I nearly choked on my coffee when I watched the misogynist propaganda video published this week featuring Hungary’s minister responsible for families, Katalin Novak, lecturing Hungarian women on how to be successful. It included “advice” on how women should not always compete with men or expect to get the same pay as them. Rather, women should relish their roles as child bearers and caregivers, she said, while adding that Hungarian women shouldn’t give up their “privileges over some misguided fight for emancipation.” Novak introduces the video by discussing the importance of following baking recipes, driving home the ‘your place is in the kitchen’ message for women.
Not only is this offensive and patronizing to millions of women in Hungary who struggle for equal treatment, it comes as the Covid-19 pandemic has fuelled a sharp increase in reports of violence against women across Europe, including Hungary. Instead of strengthening protection for domestic violence survivors, in May the government refused to ratify a treaty, known as the Istanbul Convention, which is designed to protect women from violence. The Covid-19 pandemic will also likely exacerbate Hungary’s ever-increasing gender pay gap, as women take on even greater burdens of unpaid care work and are more likely to work in sectors facing job or wage losses. But rather than actively seeking to bridge this gap, the government chooses to view women as “baby-making machines”.
The sad reality for women in Hungary is that they don’t get paid as much as men, they can’t count on state protection when their partners abuse them, and they can’t rely on their government to champion their rights.
Decrying equality and promoting discriminatory stereotypes is part of the government’s declared war on what it calls “gender ideology,” a term used to push misinformation and promote homophobic and misogynist agendas. The day after the video dropped, Hungary’s parliament, where the ruling party has a two-thirds majority, adopted amendments to the constitution, including language that “the mother is female, and father is male” and effectively banning same-sex couples from adopting children.
Hungarian women are entitled to demand their government meet its obligation to tackle gender-based inequality, instead of actively sabotaging them.