The Veszprém Court of Justice set off a legal bombshell when it recently issued a ruling allowing a transgender woman to claim the retirement age benefit designated for women. As Hungarian Conservative reported yesterday, the deputy leader of the Fidesz parliamentary group referred to the court decision as ‘gross provocation’ and a ‘blow to the legal system’.
Therefore, it did not come as a surprise when two governing party MPs, Minister Gergely Gulyás (Fidesz) and Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén (KDNP) initiated a legislative amendment on Thursday, 13 July. The proposed amendment adds to the original text of the legislation that
women who have worked for 40 years as women are eligible for the special early retirement scheme.
One of the significant innovations of the Orbán government was the introduction of retirement age benefits for women in 2011. The amendment to the Act on Social Security Benefits, Law No. LXXXI of 1997, was adopted by a large majority in Parliament with 254 in favour, 15 against, and 73 abstentions. As a result, women who have not yet reached the age limit for claiming a full old age pension but have 40 years of service may retire. Women are clearly taking advantage of this opportunity, as shown by the official figures provided by the Hungarian Central Statistical Office (KSH). In 2022, 27,996 women were granted early retirement, and between 2011 and 2022, a total of 326,000 individuals have benefited from the scheme.
Among the 326,000 individuals, there has not been a single transgender woman until now. However, according to a recent ruling by the Veszprém Court of Justice, transgender women can also claim the retirement age benefit, designated for biological women. The decision, which reverberated in the public sphere, was reported by the Háttér Társaság (Háttér Society). They wrote that one of their clients, Elvira Csillag, requested recognition as a transgender woman years ago, and since 2013, her official documents also identify her as a woman. However, in 2021, it was revealed that the pension authority still considered her as male, so she the law allowing women to retire after 40 years of qualifying service did not apply to her.
With the assistance of the association, Elvira challenged the decision. According to their account, the local Government Office cited that the purpose of the retirement age benefit for women, known as ‘Women 40,’ is to compensate women for their role in child-rearing and maintaining family life. However, they were unable to answer why the benefit is then also available to childless or single women, as claimed by the association representing LGBTQ+ individuals. Therefore, the court ruled that the Government Office illegally narrowed down the concept of ‘sex’ (gender) to biological sex. Following the court decision, the Government Office modified their records regarding the plaintiff’s gender, potentially opening the way for Elvira to retire in two years, after 40 years of employment.
Deputy Leader of the Fidesz parliamentary group Gabriella Selmeczi responded to the court’s decision,
describing it as gross provocation and a blow to the legal system.
In an interview with Magyar Nemzet, she explained that in 2010, it was Prime Minister Viktor Orbán who suggested to the Fidesz-KDNP parliamentary alliance that they should appreciate women and show their respect by allowing women who have worked for forty years to retire, regardless of their age. Selmeczi described it as outrageous that the ‘Women 40’ retirement age benefit is being mocked. As she put it, this case clearly shows that LGBTQ+ propaganda does exist.
The Fidesz-KDNP parliamentary alliance maintains its position that only two biological sexes exist. She emphasised that this case cannot go unanswered by the legislators, and therefore, a legislative amendment is necessary. She expressed hope that Fidesz-KDNP will review the laws and, if necessary, modify them.
During the parliamentary debate back in 2010, speakers from the governing party stated that the special retirement scheme is a benefit. It rewards women who have a long work history, typically those who started working after finishing secondary school. It also aims to reward women for their dual roles, including both work and child-rearing, by including the time spent in these activities in the eligibility period. Furthermore, the justification of the bill mentioned that it ‘promotes further family involvement’ of the affected women, allowing younger mothers to more easily return to the labour market.
In their remarks, opposition speakers did not mention transgender women at the time.
LMP representative Katalin Ertsey criticised the justification of the bill, as its message implies that grandmothers should take care of their grandchildren, assuming the role of free of charge babysitters. Socialist representative Nándor Gúr raised the issue that the benefit discriminates not only between women and men but also between women, as years spent in higher education and vocational training are not included in the eligibility period, placing women with higher qualifications at a disadvantage. The proposal also fails to consider regional differences in the situation of women, the Socialist MP argued at the time.