I’m writing about gender inequality in Azerbaijan (as usual) and was reminded about attitudes toward sex in the Caucasus.
I had read some reports a few years back that looked at adolescent sex in the Caucasus countries, but thought that I’d summarize some of the interesting findings here and contextualize with my own observations.
The NGO ASTRA Youth did a study of Eurasia overall, but the Azerbaijan report starts on page 9.
This report notes how adolescents in Azerbaijan are heavily monitored by family and their social environment.
The report doesn’t mention, but it should be obvious, that multi-generational households present another “challenge” to sexual privacy for Azerbaijani youth. The opportunities for them to be alone or alone with a partner in a household are seldom. This leads to some youth finding makeout spots in semi-public places.
The ASTRA report finds that a little over a half of Azerbaijani adolescence used any form of contraception during their first sexual experience. (And of those that did, nearly all used a condom.)
The ASTRA report drew a lot of its findings from the most comprehensive study of adolescent sexual behavior in Azerbaijan – a 2006 study by the UNFPA (page 31 is where the sex report is). While the sampling wasn’t fantastic, this is a glimpse into reality. Moreover, asking adolescents about their sexual activity, in particular in a society where it is frowned upon, is challenging. I would love to see something more in-depth done.
Women ages 20-24 were asked when they first got married. 9.6% of urban respondents and 15.2% of rural respondents were married by age 18. (I wish they had separated Baku, regional cities, and rural, but alas.) Only 0.4% of urban and 1.1% of these women were married by age 15. (Table 10 shows breakdowns by region.)
In my observations, there is a strong expectation that new Azerbaijani wives begin having children. (Especially male children). Of the 15-19 year old married women, almost half (46.3%) of urban brides and two-thirds (65.7%) of rural brides have been pregnant or had a child.
In Azerbaijan there is a strong expectation for girls to remain virgins until they are married. (This is not the same case for boys.)
The UN survey asked 15-19 year old girls about their sexual activity (defined as sexually active in the last 4 weeks).
* 4.1% of Baku 15-19 year old girls reported being sexually active.
* 5.4% of urban 15-19 year old girls reported being sexually active (but a large number of those girls are married).
* 11.7% of rural 15-19 year old girls reported being sexually active (but again, a large number of those girls are married.)
With regard to virginity, 20-24 year old women were asked when they first had sex.
* 0.3% of Baku girls had sex by age 15, 9.2% had sex by age 18. 35.7% of Baku 20-24 year old girls had their first sexual experience at marriage.
* 0.4% of urban girls had sex by age 15, 9.3% had sex by age 18. 35.6% of urban 20-24 year old girls had their first sexual experience at marriage.
* 0.9% of rural girls had sex by age 15, 14.2% had sex by age 18. 46.0% of rural 20-24 year old girls had their first sexual experience at marriage.
* National average (although I strongly believe in separating rural and urban in these cases): 0.7% of girls had sex by age 15, 11.5% had sex by age 18. 39.3% of 20-24 year old girls had their first sexual experience at marriage.
Sadly there are some notable results with regard to forced sex.
* 3% of married 15-25 year old women in Baku experienced spousal rape.
* 1.2% of all 15-24 year old women in Baku experienced rape as their first sexual experience.
* Nationally, 2.2% of married 15-25 year old women experienced spousal rape.
* Nationally, 2.2% of all 15-24 year old women experienced rape as their first sexual experience.
In my observations, it is not uncommon for Azerbaijani grooms to be older than brides. The data shows this as well. (See Tables 15 and 16 in the report.)
I’ve written on domestic violence in the region before, and it is fairly prevalent in Azerbaijan as well. See the last chapter of the UN report for more on this.
Summarizing all of this was interesting, but my next step will to do my own analysis of the DHS 2006 data on these issues. Stay tuned.