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Hungarian bookstore fined for selling LGBTQ+ novel in youth section | LGBTQ+ rights

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A government office in Hungary has levied a hefty fine against a national bookseller over a LGBTQ+ graphic novel series, saying it violated a contentious law that prohibits the depiction of homosexuality to minors.

The bookseller, Líra Könyv, is Hungary’s second-largest bookstore chain. It was fined 12m forints ($36,000 or £27,400) for placing Heartstopper by the British author Alice Oseman in its youth literature section, and for failing to place it in closed packaging as required by a 2021 law.

The Heartstopper webcomics and graphic novels were adapted for television and the subsequent series was a huge hit for Netflix, with a second season due in August.

The Budapest metropolitan government office, which issued the fine, told the state news agency MTI that it had conducted an investigation into the store selling the title.

“The investigation found that the books in question depicted homosexuality, but they were nevertheless placed in the category of children’s books and youth literature, and were not distributed in closed packaging,” the office said.

The British author of the Heartstopper series, Alice Oseman. Photograph: Alicia Canter/The Guardian

The fine is based on Hungary’s 2021 “child protection” law, which forbids the display of homosexual content to minors in media, including television, films, advertisements and literature. It also prohibits LGBTQ+ content in school education, and forbids the public display of products that depict or promote gender deviating from sex at birth.

Hungary’s government insists that the law, part of a broader statute that also increases criminal penalties for paedophilia and creates a searchable database of sex offenders, is necessary to protect children. But it is seen by critics of the country’s rightwing government as an attempt to stigmatise lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

In April, 15 countries of the European Union backed legal action against the law in the European Court of Justice, and the bloc’s top executive, Ursula von der Leyen, has called it “a disgrace.”

The fine against Líra Könyv came two days before the Budapest Pride march, an annual event that draws thousands of LGBTQ+ people and their supporters in Hungary’s capital.

In a statement, the Budapest metropolitan government office said it had ordered Líra Könyv to ensure the lawful distribution of the book, and that it “will always take strict action against companies that do not comply with the law”.


A government office in Hungary has levied a hefty fine against a national bookseller over a LGBTQ+ graphic novel series, saying it violated a contentious law that prohibits the depiction of homosexuality to minors.

The bookseller, Líra Könyv, is Hungary’s second-largest bookstore chain. It was fined 12m forints ($36,000 or £27,400) for placing Heartstopper by the British author Alice Oseman in its youth literature section, and for failing to place it in closed packaging as required by a 2021 law.

The Heartstopper webcomics and graphic novels were adapted for television and the subsequent series was a huge hit for Netflix, with a second season due in August.

The Budapest metropolitan government office, which issued the fine, told the state news agency MTI that it had conducted an investigation into the store selling the title.

“The investigation found that the books in question depicted homosexuality, but they were nevertheless placed in the category of children’s books and youth literature, and were not distributed in closed packaging,” the office said.

The British author of the Heartstopper series, Alice Oseman.
The British author of the Heartstopper series, Alice Oseman. Photograph: Alicia Canter/The Guardian

The fine is based on Hungary’s 2021 “child protection” law, which forbids the display of homosexual content to minors in media, including television, films, advertisements and literature. It also prohibits LGBTQ+ content in school education, and forbids the public display of products that depict or promote gender deviating from sex at birth.

Hungary’s government insists that the law, part of a broader statute that also increases criminal penalties for paedophilia and creates a searchable database of sex offenders, is necessary to protect children. But it is seen by critics of the country’s rightwing government as an attempt to stigmatise lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

In April, 15 countries of the European Union backed legal action against the law in the European Court of Justice, and the bloc’s top executive, Ursula von der Leyen, has called it “a disgrace.”

The fine against Líra Könyv came two days before the Budapest Pride march, an annual event that draws thousands of LGBTQ+ people and their supporters in Hungary’s capital.

In a statement, the Budapest metropolitan government office said it had ordered Líra Könyv to ensure the lawful distribution of the book, and that it “will always take strict action against companies that do not comply with the law”.

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