless the batterer was caught in the act… which of course never happened as my father was never beating my mom with the police around). As a teenager, I myself called the police several times fearing for my mother’s life. Every time they came they told everybody to calm down, said they don’t interfere with domestic disputes and left. Didn’t even take my father in or anything.
I do hope they treat similar cases better nowadays, but I have serious doubts. I really don’t care in what legal framework, but the issue has to be addressed according to its weight. And this is exactly what Fidesz is refusing to do.
“The women in the Fidesz parliamentary caucus–there are mighty few–refused to say anything about the incident”
More important things to worry about…the CBA in Nador Utca was due to close soon and they still hadn’t sorted out hubbie’s supper.
That’s not to belittle your experience An btw; from what I’ve seen and heard the woman needs to be actually dead before the police decide that there may be a case of domestic violence to consider.
Firstly, to be fair to the dinosaur – István Varga – he didn’t say he read them!
(And can he read without his lips moving?)
Like the man who said: as exercise he liked to touch his shoes 50 times in the morning before breakfast – he then got out of bed and put them on!
We have dinosaurs in England of course and we are just trialling ‘Clare’s Law’:
Not taking the situation seriously could be a vote looser – which was maybe understood by Fidesz – (“Just keep it quiet – debate it late”)
We don’t know how many women live in fear and terror – (And An – you story is very sad) – but they may well seek ‘revenge’ in the voting booth.
Lets hope they do.
Enacting specific legislation/amending the criminal code to include domestic violence might at least signal to police and perpetrators that it’s a crime to be taken seriously. Which it clearly isn’t, as testimony in the comments demonstrates.
Prof. Balogh, would you say there’s currently a feminist movement in Hungary?
No, there isn’t. Moreover the word “feminism” has a bad ring.
The situation re domestic violence is just one aspect of the overall situation of women in Hungary (and eastern/central Europe in General).
Years ago I had a friend who spent some time in South Africa, on her return I asked how she’s found the place, expecting the usual Western European shock at the way black and Asian people were treated in those days. But to my surprise, she said the thing that really got to her, and ultimately led to her coming back to the UK was the appalling attitude towards women.
I remembered that conversation the first time I had a long stay in Hungary. The way women were seen and treated (and to a large extent the way they themselves expected to be seen and treated) was like the UK 50 years ago. This was even more of a shock than it would have been normally because we in the West had been brought up to believe that one of the good things about the old communist regimes was the much greater equality given to women.
But it would appear that the position of women under communism was an enforced veneer. Once the official support for their liberated role was removed, they rapidly dropped back into their pre-communist roles. And again this was not just the men taking advantage of the change in regime, it would appear that many of the women themselves were only too relieved to return to their old roles. (This isn’t just my view, but is supported by research – for instance Cinderella Goes to Market, by Barbara Einhorn – out of date and not an easy read, but still quite an eye-opener.)
As with attitudes to Hungary’s Nazi past, nationalism, historical wrongs, etc, the situation of women in society in Hungary has not been discussed and addressed as it has been over the last 50 years in the West. Communism, for all its superficial (because state imposed, not supported from below) equality and progressive attitudes, actually just put the lid on societal change in the 40s and that lid only came off fifty years later. Broadly speaking, and even allowing for a few notable exceptions, Hungarian (and eastern/central European) social attitudes are not much advanced from where the were at the end of the war.
The police, politicians, etc don’t take abuse against women seriously, because they don’t take women seriously.
This is one of the main reasons for Fidesz’s success – they can expect strong support for the sort of anti-Semitic, out-of-date nationalistic, ‘pro-family’ (i.e. anti-women) policies that no party would stand a chance with in the West.
In my experience, many (most?) women would be offended to be called ‘feminist’ and would feel uncomfortable discussing ‘feminist’ issues*.
My wife, for instance, despite living in the West for over 12 years and having an avowed feminist as a (house)husband, still equates feminism with lesbianism.
(*A little like being called a ‘socialist’ or discussing socialism in the States!)
Paul, I agree with you completely.
Let me just add one more thing – the amount of obscenities that women in Hungary have to take from just any guy in the street. I would be too embarrassed to bring up examples.
One of the things I enjoy about living in Britain is the total lack of those. Not to mention the much higher level of respect that men show towards women in general (that includes my husband, of course, who, like you, is often shocked by how some Hungarian men treat their wives).
Milla is sponsoring the following event:
WOMEN RIOT, This Sunday 3-6 PM @ Kossuth tér, Budapest. “WOMEN, GIRLS, WIVES, MOTHERS!
Middle Ages is back to Hungary! Let’s put an end to it, quick!
Welcome Everyone, who is outraged by Varga’s, FIDESZ MP’s, claim that Domestic Violence is to abolish, if every women give birth to a child…”
It will be very interesting to see the turnout…
I don’t think much has changed and that An’s situation is still typical of how domestic violence is treated. And there doesn’t seem to be a way to get a restraining order. In the case I know of, the police simply told the guy to take her home and **** her because that would calm her down!
Agreed. A similar situation can be observed in Tunisia or Libya. Human rights in general are never a given, hence to be strong they have to be conquered and transmitted through generations by those they directy concern.
Historically, the workplace has been an essential struggling ground for women’s rights. What’s the state of trade unions in Hungary today?
I am completely 100% dead serious. During the incident we actually signed papers that said we’d take custody of the kids if anything happened. BTW, the mother-in-law was assaulted by the maniac on the street… that was enough to get things rolling but I believe the guy is still walking the streets even thought he’s finally been sentenced…. and that was more than a year ago!
I think they did mention that, I read in another article that they thought the whole thing was started by a misguided education system that had given women the impression they were emancipated/citizens/thinking humans in their own right. It seems the Hungarian parliament thinks that can be righted by keeping the women home, tired, pregnant, and saddled with 4-5 toddlers a piece.
This Varga belongs in the dark ages, leave him in the hands of a few Australian women and we will fix his backward moronic views.Stamp out macho morons and you will stamp out domestic violence.
If only this was so simple! You seem to forget that a lot of domestic violence is directed at children, with the perpetrators often being the female members of the household (mothers, stepmothers, babysitters etc.).
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