Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Sunday that homosexuals should “leave our children alone” when asked about a children’s book containing gay characters that was publicly shredded by a far-right politician.
“Hungary has laws pertaining to homosexuality, the basis of which is an exceptionally tolerant and patient approach,” Orban said during a regular interview on public radio.
“But there is a red line that you cannot cross,” Orban said, referring to the book as a “provocative act”.
“To sum up my opinion on this: leave our children alone,” he said.
The remarks were prompted by a row over a children’s story book published by an LGBT association entitled “Storyworld is for everyone” that included gay characters.
A collection of stories based on well-known tales, the book’s main characters are drawn from marginalised and disadvantaged minorities, including the LGBT community.
In one story Cinderella is lesbian, while a transgender dragon-slayer appears in another.
A conservative group called for the book to be pulled from shelves, while a far-right politician called it “homosexual propaganda” and shredded a copy at a news conference.
The stunt was condemned by the Hungarian Publishers and Booksellers’ Association, who compared it to “Nazi book burners and Communist book shreds”.
Publicity over the row was seen as helping propel the book to the top of several retailers’ bestseller lists.
The controversy follows rising anti-gay sentiment over the decade of Orban’s rule.
Since coming to power in 2010, he rewrote the central European country’s constitution and included a definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
His anti-immigration and conservative social policies have included a 2018 decree effectively banning universities from teaching gender studies courses.
In May of this year a ban on legally changing one’s gender came into force, making it impossible for transgender people to have their official documents contain their gender and name in accordance with their gender identity.
Rights groups say this exposes trans people to potential discrimination in employment, housing, and accessing services and official procedures.
In August, meanwhile, far-right politicians and activists tore down flags and disrupted events during the Pride festival.