Hungary fines bookstore for sale of LGBT-themed ‘Heartstopper’ without wrapping


BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Hungary on Thursday fined one of the country’s largest booksellers for selling a British webcomic and graphic novel without closed wrapping, saying this breached a 2021 law that bans disseminating content among minors that depicts homosexuality.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government promotes a strongly Christian-conservative agenda and passed a law in 2021 banning the “display and promotion of homosexuality” among those under age 18 despite criticism from rights groups and the European Union.

The law, which the government says aims to protect children, has caused anxiety in the LGBT community.

A Budapest government office imposed a fine of 12 million forints ($36,041) on Lira Kereskedelmi Kft bookstore, saying it sold “Heartstopper” by British author Alice Oseman, among other books for minors, and did not wrap them in plastic foil as required by law.

“The probe stated that the books in question depict homosexuality and despite this, they were placed among literature aimed for minors,” the government office said in a statement on state news agency MTI.

“Heartstopper” has also been adapted as a British coming-of-age romantic comedy-drama television series on Netflix.

This is not the first time a Hungarian government office imposed a fine on a bookstore for a violation of the law that had been strongly condemned by the EU. The fresh fine comes just days ahead of a Pride march in Budapest on Saturday.

The European Commission referred Hungary to the Court of Justice of the EU over the anti-LGBT law in mid-2022.

Over the past 13 years, Orban has appealed to conservative Hungarians who believe their country is in a struggle to protect its Christian identity from Muslim immigrants and what it calls “gender and LGBT ideology”.

($1 = 332.9500 forints)

(Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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