New anti-trafficking legislation to protect minors

Publicated on: March 23, 2020

The Criminal Code, the Act on Minor Offences, the Act on Organized Crime as well as the Child Protection Act were amended with a view to protecting children from sexual exploitation.

Hungary’s National Strategy against Trafficking in Human Beings (2020–2023) and the action plan on measures to be implemented in 2020–2021 were adopted in February 2020 by Government Decision No. 1046/2020 (II. 18.). The new strategy has foreseen the improvement of the legal environment for combatting human trafficking, which aims to exempt minors providing sexual services from criminal liability and to criminalize the users of any services provided by the victims of trafficking (reduction of the demand side).

All the following changes were included in Act V of 2020 on the amendment of certain laws to prevent the exploitation of victims of human trafficking, unanimously adopted by Parliament on 10 March. It will take effect on 1 July 2020.

The Act LXXV of 1999 on Organized Crime stipulates that persons under the age of 18 may not offer sexual services. 

In this spirit, a new section was added to the Act II of 2012 on Minor Offences: the violation of prohibition of offering sexual services is not punishable if the offender has not attained the age of 18 at the time of the commission of the act – prostitutes below the age of majority are treated as victims by the law (and not perpetrators), so criminal proceedings against cannot be commenced against them.

The next step of referral is laid down in the Act XXXI of 1997 on Child Protection. The minor violating the prohibition of offering sexual services is a presumed victim of human trafficking and thus provided with specialized care. In such a case, the police apply a so-called general protection measure and take the minor to the designated special childcare institution. Guardianship authority is notified without delay, though the placement is an immediately enforceable decision, and not subject to prior decision of the guardianship authority.

Lastly, three major amendments were made to the Act C of 2012 on the Criminal Code. The legal definitions of trafficking in human beings (Article 192) and forced labour (Article 193) are merged – a reasonable simplification of the regulation, since it’s conceptually a part to whole relation. 

In the same time, the penalty rates increase: the offense described in the standard case is punishable by imprisonment of up to 5 years instead of 3 years.

Consciously utilising the services or other activities of victims of human trafficking and forced labour will become punishable as well. In case of the use of child sexual services (Article 203) children are protected by means of higher penalty: “who pays for sexual intercourse with a minor under 18 years of age is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment between 2 to 8 years”.  


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