NANE, a Hungarian Women‟s Rights NGO was founded in January 1994, and achieved the
status of a charitable organization in 1999. NANE is primarily dedicated to ending the human
rights violations and the threat of violence against women and children through advocacy,
personal support services and public education.
OUR MAIN ACTIVITIES INCLUDE:
• running a helpline with volunteers for women and children whom are exposed to physical,
sexual, economic and emotional violence;
• lobbying and introducing law-amendment proposals where current regulations need
enhancement regarding equity, litigating power of women and children, and protection of
the rights of women;
• providing legal support (counseling and/or representation) for battered or otherwise
• cooperating with government and non-government institutions to improve policy;
• and public education on the roots and effects of violence against women and children, and
THE HELPLINE operates from 6 to 10 p.m. seven days a week by around 15 trained volunteers
who give callers emotional support, information about their legal options, and referral to other
services if required/available. We get an average of 60 calls a week, and the number is rising.
There are in fact, desperately few resources available for abused women and children in
Hungary at all. Officials and practitioners in the criminal justice system (including attorneys,
judges etc.), the law enforcement and health care professions show little sympathy or
understanding for the victims, as well as virtually no knowledge of the realities of violence
against women as a human rights violation. The equal protection of the law guaranteed by the
Declaration of Human Rights and the Hungarian Constitution is a long way from being
realized in practice.
PUBIC DEBATE AND THE IMPROVEMENT OF THE LEGAL BACKGROUND for women‟s rights
have always been a priority for NANE. In 1994 we started a public campaign in the media
and by collecting signatures, to have marital rape included in the definition of rape in the
Hungarian criminal code. In 1995 we petitioned the Constitutional Court to declare this
exclusion unconstitutional. Though the Constitutional Court never managed to pronounce an
opinion on this topic, in 1997 the Hungarian Parliament finally did amend the Penal Code to
outlaw marital rape. In 1999, in cooperation with both Hungarian NGO‟s and an American
non-profit organization, we participated in organizing public debates and a demonstration
against the restriction of reproductive rights. We currently have two law-proposals handed in,
one to the Ministry of Justice, the other, through a Member of Parliament, to the Parliament.
Both proposals aim to remedy discrimination of women and girls (and, in the fist case, sexual
minorities), which the current legal regulations perpetuate. These proposals were worked out
and signed in cooperation with other human rights organisations.
Highly dependent on our funding situation, we nevertheless attempt to provide LEGAL
ASSISTANCE to as many of our clients as possible. Many callers need legal advice, which is
either provided by our trained helpline volunteers, or by lawyers we are in contact with. Some
clients need legal representation, which we usually cover from funding for this purpose. Up to
now, funding for this activity was scarce, but there is a growing need that the organization
faces regarding the provision of legal representation which we are determined to answer. Also
part of this activity is the assistance in the writing of official letters, inquiries etc. in legal
cases, accompanying the client to the court, the police, or to other authorities where she is
likely to be treated more lightly if she is on her own, sometimes even covering travel costs for
a client to go to a hearing.
COOPERATING WITH GOVERNMENT AND NON-GOVERNMENT INSTITUTIONS TO IMPROVE
POLICY consists of training‟s we hold for government officials from such different fields as
the police and the visiting nurses, for example, as well as training‟s/demos at schools
(elementary, high schools, colleges and universities) and other NGO‟s. Apart from an
introductory session of about 60-90 minutes usually used in classes at schools and
universities, we have three training modules: an introductory training of 10-15 hours, an
advanced training of 30 hours and the full course of 50 hours. It also includes the distribution
of our booklet we published in the beginning of the year 2000 on domestic violence and
training and talks we are invited to as a follow-up.
PUBLIC EDUCATION is achieved by a relatively constant presence of NANE in both the
written and the electronic media. We have at least one electronic media appearance and at
least one article in a bigger magazine or newspaper per month in which we have a chance to
voice our views on the issue. Our first public education campaign is in process, it includes
leaflets, wallet cards, and posters on the rights of victims of violence, the effects of domestic
violence on women and children, and steps communities, authorities, politicians and experts
may take to prevent and/or stop violence against women and children.
It is important to understand that women‟s rights and children‟s rights are often inextricably
linked in Hungary. Though our organization is focused on women‟s rights issues, we
nevertheless often find ourselves advocates for children‟s rights as well. This is especially
true when battering and abuse goes on in the home, or when sexual abuse is involved.
Therefore, we included children in the above description of our activities wherever, based on
our every day experience, children are abused in a direct correlation with the abuse of women.
