How women are being treated in the Hungarian parliament

In September of 2012 there was an uproar in the Hungarian parliament over the issue of domestic violence; I spent at least two posts on the issue. By popular demand, the House had to consider including domestic violence in the criminal code. It was clear from the beginning that the Fidesz-KDMP caucus was planning to vote against the measure. One member of the government party after the other got up, delivering ringing speeches about “the place of the woman” in their world: they should produce lots of children, perhaps five or six. Once they did their patriotic duty they could look around and fulfill their career plans.

I first wrote about the subject on September 12, but a week later I returned to the question because Fidesz politicians launched an attack on “bluestockings”–to use the Reverend Zoltán Balog’s term–because they dared to call domestic violence “family violence.” Never mind that the dictionary meaning of domestic violence is “violence toward or physical abuse of one’s spouse or domestic partner.” This insistence on avoiding the word “family” highlights Fidesz-KDNP’s attempt to elevate the notion of family to something close to sacred. The word “family” cannot be associated with anything negative, like violence.

Yet the very same people who are so worried about the sanctity of the family and the role of women in it treat their female colleagues like dirt. According to the liberal Klára Ungár (SZEMA / Szabad Emberek Magyarországért), the women in parliament have been maltreated by their male colleagues ever since the dawn of the new democratic era in Hungary. In those days, she claims, the young male politicians of the Free Democrats were a great more enlightened than the older crew of the right-of-center coalition who often made boorish jokes at the expense of their female colleagues. Another former Fidesz female politician, Zsuzsanna Szelényi, on the other hand, described this college crowd as macho from day one. Yes, there were some female members of the group, mostly girlfriends or later wives, but it was a predominantly male gathering where the presence of women was not always welcome.

Since then not much has changed in the Hungarian parliament. If a woman rises to speak, especially if that woman is from the opposition, obscene, demeaning shouts ring out from the Fidesz-KDNP-Jobbik section of the House. On such occasions the right side of the aisle closes ranks. Not even the women of Fidesz-KDNP raise their voices in protest. They don’t have the slightest sense of solidarity with members of their own sex.

Ágnes Osztolykán

Ágnes Osztolykán

The latest scandal involved Ágnes Osztolykán, an LMP member of parliament and a woman of Roma origin. A couple of days ago she published a post on her blog entitled “Darkness in the Honored House.” Late at night on the first day of the new parliamentary session she discovered that she had no money to take a taxi home. She found a group of colleagues chit-chatting in the corridor and asked whether “one of them could take her home.” She almost apologetically adds, “after the fact, by now I know that this was a wrong question.” Almost automatically her first thought was self-accusation. She asked the wrong question. So, she blames herself for the treatment she received because, after all, one can expect only an obscene answer to this kind of request. This is how things are in Hungary.

You can imagine what followed. Some MPs suggested that they would take her home, but to their own apartments. Osztolykán adds: “I was hoping they would stop, but in fact they got more and more into the swing of things” until a Jobbik member of parliament, one of the most primitive characters of the bunch, György Gyula Zagyva, about whom I wrote a post already, got involved. Zagyva told her that he wouldn’t mind f…ing her even though she was a Gypsy.

The comments that followed this revelation were, in my opinion, on the wrong track. Everybody concentrated on the fact that these people are members of parliament and should set a good example. No wonder, they added, that people use such filthy language everywhere.

But this is not the point. First of all, members of parliament are part and parcel of society as a whole. Perhaps the composition of this particular parliament is lopsided in the sense that the men and women who sit in the parliamentary delegations of Fidesz and the Christian Democrats are Viktor Orbán’s personal choices. You may recall that the candidates had to be personally approved by the “pocket dictator,” as someone called Orbán not so long ago. And Jobbik’s presence in the House only adds to the crowd that considers women not quite equal to men. Don’t forget that it was young Jobbik activists who listed incoming freshmen and made all sorts of obscene notations when it came to female members of the class.

I also blame Hungarian women for this state of affairs, and I do hope that a few more incidents like this will wake them up. In a country where people equate feminism with lesbianism and where women seem unaware of their inferior status in society they are easy targets. If women don’t stand up and say that enough is enough, nothing will change either inside or outside of parliament.

The solution to all this is not the white rose delivered by the Fidesz MP after he had insulted a female member of parliament but a radical change in the status of women in Hungarian society. As for the white rose, in the MP’s place I wouldn’t have accepted it.

