Hungary may legalize porn involving 14- to 17-year-olds for home use

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BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — A bill modifying Hungary’s penal code could allow pornographic material involving 14- to 17-year-olds to be made and kept for personal use.

The Justice Ministry said the draft proposal, presented last month by Hungarian Justice Minister Jozsef Petretei, was in line with European Union norms which give members states the right to regulate the issue at national level.

But Opposition lawmakers attacked the proposal as "legalized pedophilia" and a family welfare group described it as "the waiting room of prostitution."

Petretei said Monday that the proposal had taken into account the age in Hungary — 14 — at which consensual sexual relations are allowed.

"If we consider people 14 years of age to be mature enough to consent to sexual acts, then the chance to make picture recordings of this … can also be allowed," Petretei told lawmakers in parliament.

The minister added that if deputies felt the issue offended their "moral sensitivity," they could propose changes to the bill.

Petretei also said that to bring Hungarian laws in line with EU norms, the ministry was also advocating changes in the same bill which would increase penalties for some other porn-related issues.

The center-right opposition parties strongly criticized the plan.

"This is a scandal," Miklos Soltesz, from the opposition Christian Democratic Peoples Party, told state television. "We initially thought the intention to legalize child pornography was government insanity … but it seems they’re serious."

Idiko Gall Pelcz from Fidesz, the largest center-right opposition party, described the proposal as "legalized pedophilia," calling it "revolting and distressing."

"I can only hope that there will be many of us here in parliament who agree … that to make pornographic recordings of minors is not part of and not a necessary condition of natural sexual development," Gall Pelcz said in parliament.

A civic group described the plan as "the waiting room of prostitution."

"This goes against common sense and the international rules on children’s rights," the Association of Large Families, which represents families with at least three children and claims to be Hungary’s largest civic organization, said in a statement.

Gergely Barandy, a deputy from the governing Socialist Party, said one possible solution would be to reject the ministry’s proposal relaxing the current law, but to give judges discretion in applying it.

"We would consider it unfair to threaten a 19-year-old person with prison for taking erotic pictures of his 17-year-old wife for their own use," Barandy said in a statement.

The bill — which is part of a longer series of proposed changes to the penal code stretching to 104 pages — says the pornographic material cannot involve people between the ages of 14 and 17 if they are related to or under the care of the person making the recordings.

The participants also must give their consent to the video or photos and the material cannot be made for commercial purposes.

The debate of the bill began in parliament last week and while some speakers mentioned general reservations about the plan, no concrete counterproposals were made.

Parliamentary Speaker Katalin Szili said Monday that the debate of the bill would continue next week.

Changes to the penal code require a simple majority in parliament, so in theory the government parties — which hold 210 of the 386 seats — would have enough votes to approve the proposal.

Changes suggested by lawmakers are voted on separately, so the bill could be approved even if the part in question is rejected.

Currently, Hungarian law says that adults making pornographic materials involving people under the age of 18 can be sentenced to up to two years in prison.

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