PROJECTS CURRENTLY RUNNING
Since the establishment of NANE in January 1994, our helpline for abused women and
children operates every day all year from 6 to 10 p.m. Since 1999 we have been able to offer a
toll-free number for our callers. There are approximately 6-12 calls per night. The cases often
demand our involvement regarding legal aid, representation and practical help with non-
‘Why Does She Stay?’
In this recently published 52-page-long booklet we outlined the background of a battered
woman, her relationship to her abuser, the ways individuals and institutions can help her and
the way she herself can be empowered to change her situation.
Peer Education Project
In this project we aim to reach young people who are also affected by violence but who are
still more flexible to recognize it and change it than many adults are. We have several teens
who, as we are nearing the official end of the project, have an overall understanding of
interpersonal violence, and are capable of speaking about these issues to their peers.
IOM (International Organization for Migration) helpline
In this joint project with IOM, NANE operated a helpline first 8, later 4 hours every weekday
for women who are planning to work abroad. The purpose of the project was a) to lower the
risk that women face when working abroad, especially forced prostitution and trafficking in
women, b) to offer information on their rights and obligations abroad, and c) to offer
information on the institutions that can be of help, should they need it. The helpline is to
restart later this year with weekly eight hours.
Public Education Campaign
This is a campaign funded by the Soros Foundation and USIS to produce leaflets, information
cards, and stickers providing information on the following topics: how to recognize battering,
the rights of victimized women, the effects of violence on children, myths and facts about
domestic violence, and information about our helpline.
In line with the public education campaign, this individual project is also designed to call
attention to the serious, in many cases deadly, effects of domestic violence. The ‟Silent
Witnesses ‟ are wooden silhouettes of female figures painted in red with a true story on each
side of a woman murdered in a domestic violence case.
This project started the publication of books on issues that are closely related to violence
against women and other women‟s rights issues. We will publish a series of books dealing
with the following topics: psychological trauma following rape/incest and other domestic
violence-related crimes and their treatment, assertiveness and self-defense for young people,
feminist writings from the women‟s movement, women‟s health issues, etc.
Training’s and Courses
Each year we hold a minimum of two volunteer training courses, 50 hours each. We regularly
hold training for members of different professions who come into contact with battered
women and children. We have several modules from 60 minutes introductory classes to the
50-hour full training.
The IOM-NANE trafficking prevention helpline
IOM Budapest selected NANE Women‟s Rights Association for the information helpline part
of its multimedia information campaign to prevent trafficking in young Hungarian women.
The selection was almost self-evident, since NANE has highly experienced senior staff in
helpline counselling for women victims of violence.
Although the helpline was technically available from February 2000, due to delays in the start
of the media opening (it seems that the media company had difficulties in purveying the
unconventional message of the prevention campaign), significant number of calls was first
registered around mid-March. With the joint regular television appearances of IOM and
NANE staff, the public acquired finally a clear picture of the aims of the helpline and the
possible target groups.
Caller numbers: right after the start of the campaign, during the 8-hr shifts, we had approx. 8-
10 REAL calls a day, i.e. calls fitting the target group and the theme of the helpline. This
boost lasted approximately one month. Later on, despite the 8-hour shift, we had no more than
4-6 real calls a day. For the operators, clearly a sign that fewer hours are enough.
Unfortunately until the original end of the project in September, this could not be changed, we
never learned, why.
Typical caller profile: mostly women aged 17-30, planning to work abroad. Approximately
equal numbers of them were just starting to look, already contacted one or several agencies,
or had a concrete offer or even a signed contract at the time of their call. Our assistance for
the typical caller included: checking the agency they planned to or did contact on a list of
registered job agencies. We went through a list of safety checks both for the time prior to and
after leaving for the job, talked about legal and illegal jobs, working visas, etc., and when
possible, gave the phone numbers of helping organisations in the target countries.
In some cases, worried mothers called the helpline, often with the direct wish to stop their
(adult) daughters by some means from going abroad. We suggested to these callers that they
share with their daughters the information we gave them, rather than trying to threaten their
daughters. Also, that our number should be with the information they give to their daughter.
We also prepare these mothers for the scenario that their daughter decides to go ahead. That
rather then turning their backs on their daughters is supportive so that their daughters will
more likely stay in touch.
In a few cases, although it was not advertised, we received calls from survivors, mainly
wanting to share their stories to help others. Another small group of callers were relatives,
mostly mothers, who called because their daughters disappeared when working abroad, and
because they tried to get help from the authorities but received only neglect or abuse. In these
cases we gave information on police procedures, and, when applicable, got in touch with our
contact at Interpol Budapest, so that she could do what the local police stations failed to do:
bring such cases to the attention of the Interpol office.