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Nicky
Guest

Hungarian women can be very hard on each other. One thing which surprised me after moving here was the lack of ‘sisterhood’ here,and the way women can be so ‘bitchy’ (sorry) towards each other. Like they’ve been so indoctrinated about their lack of value,they cannot stand up for one another. Yet most Hungarian women are strong,capable and educated. I think the sexist attitude still persists,but it can and will change,IS changing.

Paul
Guest

Do they have the faintest idea how this behaviour looks outside Hungary? None of these ‘men’ is fit to be a man, let alone an MP.

Paul
Guest

“IS changing” – not much, I’m afraid, especially outside Bp. My impression is that, after 89, most women couldn’t wait to get back to ‘normal’.

Minusio
Guest

This reminds me of what is said of successful development aid: We only succeed if we can reach and convince the women (in Africa, India, for example).

And it reminds me of what Paul said of his in-laws and his wife’s opinions.

So let’s focus on the education of women – by women.

AJ14
Guest

Any lawyers can file a claim against this idiot. Assault!
Zagyva must be fined, imprisoned, and taught a lesson.
As a reckless citizen, he must be put on the terrorist list, too, and banned from flying.

gdfxx
Guest

It’s in the culture. Nothing expresses this more than the commonly used saying: Penz szamolva, asszony verve jo. Money is best when counted, as a woman (wife) is best when beaten.

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

During the 40 years communist rule, equality was declared, but in reality it meant double work for the wife. Usually women were working and had to do alone the cleaning and cooking. The care for children was also the work of women. The husbands used to come home and watch TV or go to a football match.
The sociologist Mária Neményi has written about it an interesting report.
Women liberation movement did not arrive in Hungary.

Guest

London Calling!

The sooner women stop seeing themselves as one of their husband’s ‘chattels’ – psychologically then they can look the world in the eye in their own right.

Stopping the ludicrous – self styled and self accepted – archaic and demeaning designation would be a good start.

Come on, women! Break away – bring Hungary into the modern world.

Sort your men out!

Regards

Charlie

Member

Women in the Hungarian Parliament
f= left wing= MSzP+SzDSz+LMP,
g=right wing= others

1920. 1 Margit Slachta
1922 1 Anna Kéthly
1926 1 Anna Kéthly
1931 2 Anna Kéthly, Margit Herzog, Lilla Melczer (from 1932)
1935 2 Anna Kéthly, Lilla Melczer, Róza Hagara (from 1936)
1939 1 Anna Kéthly

1945. 16, 3.9%

1947. 4%
1949. 17%
1953. 11%
1958. 17%
1963. 18%
1967. 20%
1971. 24%
1975. 28%
1980. 30%
1985. 21%

1990. 7.0%
1994. 11.2%, f= 33, g= 10
1998. 8.3%, f= 17, g= 15
2002. 9.1%, f= 25, g= 10
2006. 11.1%, f= 27, g= 13
2010. 9.1%, f= 10, g= 25

Sources :
http://www.esely.org/kiadvanyok/2011_1/02koncz.indd.pdf
http://www.rubicon.hu/magyar/oldalak/a_nok_parlamenti_valasztojoganak_tortenete_magyarorszagon_1919_1945/

Guest

Seems I’m really lucky with my rather emancipated Hungarian wife – I couldn’t live with a “typical Hungarian housewife” …

But we also see a lot of those who even lose their names (and much of their dignity) after marrying – I still find it strange to read or hear someone is called something like Kiss Csabané …

So whenever we have visitors one of my main points is showing how a husband treats his wife in a civilized way: Helping with household chores, doing the washing, putting things into the dishwasher etc …

Back to the general position of women in Hungary:

There is a very high percentage of broken marriages and divorces and often the wives are in a very bad position. Of course marrying a foreigner is no guarantee for a happx life (I know several bad cases there) but it seems it gives women a better chance!

Nicky
Guest

I find this discussion fascinating,mostly because I thought these were mostly my own opinions. As an English woman with a Hungarian husband,I’ve felt a lot of ‘silent’ pressure to conform,and follow in the footsteps of my mum-in-law,and other female members of the family..but NOT by my husband. He’s the complete opposite. I love the shocked looks on my students’ faces when I tell them he does most of the cooking! They are either speechless(the men) or jealous (the women!) It is actually the women themselves who criticise or demonise other women who don’t follow their code of behaviour. Yes,as someone mentioned,above,a similar situation can be found in other societies where women are seen as less. We have to work on the women first! What did you mean,Paul,when you said that women couldn’t wait to get back to normal after 89? Did you mean more freedom?

