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Did Hungary Really Just Ban Gender Studies?

A Fox News story gave a blatantly inaccurate headline regarding Hungary's new policy towards gender studies programs.

By Ryan Lau | @agorisms

On October 17th, Fox News released a stunning headline. It read, “Hungary bans gender studies because it is ‘an ideology not a science'”. The article prompted vast social media responses, both positive and negative. Some proponents declared that the Euroskeptic nation is moving away from the liberal policies of the EU. On the other hand, others declared that this was going against the desires and interests of many Hungarian students.

In the heated discussions, there was one thing missing: the facts. The thing is, the Fox headline, as well as many other news headlines on the subject, got it all wrong: Hungary is not banning gender studies at all.

A Shaky Headline

Looking at the headline instantly brings about a fair degree of suspicion about its validity. Colleges all throughout the world teach many things besides sciences. In many cases, such courses do fall under the category of ideology. In fact, some, such as political theory, dedicate themselves solely to the study of ideology.

This calls into the question the validity of the Hungarian claim that the decree is due to ideology. At least, it proves a degree of hypocrisy on the part of the Hungarian government for only taking action towards one form of ideology. Yet, even their action against gender studies is quite limited.

Hungary’s New Gender Studies Policy

In reality, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban did sign a decree about gender studies. Effective October 13th, the government did remove federal funding and revoked approval for the master’s program. As such, students admittedly cannot currently sign up to take the program with federal funding.

However, they did not in any way address anything related to undergraduate gender studies. Moreover, the university insisted it will still teach the program to give both MA and Ph.D. degrees.

Further still, the decree did nothing to address gender studies in private schools and universities. There is a clear distinction between a ban and a removal of funding; the latter does not criminalize the act in question. Hungary, clearly, did not make it illegal for someone to practice gender studies. They furthermore will not be giving anyone a punishment for doing so. A lack of funding is not punishment; it is an inaction, not a negative action.

So, the claim, which Fox News, Independent, and many other organizations made, is false. Though the Hungarian government took away federal funding and support for gender studies, they did not do anything to prohibit its practice.


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