Hungary’s war on women

By Andrew Ryder at

A PUBLIC service announcement (PSA) produced by the Hungarian government has provoked worldwide outrage by placing the blame for sexual assault on survivors. The video depicts young women dressing provocatively, drinking and dancing, with the consequence of an attack by a stranger, before ending with the words, “You are responsible. You can do something about it.”

The media initiative coincided with a statement issued by police in Vas County on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, warning women that flirting might be expected to “elicit violence.”

Justifiably outraged, Hungarian feminists were quick to respond. Keret, a consortium of Hungarian women’s rights organizations, issued a letter of protest titled “Clothes Do Not Make the Victims!” In this statement, Keret says that the broadcasts are produced by “misogyny and contempt for women,” that the video propagates misconceptions, and that the government’s claims are incompatible with international human rights standards and Hungary’s commitments to these.

SlutWalk Budapest organized a November 30 demonstration that began at 3:30 in the afternoon at Déak Ferenc Square with scores of protestors demanding that the Hungarian government abandon its deplorable campaign and replace it with one that raises awareness about the facts regarding rape and the rights of survivors.

SlutWalk is a movement of protest marches that first occurred three years ago in Toronto, Ontario, in response to comments by a police officer who suggested a woman’s choice of dress was a primary cause of sexual violence. Demonstrations inspired by the Toronto protests have subsequently taken place in cities all over the world.

These protests explicitly counter the message conveyed by the Hungarian PSAs that victims of assault are themselves responsible for the acts of violence committed against them, simply as an effect of their dress or behavior. As Jen Roesch wrote during the initial outpouring of SlutWalk events:

We should reject outright the victim blaming that says a woman “asked for it” if she dresses a certain way or has had previous sexual partners. But we must go further and build an anti-sexist movement that can empower women to confidently accept or refuse sex according to their own desires–and create the kind of culture in which men understand and respect the difference.

The content of the videos is so blatant in its illustration of what feminists have named “rape culture” that many viewers initially react with disbelief. It is actually somewhat rare to find such an explicit attempt to force women to police themselves–all under the guise of protecting them. For this reason, it is worth considering the ideology that the Hungarian state wishes to disseminate, and how this is related to its larger political agenda.


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2 replies on “Hungary’s war on women”

Or the irony of having someone from the Socialist Worker write about rape when the party destroyed itself to protect a rapist!

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