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Hungary orders shops to cover up LGBT-themed children's books

FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators protest against Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and the latest anti-LGBTQ law in Budapest, Hungary, June 14, 2021. REUTERS/Marton Monus

Hungary ordered bookshops on Friday to cover up children's books seen as promoting homosexuality, stepping up restrictions that have set Prime Minister Viktor Orban on a collision course with rights groups and the European Union.

The decree also included books seen as promoting gender change and containing "explicit" depictions of sexuality. It told shops to sell them separately and banned any sale of them at all within 200 metres of a school or a church.

The order is the first of what is expected to be a series of directives spelling out the implications of a law passed in June banning the use of materials seen as promoting homosexuality and gender reassignment at schools.

FILE PHOTO: People gather in front of a huge rainbow balloon put up by members of Amnesty International and Hatter, an NGO promoting LGBT rights, at Hungary's parliament in Budapest, Hungary, July 8, 2021. REUTERS/Marton Monus

The European Commission has launched legal action against Orban's nationalist government over the legislation, saying it is discriminatory and contravenes European values of tolerance and individual freedom.

Orban, in power since 2010 and facing a challenging election next year, has grown increasingly radical on social policy in a self-proclaimed crusade to safeguard what he says are traditional Christian values from Western liberalism.

Friday's government decree, which was signed by Orban, said the affected books should be covered in "closed wrapping".

FILE PHOTO: Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban addresses the media as he arrives on the first day of the European Union summit at The European Council Building in Brussels, Belgium June 24, 2021. John Thys/Pool via REUTERS

In July Hungary fined the distributor of a children's book about same-sex "rainbow families" under a law that bans unfair trade practices.

Orban's government says the new law is meant to protect children and leave it up to parents to educate them about sexuality.

Several rights groups have said the law wrongly conflates paedophilia and pornography with LGBT issues. Ursula von der Leyen, head of the EU's executive Commission has called it a "disgrace".

FILE PHOTO: Participants kiss as they take part in the annual Pride festival in Budapest, Hungary, July 7, 2018. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

An Ipsos poll last month found that 46% of Hungarians support same-sex marriage. Last month thousands of Hungarians joined the annual Budapest Pride march to protest against the law.

The European Commission's legal action against Hungary and a separate move against Poland are the latest salvo in a clash of cultures between Brussels and some of the EU's newest members in eastern Europe over a range of core issues including the rule of law and press freedoms.

(Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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