Women and Nationalism in Hungary

An Analysis of the Relationship Between Nationalism and Reproductive Rights in Hungary


  • Shannon Short American University


The inspiration for this paper grew out of a line from the article “Sexing Political Identities” by Dr. V. Spike Peterson in which Dr. Peterson states that some countries, in some situations, may decry abortion as treasonous. Upon further research, I became more familiar with the link between an increase in nationalism and restriction to contraception, thus providing the basis for this paper. It became evident that most of the literature regards nationalism as an independent political phenomenon, conceptualized without an eye toward gender dynamics and leaves readers with only half of an understanding of the effects of nationalism. This paper aims to help fill in the gaps and explore how women are affected by nationalism in Hungary.


While definitions of nationalism vary by theorist, nearly all of them can be boiled down to the elevation of a national identity over sub-national identities. National identities tend to rely on specific gender roles and norms which, as discussed in this paper, often pigeon-hole women into roles where their most important contribution to the country is the birthing of babies who fit into the preferred national identity. In such countries, as Dr. Peterson notes, abortion is often regarded as treasonous.


The selection of Hungary for this paper came following research into countries in Eastern Europe experiencing rises in nationalism. Initially, this paper aimed to look solely at the correlation between rising nationalistic rhetoric and abortion rights in Hungary, but upon further investigation, it became important to include reproductive rights as a whole. This is because nationalism in Hungary hinges on an aggressive family-first campaign run by the government, as well as consistent infringement on women’s reproductive rights. I expanded on this dynamic to move from my initial focus on abortion as treasonous to a more holistic study of reproductive rights in Hungary.


This paper begins with an examination of nationalism- how can nationalism be defined? How do these definitions inform how women experience nationalism? Following this, the paper transitions into a discussion of rising nationalism in Hungary. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has cultivated the creation of a new Hungarian constitution, wrought with conceptualizations of Hungary as a conservative, Christian nation. In fact, the Hungarian constitution is one of the only constitutions in the world that embeds a right to life from conception. Subsequently, I discuss the effects of Hungarian nationalism on women’s access to reproductive rights. Here, I show how family-first rhetoric attempts to trap women in roles such as wives and baby-makers and examines specific policies that go towards that end. Additionally, I examine the role of minority women in Hungary and the effects of Hungarian nationalism on them. Finally, I conclude by reasserting the role that women are prescribed in Hungary, how definitions of nationalism further these roles, and the connection between such roles and Prime Minister Orbán’s goals. This paper is a step towards a more holistic understanding of a political phenomenon, and it is my hope that the paper inspires readers to look at this political phenomenon through a gendered lens so that the study of international affairs may progress in an inclusive manner.




How to Cite

Short, S. (2021). Women and Nationalism in Hungary: An Analysis of the Relationship Between Nationalism and Reproductive Rights in Hungary. Journal of International Service - American University SIS, 2(1). Retrieved from https://au-jis.org/index.php/jis/article/view/1386