Guest

London Calling!

Wolfi! sometimes we seem to be singing from the same song sheet!

Regards

Charlie

Guest

Hey, Nicky!

A bit OT:

I also like cooking, though my wife does most of it. Of course she can do all the Hungarian stuff, but also much more. It’s kind of unbelievable how she learned to prepare all those international dishes, using stuff that just was not available in Kadar times and later was way too expensive:

She cooks Italian, Greek, Spanish, Mexican – even Schwab style: Käsespätzle has become one of her favourites …
Many things she tried first at one of my sister’s table, on holiday in the Canary Islands, or in a Greek/Italian restaurant in Germany – and when I told her how it’s done, she immediately said: Ok, I’ll try it – let’s go shopping …

But still I like to do the cooking when we have Hungarian visitors (her family especially – just to show off or rather to give her more time to talk with her relatives) and you should see the look on their faces some times …

PS:

Of course nowadays you can get almost everything in Hungary – you just have to be willing to pay the price …

Guest

Eva, what is the sex ratio of commenters on your blog?

LwiiH
Guest
Nicky : I find this discussion fascinating,mostly because I thought these were mostly my own opinions. As an English woman with a Hungarian husband,I’ve felt a lot of ‘silent’ pressure to conform From a male perspective there is a lot of pressure to conform on both men and women. I can’t be bothered which puts me a odds with some. In-laws are now used to me and realize there’s no hope. The funniest is Dedi (great-grandmother). She was always chiding my wife on how she dressed and how she behaved. Even though my wife also doesn’t conform so well she’ll sometimes make the odd comment like, thats not a bad salary for a women. I’ve commented on the shocking state of lack of protection from situations of domestic violence. No restraining orders.. the intimidation *by the police against the victim*!!!! And the fear.. having seen the fear first hand.. knowing that one has no protection… horrible. Hungarian MPs can act with impunity under these conditions. OT, the local college is now so broke that they can no longer renew anyone’s contracts. I’ve no idea how far in debt the college is but it would seem that OV is pushing down… Read more »
Karl Pfeifer
Guest

Jean P since not everybody gives his own name, it is practically impossible to give the sex ration of commenters

Member

My spin: Orban’s hardcore support is at 14%.

Half of the 28% of the people who saw his speech yesterday liked it, according to Fidesz’s own Szazadveg.

http://mno.hu/belfold/kedvezo-volt-orban-evertekelojenek-fogadtatasa-1140914

Paul
Guest
Nicky : I find this discussion fascinating,mostly because I thought these were mostly my own opinions. As an English woman with a Hungarian husband,I’ve felt a lot of ‘silent’ pressure to conform,and follow in the footsteps of my mum-in-law,and other female members of the family..but NOT by my husband. He’s the complete opposite. I love the shocked looks on my students’ faces when I tell them he does most of the cooking! They are either speechless(the men) or jealous (the women!) It is actually the women themselves who criticise or demonise other women who don’t follow their code of behaviour. Yes,as someone mentioned,above,a similar situation can be found in other societies where women are seen as less. We have to work on the women first! What did you mean,Paul,when you said that women couldn’t wait to get back to normal after 89? Did you mean more freedom? Nicky – in all my time in Hungary and married to a Hungarian I have never come across a Hungarian man married to an English wife! In fact we’ve had discussions on here about why it’s always the other way round. You must have some odd moments with your in-laws. I’m always doing… Read more »
Member

Paul :
in all my time in Hungary and married to a Hungarian I have never come across a Hungarian man married to an English wife! In fact we’ve had discussions on here about why it’s always the other way round.

It is likely that English women can spot the big difference about how Hungarian society in general treats women. I do not think that they have to much desire to move to Hungary. I do know very few Hungarian man who married to a Canadian or American here in North America. I also know a very few Russian ladies who married Hungarian man and moved to Hungary. Your observation I think supports Eva’s entry.

Gardonista
Guest

For my friends who are ethnic Hungarians, I can struggle to explain why Fidesz/Jobbik is so offensive. For these friends who are women, they understand that misogyny in Hungary is a problem.

The anti-Hungarianness of the Orban/Borat coalition is most apparent in its treatment of women. We need to hit the current government about this if we want to improve Hungary. It may be the best way.

