Hungary fines bookstore and pressures others to seal LGBTQ books

A Hungarian bookstore has been fined for displaying the award-winning young adult graphic novel ‘Heartstopper’
A Hungarian bookstore has been fined for displaying the award-winning young adult graphic novel ‘Heartstopper’ Copyright Hodder Children's Books - Hachette Children's Group
By Savin Mattozzi
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The Hungarian government has levied a large fine against a Budapest bookstore for displaying a young adult graphic novel that depicts a LGBTQ coming of age story.


Hungary’s right-wing government has fined a bookstore nearly €32,000 (12,000,000 forints) for displaying the award-winning young adult graphic novel ‘Heartstopper’ in the children's section of the store.

'Heartstopper' by British author Alice Oseman, is a teen coming out story cantered around teenage boys Charlie and Nick who meet at an all-boys Grammar school.

The Lira Kiskereskedelmi Kft bookstore chain is the latest bookstore to come under fire from the government for breaking a law passed in 2021 that forbids the advertisement or distribution of materials that "promote or display homosexuality."

The office of the Budapest regional government stated in a press release that “the investigation established that the books in question depict homosexuality, yet they were displayed among books for children, classified as youth literature, and they were not distributed in sealed packaging."

"Due to the violation of the law, the government office imposed a HUF 12,000,000 consumer protection fine and obliged the company to ensure legal distribution,” added the statement, continuing that the legal action against the bookstore was taken to “protect the children.”

Plastic wrapping LGBTQ books

Shortly before this fine was issued to the Budapest-based bookstore, Hungary’s largest bookseller Libri decided to start plastic wrapping all books that contain LGBTQ characters so customers are unable to open them in bookstores, in accordance with the recent law.

Both Libri and Lira have been fined in the past for not complying with the 2021 “child protection” law.

In 2021 Lira had to pay €667 (250,000 forints) for displaying an American children’s book whose main character had two fathers as parents. Earlier this year, Libra was fined roughly €2,670 (1 million forints) for the “improper display” of books.

What is the "child protection law"?

The “child protection law”, which was passed by a sweeping 157 votes to one, has garnered fierce criticism from within Hungary and the European Union.

The law broadly bans content which “promotes or portrays a divergence from self-identity corresponding to sex at birth, sex change or homosexuality” to minors.

In April, the Hungarian parliament approved a law that would make it possible for people to report families that go against “constitutionally recognized role of marriage and the family.” Critics of the law say that it unjustly targets same-sex couples and their families.

The law was later vetoed by president Katalin Novak but her veto can still be overruled by lawmakers.

Since taking office more than a decade ago, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has unleashed a campaign targeting the LGBTQ community. In April, Germany and France joined a legal case initiated by the European Commission against Hungary and the country’s treatment of the LGBTQ community and freedom of press.

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