Hungary: Parliament reforms legal capacity laws

Budapest, 22 September 2009. Members of the Hungarian Parliament voted for a new Civil Code yesterday evening. In doing so they ensured that Hungary becomes the first country in the world to reform its legal capacity legislation in line with its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

Hungary's old Civil Code was the piece of legislation which regulated a range of civil law issues. In the area of disability it allowed for the total deprivation or partial restriction of a person's legal capacity and their placement under guardianship. There were no alternatives to guardianship for people who required assistance to make legally-binding choices in their lives. Approximately 80,000 adults in Hungary are under guardianship, two thirds of whom are legally prohibited from making important decisions. Under full guardianship people were denied the right to a range of civil and political rights such as the right to decide where to live, which meant that the majority of people in long-term residential institutions were placed there by their guardians, irrespective of the adult's wishes. The right to marry and found a family, as well as the right to manage one's own property, to work and to vote were also compromised.

The new Civil Code changes this legislative landscape. Highlights of the new legislation include:

  • A legislative ban on plenary guardianship.
  • The provision of a new form of partial guardianship: partial in terms of specific areas of decision-making, and partial in terms of decisions needing to be made jointly between the adult and the guardian.
  • Supported decision-making, which is an alternative to guardianship. Supported decision-making means that the adult's legal capacity remains intact. It enables a network of supporters to assist the adult in making their own decisions, thereby enhancing their self-determination.
  • Advance directives, whereby adults can plan for their future when cognitive difficulties may prevent them from making decisions without assistance.
  • All of the above measures are available to persons who need assistance because of their mental condition, intellectual capabilities or addiction.

This legislative reform marks significant progress towards Hungary's compliance with international human rights law, notably the CRPD, which is legally binding upon Hungary. MDAC has been working for the past two years in a coalition with other non-governmental organisations. The coalition has advocated intensively for guardianship reform and the introduction of alternatives, reminding the government of its obligations under the CRPD to include the involvement of persons with disabilities in legislative and policy reform. The coalition welcomes the legislative process leading to the adoption of a Civil Code that has realized the principle of "Nothing about us without us".

Whilst MDAC and ÉFOÉSZ congratulates Members of the Hungarian Parliament, they call on politicians to continue to bring Hungary in line with its obligations under the CRPD. Included in MDAC's and ÉFOÉSZ's wish-list of legislative and policy reform are:

  • Ensuring that the legal definition of disability is broadened to include persons with (or labelled with) psycho-social (mental health) disabilities (to fulfil the obligation in Article 1 CRPD).
  • Changing the Constitution to remove the prohibition on the right to vote for adults without full legal capacity (to fulfil the obligation in Article 29 CRPD).
  • Taking measurable steps to make real the right to live in the community by reducing the numbers of people in large residential institutions, and creating a range of services in community settings (to fulfil the obligation in Article 19 CRPD).
  • Removing from the quasi-governmental National Disability Council the responsibility for independent monitoring of the Convention's implementation, and giving the mandate to the Parliamentary Ombudsman with an increased funding to match the expanded mandate (to fulfil the obligation in Article 33(2) CRPD).
  • Ensuring that a Government minister oversees a "focal point" to coordinate disability policy across Government departments (to fulfil the obligation in Article 33(1) CRPD).

More information

For interviews please contact Gábor Gombos, MDAC Senior Advocacy Officer, tel. +361 413 2730,

The English text of the relevant parts of the Civil Code can be downloaded from MDAC's website as soon as we have ensured an accurate translation.

The members of the coalition were: Foundation for the Human Rights of the Mentally Ill, Down Foundation, György Könczei Professor at Eötvös Loránd University - Bárczi Gusztáv Faculty of Special Education, Hungarian Association of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities, Hand in Hand Foundation, Hungarian Helsinki Committee, Mental Disability Advocacy Center, Mental Health Interest Forum, Szigony Foundation, Soteria Foundation, National Association of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Hungarian Civil Liberties Union.

RSS Find us on facebook MDAC is on Twitter Company profile of MDAC on LinkedIn MDAC youtube channel Google plus close