Five data points about homophobia in Georgia five years after the IDAHOT riot

Five years ago, on May 17, 2013 a homophobic riot took place in Tbilisi in response to a small LGBTQ rights demonstration on the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia. Thousands of protestors, including frocked priests, chased the demonstrators through the streets of Tbilisi as police struggled (some say facilely) to protect the demonstrators from violence. In the time since, LGBTQ rights have remained on the agenda in Georgia, with an anti-discrimination law passed in 2014, which gives some protection to LGBTQ people, and the first openly homosexual candidate running for office in the 2017 local elections. Despite this progress, homophobic and transphobic violence still occurs in the country (for example, see herehere, and here). Five years after the events of May 17, 2013, this article presents five findings from CRRC’s Caucasus Barometer (CB) survey about homophobia in Georgia.

1. Would people rather live next to a criminal, a drug addict, or a homosexual? On Caucasus Barometer 2017, CRRC asked which group people would least like as neighbors.  About one in four said they would least like criminals as neighbors (27%) and another quarter would least like to live by drug users (22%). A similar share (23%) reported they would least like to have homosexuals as neighbors. Taking into account survey error, these three shares are statistically indistinguishable. The latter answer serves as a proxy for homophobia.

2. While religiosity might be thought to be tied to homophobic attitudes, it does not appear that those who report fasting or attending religious services regularly are any more homophobic than those who do not. Importantly, though, of the many possible measures of religiosity, only two were measured on CB 2017. Hence, the results are suggestive rather than definitive.

Note: Those who reported having no religious affiliation, answered “Don’t know” or refused to answer what their religion was, were not asked the question about frequency of fasting or religious service attendance. For the question about frequency of attending religious services, original answer options “Every day”, “More than once a week” and “Once a week” were combined into the category “At least once a week” on the chart above, and options “At least once a month”, “Only on special religious holidays”, “Less often”, and “Never” were combined into the category “Less often or never”. For the question about frequency of fasting, original answer options “Often” and “Always” were combined into the category “Often or Always”. Answer options “Sometimes fast”, “Rarely fast”, and “Never fast” were combined into the category “Less often or never”. Those who reported that fasting was not required in their religion were not included in the analysis, as well as those who answered “Don’t know” or refused to answer the questions about the frequency of attending religious services or fasting. 

3. The young are more likely to be homophobic than the elderly, at least on the measure of homophobia used here. While an 18 year old has a 29% chance of reporting that they would least like a homosexual as a neighbor, an 85 year old has only a 16% chance, when controlling for gender; settlement type; level of education; religion; frequency of fasting and attending religious services; whether a child lives in the same household; and household well-being, measured by the number of durables a household owns.

4. Men are more likely to be homophobic than women. When controlling for the variables mentioned above, men have a 26% chance of responding that they would least like homosexuals as neighbors compared with a 17% chance for women.

5. While Georgia has had highly-publicized, homophobic incidents, the level of homophobia is not unique to the country. The same question was asked on Caucasus Barometer 2017 in Armenia, and the results are similar: 21% of Armenians report they would least like homosexuals as neighbors, 27% drug addicts, and 21% criminals.

A more comprehensive measure of homophobia would, of course, provide a better understanding of the issue. The CB question discussed in this blog post only helps to identify people who are extremely homophobic, to the point that they would least like to live next to a homosexual, rather than a criminal. This may suggest that homophobic attitudes are more wide spread in the country.

To explore the data used above, click here. To view the replication code for the analysis used in this article, click here.