Liberating Pathologization? The Historical Background of the 1961 Decriminalization of Homosexuality in Hungary*
Centre for Social Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences Centre of Excellence; KWI Essen
Tamás P. Tóth
Centre for Social Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences Centre of Excellence; Artist & Researcher in Residence Guiniguada, Canary Islands
Analyzing the principles, considerations, and official explanations underpinning the
(de)criminalization of sexual relations between same-sex partners can highlight that around the mid-twentieth century medicalizing references were used in legal and societal judgments on same-sex intimacy in Hungary (and elsewhere). In this study, we want to illustrate the medicalization process of social issues that otherwise seem difficult to “solve” (i.e., these issues, in this case, were put within a psycho-medical ambit) by focusing on a twentieth-century historical example from Hungary. The background of the decriminalization of consensual sexual acts between adult men in the 1961 Hungarian Penal Code will be explored in detail using previously unknown original archival material from 1958. This article will introduce the changes proposed by the Neurology Committee of the Health Science Council (HSC; Egészségügyi Tudományos Tanács) in 1958 leading to the HSC’s unanimous support for a proposal to decriminalize “unnatural fornication” between consenting adults and to the actual decriminalization of homosexuality (i.e., decriminalization of consensual sexual acts between adult men) in 1961. The empirical foundation of the present study includes archival records from the National Archives of Hungary and other primary sources.
Keywords: homosexuality, (de)criminalization, social history, state-socialism, National Archives, Penal Code, Neurology Committee of the Health Science Council