We also notified European organisations working on trafficking about our activities. As a
result, Proyecto Esperanza of Spain contacted us to receive three women coming from them
back to Budapest. Using IOM infrastructure, we received these women at the airport, and
stayed in touch with them after their arrival. We also work together with LEFÖ of Austria
regarding their Hungarian client. This work however, can be only done sporadically since
funds are not available to create a full-scale operation of this sort.
General evaluation of activities: our aim of empowering the women through information
about the facts and realities of their venture was very successful in most cases. Based on our
conversations we can safely state that the women who contacted us received an individualised
confirmation of the information they might have encountered in the leaflets. Their awareness
and alertness regarding safety and legality of jobs abroad has risen significantly. We are
convinced that NANE‟s method of counselling in which we communicated with the caller as
with an equal made it possible that they did not automatically close down when they received
information which was uncomfortable to receive.
Hungary is a country without a women‟s movement, which makes its situation rather unique
and difficult. Without a supporting ideological background, recognition, prevention, and
intervention of violence against women is a monumental task. Apart from the suffragette era
of the early 20th century, women‟s issues as a political struggle have not been present in the
social agenda. It was only in the 1990‟s that a few women started to organize and publicly
discuss women‟s problems. Although violence against women is a widespread problem, up to
this day our organization, NANE Women‟s Rights Association, has been the only women‟s
NGO in the country dealing with domestic violence.
Representative surveys confirm that Hungary is in no better position than other European
countries: at one point in her life every fifth woman is battered by her partner, which means
that in a population of 10 million one million women are affected by physical partnership
violence. As for sexual violence and child abuse we can only make guesses about a latency of
10-28 times higher than the actual number of known cases. Based on our hotline data we can
say that both physical and sexual violence is a major problem in Hungary.
Hungary‟s biggest ethnic minority is the Roma minority adding up to approximately 10
percent of the overall population. The Roma are generally characterized by a lack of resources,
extreme poverty, and massive discrimination. Roma women are among the least likely to have
education and employment, and we can safely say that they encounter a significantly higher
extent of interpersonal violence both from peer men and majority groups than white women.
In general the majority considers Roma women immoral and good for one thing – rape. This
is reflected in the fact that the vast majority of street prostitutes are Roma girls and women.
Even though rapes committed against children (especially boys) and women by unknown
perpetrators are the most likely to be understood as rape, most victims choose not to report it.
The services of the police and the trials taking years undoubtedly deter many victims. Old
prejudiced attitudes about the woman being provocative or asking for it still prevail in both
public opinion and institutions
In case of a known perpetrator the process becomes more difficult since many people,
including victims, do not recognize or acknowledge acquaintance and marital rape as sexual
violence. Surveys also show that women do not report forced or coerced sexual encounters
with boyfriends/husbands as rape.
Locally the vast majority of prostitutes are Roma women (see above). An other group
especially vulnerable to prostitution is Roma and non-Roma girls growing up in state homes.
These girls are given a monthly allowance by the state that is collected for them on a separate
bank account and handed over to them on their 18th birthdays. It happens very often that
affiliated men await the birthday of these girls eagerly and cheat them out of their money,
thus robbing them of their only chance to find some kind of shared accommodation. Often
these girls find themselves in prostitution either working on their own or for their prostitutors
(so called „boyfriends‟).
In the last few years trafficking of women has also become a known problem. Hungary is
both a sending and receiving country as for trafficking. Every year several hundred Hungarian
girls and women are lured by false advertisements and coerced into prostitution both in
Hungary and abroad.
Sexual violence and the law
The Hungarian law has two major problem areas: old laws reflecting old prejudices and lack
of modern approaches. At present the Hungarian law provides no criminal categories for the
following areas: domestic violence in general, restraining order, sexual harassment, sexual
harassment of youngsters from persons of authority, stalking, and incest.
Age of consent
The age of consent is 12 (!). Between the ages of 12 and 14 a minor may consent or not
consent to a sexual act. Even if s/he consents, the law calls it „debauching of minors‟ and
theoretically punishes perpetrators. This extremely low age limit leaves young girls extremely
vulnerable and unprotected against sexual abuse by older men, which fact is readily exploited
by prostitutors and other perpetrators (ie. „clients‟).
Incest is included in the Penal Code under the name of „blood contamination‟ – a derogatory,
victim-blaming term that has been used for centuries. The law explicitly refers to blood
relations between victim and perpetrator, thus and leaving girls less protected by the law
against sexual abuse by foster fathers whose acts qualify to a lesser crime, and providing a
way for foster parents to get away completely free with the rape of „consenting‟ foster
daughters above the age of 14. In case of parent-perpetrators the common institutional
response is the „elevate‟ the child out of the family and put her into a foster home. This
practice clearly deters many victims from reporting the abuse in order to stay with their
families and in the meantime punishes the child victim instead of the perpetrator.
