Thursday, July 25, 2013

Window on Eurasia: South Caucasus Nations Overwhelmingly Anti-LGBT, Poll Finds

Paul Goble

Staunton, July 25 – Ninety-six percent of Armenians, 84 percent of Azerbaijanis, and 87 percent of Georgians say that homosexuality “can never be justified,” figures that reflect the conservative values of these societies and provide context for attacks on LGBT demonstrations in Tbilisi this year and in Armenia last.

Those results, reported yesterday by the Caucasus Research Resource Center, were in response to the question “Please tell me whether you think homosexuality can be justified or not?” These figures are for the answer that it “can never be justified” on a five point scale (

Only extremely small percentages – three in Armenia, seven in Azerbaijan, and five in Georgia – were more acceptant, the CRRC survey found, and roughly comparable and equally small shares—one percent, nine percent and eight percent respectively – refused to answer or said they found it difficult to say.

At least in part, these attitudes reflect traditional cultural values not challenged by legal change. Punishment for homosexual acts was dropped in Azerbaijan and Georgia only in 2000 and in Armenia in 2003. Armenia and Azerbaijan do not have laws against hate crimes or discrimination against sexual minorities, while Georgia banned job discrimination against LGBTs in 2006.

In many countries around the world display, studies suggest, attitudes on homosexuality vary widely by geography, gender and age cohorts, with those living in the capitals, those who are female, and those who are younger generally taking a more tolerant view. But the CRRC report says that  “the South Caucasus is different.”

“In all three countries, attitudes towards homosexuality are relatively similar between geographic areas, sex and age groups,” the CRRC report said, with the poll outcomes all within “the margin of sampling error of plus or minus three” percent, a pattern that suggests there is unlikely to be growing pressure for change in these attitudes from within these societies.

 The countries of the South Caucasus also diverge from international patterns in another way.  The Pew Global survey found, with a few notable exceptions, a strong relationship between levels of religiosity and poverty, on the one hand, and the acceptance of homosexuality, on the other (

In that Pew study, Armenians and Georgians said they were more religious than Azerbaijanis, and Armenia and Georgia were classified as lower middle income economies while Azerbaijan was categorized as an upper middle one. Despite that, the CRRC report found that the levels of acceptance of homosexuality “does not significantly differ” among them.

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