Hungarian Minister Miklós Réthelyi was in the European Parliament yesterday talking to FEMM Committee members. He laid out Hungary’s plans in the field of gender equality during the 6 months of its Presidency. It’s fair to say the reception towards him from some members was quite hostile.
I grilled him on the constitutional plans in Hungary to grant a new legal status to the foetus right from the moment of conception. This could eventually lead to the complete banning of abortion, and even to the banning of morning after pills. I asked him if he really thought there would be no illegal abortions afterwards and was he really willing to risk women’s lives in this way.
Unsurprisingly, Réthelyi did his best to evade my question. If this change does take place in Hungary, then it will be a massive blow for those championing Hungarian women’s sexual and reproductive rights. The potential consequences of this new legal status could be devastating.
I also asked about his comment that he favours part-time work for women so that they can care well for their families. I was interested to know if he really believes this is the path that leads to more children, and more secure and happier families. The Minister talked a great deal in his presentation about working and stay-at-home mums. But he seemed intent to lump them in different categories. He told me he believes equal opportunities are vitally important for democracy; yet his vision of the expected roles of men and women are in my view not conducive to gender equality, or democracy.
If the Hungarian Presidency really wants to take forward FEMM’s gender equality programme, then clearly it needs to step back and rethink its position in certain areas.