In 1998 the European Parliament issued a special declaration emphasizing that it would not support the membership of those applicant countries, whose legislation or political state does not acknowledge the human rights of homosexual people. The main criterion of acknowledging the human rights of homosexual people was the elimination of discriminative parts of the national Penal Codes treating homosexual and heterosexual relationships unequally, especially concerning age of consent issues. This criterion was fulfilled by Hungary in 2002 following the ruling of the Constitutional Court eliminating the previously existing discriminative aspects of the Hungarian Penal Code relating to different age of consent definitions concerning same-sex and different-sex sexual practices.
The new Hungarian anti-discrimination and equal treatment policy, developed in 2003 (and in force since January 2004), includes sexual orientation and gender identity among other protected categories and provides these categories with the same general protection as the others (such as women, disabled people, ethnic minorities). Therefore it can be said that concerning the official EU membership requirements Hungary has not only eliminated the discriminative legislative aspects relating to the age of consent issue, but has also “over-fulfilled” its obligations.
Since the European Union’s expectations in the field of sexual orientation based discrimination seem to have weaker influence, when compared with other categories of discrimination – such as ethnic discrimination – special attention must be paid to the specific Hungarian developments, and especially the role of NGOs active in this field.
In this context activities of NGOs involved in human rights issues, specifically those representing the interests of sexual minorities can be seen as part of what Nancy Fraser refers to as “subaltern counterpublic spheres”, i.e. “parallel discursive arenas where members of subordinated social groups invent and circulate counterdiscourses to formulate oppositional interpretations of their identities, interests, needs”(1998:123), functioning as “bases and training grounds for agitational activities directed toward wider publics” (124).
There has been an ongoing theoretical debate in studies of sexual politics about the costs and benefits of normalizing “mainstream sexual difference” defined on the basis of monolithic sexual identity frameworks. While sexual orientation based anti-discrimination and equal treatment policymaking can be interpreted as a tangible beneficial consequence of these normalizing tendencies, it can be argued that the basic structures of discrimination remain; while the scope of discrimination veers away towards newly defined targets.
The main focus of my research is directed towards possible sources of arguments that might be rooted in different national contexts but can also be used at the international level, acknowledging that LGBT rights are not special privileges but basic human rights. I want to collect these arguments in order to present them as potential elements of future strategies to further human rights development, especially concerning issues of human dignity and free choice of lifestyles.