Hungary fines bookstore chain over ‘Heartstopper’ graphic novel


A government office in Hungary on Thursday slapped a heavy fine on a national bookseller for an LGBTQ graphic novel, saying it violated a controversial law that bans depictions of homosexuality to minors.

The bookstore, Lira Konyv, is the second largest bookstore chain in Hungary. He was fined 12 million guilders ($35,930) for placing British author Alice Oseman’s popular «Heartstopper» in her YA section, and for do not place it in a closed package as required by a 2021 law.

The Budapest Metropolitan Government Office, which issued the consumer protection fine, told state news agency MTI that it had conducted an investigation into the sale of the title at the store.

«The investigation found that the books in question depicted homosexuality, but were nevertheless placed in the category of children’s books and youth literature, and were not distributed in sealed packages,» the office said.

The fine is based on Hungarian «child protection» law of 2021, which prohibits the display of homosexual content to minors in the media, including television, movies, advertisements, and literature. It also prohibits LGBTQ content in school education programs and prohibits the public display of products that represent or promote gender that deviate from sex at birth.

Hungary’s government insists that the law, part of a broader statute that also increases criminal penalties for pedophilia and creates a searchable database for sex offenders, is necessary to protect children. But critics of the country’s right-wing government see it as an attempt to stigmatize lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

In April, 15 European Union countries backed legal action against the law in the European Court of Justice, with the bloc’s top executive, Ursula von der Leyen, calling it «a disgrace.»

The fine against Lira Konyv comes just two days before the budapest pride marchan annual event that draws thousands of LGBTQ people and their supporters to the Hungarian capital.

In a statement, the Budapest Metropolitan Government Office said it had ordered Lira Konyv to ensure the book’s legal distribution and would «always take strict action against companies that do not comply with the law.»

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