For gay sexual relations the consenting parties need to be over 18, which is also the official
coming of age. The blatant discrimination towards gay sexual activities is also reflected in the
prejudiced terms of the law that speaks of forced homosexual sexual acts which are „against
nature‟ as if it was homosexuality and not coercion that is „against nature‟.
After long battles and scandalous remarks from politicians, marital rape was finally
introduced as a separate item in the Penal Code in 1997. Recent surveys however show that
45 percent of women have no knowledge about marital rape being a crime. Since the law was
introduced we have had no knowledge of any test cases.
By comparing independent survey data and data provided by the Ministry of Interior we
speculate that in Hungary approximately 98,2 percent of reported heterosexual rapes remain
unpunished. The legal process is most often halted by the police (“lack of evidence”) or the
judges themselves. The roots of this inefficiency lie in the complete lack of training of these
Although in the case of underage victims of sexual abuse there seems to be more
responsiveness from both professionals and the public, due to lack of specific training the
handling of such victims if painfully inefficient, and in many cases only adds insult to injury.
The whole country has only one „child interrogation room‟ (to be found in the capital) where
sexually abused children in theory can be privately interrogated and their confessions can be
videotaped to avoid secondary traumatization. Much as the room is the pride if Hungarian
police, we know that it is hardly ever used, and NANE members themselves have also seen
the room showing signs of being out of use.
Adult victims generally meet even less sympathy. Rape victims get no complex support
should they decide to report the assault. The police is not offering integrated services for
women (gynecologist, peer-counseling, and trained female officers). Instead, countless
questions are raised about the woman‟s dress, intentions, and involvement in the attack. The
problems get even worse if the perpetrator is known to the victim, especially in the case is
marital rape. Children‟s abuse is often dismissed on grounds that they were taught to lie by
their mothers in order to get a more favorable court decision.
Secondary traumatization is an enormous problem for victims. Ironically, one of the services
of ESZTER AMBULANCIA (see below) is to help the victim assess if there is enough
evidence in her case to press charges or it is more feasible not to report the offender and get
more traumatized in the criminal investigations and endless trial .
Awareness of professional groups
Professional groups who meet victims on a regular basis including police officers, social
workers, nurses, doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, and teachers are not given specific and
compulsory training about domestic and sexual violence in general and job-specific
knowledge in particular. Types and dynamics of violence against women and children, the
physical and psychological effects of victimization, and efficient techniques to work with
such victims are not specifically on the training agenda of these groups.
Thus myths and victim-blaming are still a major problem for victims of sexual abuse, and
experience shows that professional groups on the whole are unprepared to deal with such
victims effectively. It is rare the problem of abuse is identified by the professionals unless the
victimized client specifically discloses the abuse. The police and the legal professionals often
fail to use the existing legal possibilities in cases of domestic and sexual violence; whereas
the law forbids the beating of a person by an other, this law is not routinely used or the
penalty is mitigated in case of close and intimate relationships like marriage.
In the past few years NANE has managed to establish connections with a small number of
professionals who have access to organizing trainings for such groups. Due to scattered
invitations we have been able to provide introductory courses (1-3 hours) to groups of nurses,
doctors, social workers, psychologists, teachers, and/or students in these professions.
However the number of people we have been able to reach is far from enough to install a
change in professional attitudes.
Healing from sexual abuse
The only professional organization that explicitly and exclusively deals with child and adult
victims of sexual abuse is a small collective of two psychologists under the name ESZTER
AMBULANCIA. Here two psychologists (one female, one male) offer therapy for victims
who can make contact with the organization by an answer phone and who are carefully pre-
Although the majority of victims will not seek professional help, those that do with some luck
may end up with an understanding and self-trained therapist. We have spoken to a few girls
and women who reported having found helpful therapists. However, as opposed to the
countless accounts of unsympathetic or even hostile therapists this offers little solace. Many
therapists for example still identify incest as an Oedipal problem of women instead of a social
problem of men.
Acquiring help outside the professional mental health system basically means having a
supporting family/friends or finding the hotline of NANE. Although NANE has been
planning to start a self-help group for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, due to lack
of funding and staff, so far we have been unable to do so.
The last option we as a civil organization have is the equip the survivors with self-help books
– a means we often resort in our trainings and on the hotline. This is a relatively safe way for
survivors to find answers and healing, although without the benefits of a communal
interpersonal experience. Susan Forward‟s Toxic Parents has recently been translated into
Hungarian and has proved to be a useful book that we often recommend. With the
forthcoming publication of Judith Herman‟s Trauma and Recovery in the book publishing
project of NANE, we hope to reach many survivors and professionals.