March 25, 2013
Data from a new survey released to Balkan Insight by the Open Society Foundation, OSFA, reveal that the vast majority of Albanians are conservative and disapprove of the gay and lesbian lifestyle.
The results, part of the European Social Survey, ESS, which will be published on Tuesday , suggest that Albania is the most homophobic society of the countries included in the survey.
According to the survey, data 53 per cent of Albanians believe that "gays and lesbians should not be free to live life as they wish," the largest percentage holding that opinion in the survey.
By contrast, according to the ESS data, the least homophobic countries in Europe are Sweden and Netherlands, where only 3 per cent of the population believe that gays and lesbians do not have the right to live openly in society.
Apart from Croatia, the ESS survey does not include other countries in the Western Balkans, where homophobia is believed to be equally strong, if not higher.
The survey also found that a vast majority of Albanians do not approve of cohabitation before marriage, with 95 per cent of the respondents saying that they have never lived with a partner before nuptials.
In comparison, in other countries in the region, such as Bulgaria and Croatia, 10 and 15 per cent of the respondent respectively said they had lived with a partner before marriage.
In socially liberal Scandinavian countries, like Sweden and Denmark, nearly half of the respondents to the survey said they had cohabitated with their partners before tying the knot.
Xheni Karaj, a Tirana gay rights activist, told Balkan Insight that the survey’s findings reflect the discrimination that members of the community face every day in Albania.
“It’s part of a mentality that does not see us as members of the community, and often perceives [being gay] as a phenomenon imported from developed countries and that there is no such thing as homosexual in Albania,” she said.
“People should understand that we have been, are and will countinue to be Albanians and homosexual,” Karaj added.
Established in 2001, the European Social Survey is conducted biannually and 2012 was the first time it was conducted in Albania.
An academically-driven social survey, ESS, was designed by a group of researchers at City University in London to chart and explain the interaction between Europe's changing institutions and the attitudes, beliefs and behavior patterns of its diverse populations.
The survey, currently in its sixth round, takes place in over 30 countries and in Albania was conducted by OSFA. According to the foundation 1,600 people were interviewed in the country, using tablets PCs, and 1208 questionnaires were valid.
“For the size of Albania’s population the survey is considered representative on a national scale," OSFA said.
The survey also found that Albanians feature at the bottom of the social trust index, a pattern among former communist countries in Eastern Europe.
“On a scale from 0 to 10, trust felt by Albanians towards fellow citizens scores on average 3.0, which is the lowest among all 28 countries surveyed,” OSFA said.
According to the survey, Albanians not only distrust each other but also their national institutions and actors, particularly politicians and political parties.
By contrast, they put a lot of faith in distant supranational institutions such as the United Nations and the European Parliament, which are bestowed with much higher trust in Albania than in all other countries surveyed, including EU member states.
The only two nations with lower trust in politicians are Greeks and Croats.