Humiliation for Hungary

Dinosaur doesn't speak Hungarian

Dinosaur doesn’t speak Hungarian

Hungary is under international pressure to reform its policies and attitudes regarding domestic violence.  It wasn’t until July 2013 that domestic violence became a crime under Hungary’s penal code but even with increased legal pressure, domestic violence continues to be a huge issue.  Until this time, domestic violence abusers could be charged with battery depending on the severity of the injury sustained by the victim.  Now, victims of domestic violence are able to get restraining orders against their abusers but they are difficult to get.  In a Human Rights Watch report released today, Hungary was criticized for its lack of police response, legal protections, and health support for victims of domestic violence[1].  Not only is it difficult to seek help from law enforcement but when they receive medical attention, doctors often ignore signs of abuse and document injuries incorrectly leaving lawyers out of luck when they attempt to prosecute.  The system that victims find themselves in is the work of policy makers such as István Varga who stated 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.[2]”  Domestic violence is not seen as a social or health issue in Hungary which is a huge part of the problem.  If women continue to be seen merely as the producers of children and second-class citizens, it will be a very long time before they are afforded the right of autonomy.

Hungary has faced international pressures before, specifically under the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).  In Ms. A.T. v. Hungary, A.T. suffered regular and severe domestic violence at the hands of her husband[3].  A.T. was lucky enough to have her case heard in court but, because protection orders didn’t exist under Hungarian law, her husband was allowed to return to their home.  A.T. and her children were unable to go to a shelter because there were none that could accommodate them, a persistent issue in Hungary.  A.T. brought a claim under CEDAW after exhausting all of her domestic remedies and receiving no relief.  The Committee for CEDAW determined in 2003 that Hungary did not have adequate protections for victims of domestic violence and recommended that Hungary create a national strategy to both prevent and treat violence in the family effectively.  Even after this decision ten years ago, the prevention and treatment of domestic violence has not improved.  News groups such as Aljazeera, Reuters, and FoxNews reran HRW’s report with headlines like, “Report slams domestic abuse in Hungary” just hours after the report was released[4].  Maybe what it will take to generate interest in substantial social, legal, and healthcare reform in Hungary is public humiliation by the international community.

[1] Human Rights Watch “Unless Blood Flows” 2013

[2] Papageorgiou, Alia. “Hungary’s about turn on domestic violence” New Europe 2012

[3] Views on the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Communication No.: 2/2003, Ms. A.T. v. Hungary

[4] Jovanovski, Kristina. “Report slams domestic abuse in Hungary” Aljazeera 2013


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