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Hungary cancels Telekom contracts amid sexism spat

Hungary has ordered its ministries to cancel contracts with Magyar Telekom, a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom. Telekom had previously pulled its sponsorship of a Hungarian pop star over comments the firm deemed sexist.

The Hungarian government instructed its ministries and other state institutions to cancel contracts with Magyar Telekom over its decision to end a sponsorship contract with pop star Akos Kovacs due to his remarks on women, a government spokesman said on Thursday.

Magyar Telekom pulled its sponsorship deal with Kovacs over comments made during an interview with Echo TV on Sunday in which he stated: "It's not the job of women to make the same amount of money that men do."

"The government was shocked to learn about Telekom's action, which we believe violates both the spirit and letter of the Hungarian constitution," government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs - no relation to the singer - told the Hungarian state news agency MTI on Thursday.

"It might be possible in Germany, but we cannot accept anyone to suffer discrimination for his opinion and views," he said.

Akos Kovacs Musiker Ungarn

Hungarian pop star Akos Kovacs said women should 'fulfill the female calling by belonging to someone, bearing a child for someone'

The spokesman also confirmed that the government is currently reviewing all contracts with Magyar Telekom - which is 59 percent owned by German giant Deutsche Telekom - and that 103 contracts at a ministry were in the process of being terminated.

He stressed, however, that last year's 1 billion-euro ($1.1 billion) investment deal between Magyar Telekom and the government was "not affected."

Sexism storm

During the controversial interview, the singer - who is a well-known supporter of Hungary's ruling, conservative Fidesz party - said women should "fulfil the female calling by belonging to someone, bearing a child for someone," adding: "It's not by chance that women's hips are broader."

Magyar Telekom defended its decision to pull Kovacs' sponsorship, saying: "Our company does not think the spirit of the artist's interview ... is compatible with our group's beliefs and values." They added that the company "is committed to ensure equal opportunities for women and men and sustain sexual equality in all circumstances."

Last week, a top Hungarian politician also ignited a debate when he implied that women should be happy with simply producing children.

"We would like it if our daughters considered it the highest degree of self-fulfilment to give birth to grandchildren," Laszlo Kover, the speaker of parliament, said at a Fidesz party congress.

In response, a Facebook group was established which urges women to protest Kover's comments by mailing negative pregnancy tests to his parliamentary address.

rs/msh (AFP, Reuters)

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