OO14
Guest

Gardonista: “The anti-Hungarianness of the Orban/Borat coalition”

Perhaps, we could insert another definition in the Orban resume: Anti-Humanity.

He is a war criminal in all shapes, and his defense can be only the insanity concept.

spectator
Guest
Nicky : I find this discussion fascinating,mostly because I thought these were mostly my own opinions. As an English woman with a Hungarian husband,I’ve felt a lot of ‘silent’ pressure to conform,and follow in the footsteps of my mum-in-law,and other female members of the family..but NOT by my husband. He’s the complete opposite. I love the shocked looks on my students’ faces when I tell them he does most of the cooking! They are either speechless(the men) or jealous (the women!) It is actually the women themselves who criticise or demonise other women who don’t follow their code of behaviour. Yes,as someone mentioned,above,a similar situation can be found in other societies where women are seen as less. We have to work on the women first! What did you mean,Paul,when you said that women couldn’t wait to get back to normal after 89? Did you mean more freedom? Nicky, the problem is – at the first level, that is – being Hungarian, the gender comes sometimes way afterwords. Solidarity – as is – a problem. Seems, that the whole concept somehow gone missing in Hungary. I have no intention to go into details and try to figure out, whether or not… Read more »
Guest

My dictionary gives me in German:der Tölpel
Translations for this:
dolt dupe galoot gawk jay loob lout muff slob yokel clod [coll.]
schlub also: shlub, zhlob, zhlub (Amer.) [coll.] Yiddish

Take your pick!

Eagle Eye
Guest
“She found a group of colleagues chit-chatting in the corridor and asked…” “Some MPs suggested that they would take her home, but to their own apartments.” “…until a Jobbik member of parliament, one of the most primitive characters of the bunch, György Gyula Zagyva…” What kind of MPs were in this “group of colleagues”? Well, one can immediately suspect that they weren’t members of Fidesz or Jobbik because then a source like Hungarian Spectrum would put extra emphasis on that. 🙂 According to Zagyva, they were members and ex-members of Osztolykán’s own party (LMP). Zagyva named two particular people – since then, one of them has denied that he was there, but the other members of the party remain silent… I find it rather strange that members of a party that routinely uses feminist rhetoric and actually suggests a 50% female quota in the parliament (an incredibly undemocratic notion) would get involved in a “scandal” like this. Naturally, one subconsciously imagines Fidesz or Jobbik MPs when reading the above lines – misleading suggestions are extremely abundant in the “independent” media of the “democratic opposition”. Paul: It’s a great honor for us Hungarians that “we seem quite Western and ‘normal’ to… Read more »
Minusio
Guest

@ Eagle Eye. Do I see another troll here? Don’t feed the trolls!

Guest

London Calling!

I just think the term you need is Eva’s ‘boorish’ – which we don’t see much in England.

MCP’s – Male Chauvinist Pigs – says it all too.

(Eagle Eye – I haven’t quite sussed you out – yet.)

Regards

Charlie

Member

Eagle Eye :What I find outrages but not surprising that you have the nerve to make a “party issue” about this. THe whole idea is that many Hungarian man think this way. I guess you included. They were MPs. Do you get it? SHould I spell it out any further? THis blog actually very often criticizes LMP, the DK, MSZP and so forth. I wish that Fidesz publications would take the same approach but then again what to expect when their followers made up by people like you 😉 Do you also encourage that women should give birth of a half dozen new Hungarians so they would not get be beaten by their husbands? THat was a famous Fidesz saying. 🙂

Paul
Guest
Eagle Eye – I don’t think it would come as much of a shock to anyone on here if it turned out these MPs were LMP. Sexism and misogyny are culture-wide and politics-wide problems in Hungary. As for your quote from my reply to Nicky that Hungarians “seem quite Western and ‘normal’ to you”, I’m sure you’re well aware that you are quoting this out of context and entirely ignoring my use of quotes around ‘normal’, so I won’t bother trying to explain it any further. But it is a terrible sadness to me that the Orbán/Fidesz/Jobbik ignorance, stupidity, and (Charlie is right) boorishness, has turned Hungary back from the more enlightened and progressive path it was taking between 1989 and 2010. When I first came to Hungary in 2001 I was impressed at what a civilised place it was. Far from being like the UK, I actually thought it was better in many ways – the amount of book and newspaper reading, the emphasis on education, the way children were looked after, the polite behaviour of people in public, the interest of many people in history and politics. It was like going back in time to the England of… Read more »
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