Translators and authors condemn Hungary’s ‘retrograde law’ on LGBT rights

14 July 2021

Illustration © Ah-Soft / Adobe Stock

The Translators Association and the Society of Authors join the European Council of Literary Translators’ Associations (CEATL) in condemning the Hungarian government’s crackdown on LGBT rights.

Following the introduction of the law in June, a £600 fine was imposed last week on the bookshop Líra Könyv for selling Anna T. Szabó’s translation of Lawrence Schimel’s What a Family!, illustrated by Elīna Brasliņa, without flagging it as ‘content which deviates from the norm’.

Shaun Whiteside, president of CEATL, has written on behalf of 35 European translators’ associations to the Hungarian embassy in Brussels. He wrote:

CEATL, the European Council of Literary Translators’ Associations, is appalled by the fine imposed on the book shop Líra Könyv for selling the book Micsoda család! (What a Family!) written by Lawrence Schimel, illustrated by Elīna Brasliņa and translated by Anna T. Szabó, for failing to note that it contains ‘content which deviates from the norm’. We stand in solidarity with the book’s author, Lawrence Schimel, when he writes that the Hungarian government is ‘trying to normalise hate and prejudice with these concerted attacks against books like mine (…) which represent for kids the plural and diverse world they live in.’

CEATL further condemns the Hungarian government’s crackdown on LGBT rights in Hungary with the law of 15 June 2021, and stands with all Hungarian associations protesting this law, in particular our own member association, MEGY, which has called for its revocation: ‘Literary translators should not be restricted by any politically motivated law that restricts fundamental human rights in the subject matter about which they translate books’. The 35 European translators’ associations that make up CEATL join with MEGY in calling for a revocation of this retrograde law.

The Hungarian law has strong echoes of the UK’s own Section 28 legislation, introduced in 1988 by Margaret Thatcher’s government. Part of the 1988 Local Government Act, Section 28 legislated that local authorities ‘shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality’ or ‘promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.’

Section 28 remained in UK law until its repeal in 2003 (2000 in Scotland). Although there were no successful prosecutions under Section 28, it was used to stop funding of numerous LGBT projects and charities, caused confusion among teachers about what could and could not be discussed in the classroom, and ensured that a generation of young people failed to get the support they needed throughout their childhood and adolescence.