LGBT in CEE — A New Acceptance Is Being Born From Migration

LGBT rights
in emerging Europe
Fact box

ILGA-Europe Rainbow Index

Croatia 67
Hungary 51
Montenegro 45
Estonia 36
Albania 34
Czech Republic 32
Serbia 32
Slovenia 32
Kosovo 32
Georgia 30
Slovakia 29
Bosnia Herzegovina 29
Bulgaria 24
Romania 23
Poland 18
Latvia 17
Lithuania 17
Macedonia 16
Moldova 14
Belarus 13
Armenia 7
Azerbaijan 5

Same-sex unions are recognised only in five out of 23 emerging Europe countries: Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, the Czech Republic and since January 1st 2016, also in Estonia, which is the first post-Soviet country to recognise same-sex unions.

None of the 23 emerging Europe countries recognises same-sex marriages. In most of them, they are constitutionally banned.

None of the 23 emerging Europe countries allows adoption by same-sex couples. In some countries LGBT individuals may adopt a child but joint adoption is forbidden.

In 19 countries, there are anti-discrimination laws concerning sexual orientation. Only Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus and Macedonia haven’t passed such laws.

Homosexuality was never illegal under Polish law and Poland was one of the first countries to eschew punishing homosexuality in the early modern era. This was formally codified in 1932 and Poland introduced an equal age of consent for homosexuals and heterosexuals, which was set at 15.

Richard Mole

About Richard Mole

Dr Richard Mole is a Political Sociologist at University College London’s School of Slavonic and East European Studies. He studied modern languages as an undergraduate, before switching to social sciences for his MPhil and PhD. His research, which focuses primarily on the relationship between identity and power with reference to nationalism, ethnic conflict, migration and gender/sexuality, has always been explicitly interdisciplinary, crossing the boundaries of Political Sociology, International Relations, Social Psychology, Socio-Linguistics & Health Studies.

While the legal situation for gays and lesbians in post-communist Europe has witnessed some marked improvements over the past 25 years, social attitudes towards homosexuality in the Eastern half of the continent remains less positive. 

According to the European Social Survey — carried out biannually since 2002, by the European Science Foundation — the percentage of respondents who accepted the proposition that ‘gay men and lesbians should be free to live their own lives as they wish’ is continually far higher in Western than in Central and Eastern Europe. This is in combination with an unexpected reversal of progress made in some post-communist states in recent years. So why are attitudes more negative in the East?

The collapse of communism in 1989 triggered unprecedented social, economic and political upheaval. It was hard for some to make sense of the new situation and to deal with the psychological toll that came with increased unemployment, inequality and mortality. Many were attracted by the nationalist rhetoric of the populist politicians, who harked back to the golden age of the inter-war period and what those people saw as its traditional norms and values.

This era was held up as the opposite of the ‘abnormal’ communist experience; ‘traditional’ was equated with ‘normal’, along with support for traditional gender and sexual roles being seen as an important means of achieving a sense of stability and social cohesion.

Many societies also experienced a marked increase in religiosity, which had a negative impact on attitudes towards homosexuality, as the Catholic, Orthodox and Lutheran Churches used their new-found political power to propagate highly conservative social agendas. As the impact of the post-communist transition waned, attitudes towards homosexuality did improve but continued to lag behind most western European societies.

However, the liberalisation of attitudes has been constrained recently by the rise of mainstream politicians, who have used homophobic discourse to discredit opponents and to shore up support among nationalistic and conservative voters who make up a sizeable proportion of the electorates. It is the supposed alienness of homosexuality and its association with Western values that prove particularly useful to politicians, allowing them to construct gays and lesbians as disloyal enemies of the state and reinforcing the idea that homosexuality is a foreign import.

At the same time, the post-communist period has witnessed unprecedented levels of East-West migration, a process which can result in migrants’ attitudes to gays and lesbians becoming more tolerant over time. What the findings of our research showed was that the longer CEE migrants had been in London, the less intolerant they were towards homosexuality.

We identified a number of factors to explain this outcome. Firstly, by extricating themselves from the mechanisms of social control in their home states (especially religion, the media and politics), migrants are less likely to be exposed to the homophobic discourse of priests, newspapers and politicians. They are now living in a society in which homosexuality, while not viewed in universally positive terms, is nevertheless more accepted.

The perception of homosexuality as ‘normal’ can be attributed in part to the greater public visibility that gays and lesbians enjoy in the UK compared with most CEE states. A factor that has an even greater positive impact on attitudes towards homosexuality is personal contact with gays and lesbians. Often our respondents had met ‘out’ gays and lesbians for the first time after having moved to Britain.

Research has shown that, under certain conditions, contact with out-groups is the most effective means of reducing prejudice. The main idea behind this theory is that if members of the in-group engage with members of the out-group, the former are more likely to see the latter as individual human beings, with the same fears and desires as themselves, rather than perceiving them as an undifferentiated mass. At the same time the interactions will provide information to help challenge the stereotypes the politicians and the media have perpetrated.

Our research demonstrates that migration can have a positive impact on attitudes towards homosexuality, not only among CEE migrants in London, but also — given the circular migratory patterns and transnational existence of many migrants as well as the circulation of ideas about issues such as sexuality — it has the potential to improve attitudes among those who stayed behind.


The views expressed in this opinion editorial are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Emerging Europe’s editorial policy.


Czech Own Currency Insures Against Euro Losses

Euro Czech republic emerging europe

Europe Needs To Be More Proactive In Embracing Armenia

Finalising the DCFTA is Expected to Bring Multiple Benefits to Ukraine

Poland’s Drift Away From Democracy

The Capital Markets Union: a New Beginning in the European Financial Sector?

Measuring Growth of Societies with GDP Alone Shows an Incomplete Picture

Old Fashioned Skulduggery Overshadows the Elections in Moldova

The Sharing Economy Could Bring New Business Models to CEE

The CEE Region Is Making Advances in Prioritising Waste-to-Energy Projects

Europe at Odds over OPAL and Nord Stream 2

Swimpassing Dniester Without Prejudice To Democracy

Parliament of the republic of moldova in chisinau, national flag, stefan cel mare street, spring time with blue sky

Albania’s Election Apathy

tirana albania

E-lifestyle and Cyber Security: Some Views From Estonia

Cyber Security Protection Firewall Interface Concept

Resignation in Ukraine: War, Revolution, Crisis — Some Things Never Change

Czech Republic Renaming Has Real Economic Costs

Ukraine’s Reputation for Cheap Labour May Not Ring True in the Long-term

Let’s Stop Wasting Time Redefining our Place in Europe

Belarusian Journalists Still Face Huge Problems

Regional Relations in the Western Balkans: Moving Beyond Folklore

Bosnia and Herzegovina flag with Serbia flag, 3D rendering

Where’s My Cheese? – The GREAT British Food Tour 2014

Cheese Shop

Poland’s Confusing GDP Growth

United or Divided? Europe in the Face of the Challenges of Tomorrow

CEE-Benefits and Disadvantages of Joining the Eurozone

forint zloty euro

Emphasising the Incongruence Between the V4 Countries

Macron emerging europe

After 25 Years of Restructuring, the Romanian Power Sector Is at a Crossroad

Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict Moves from Frozen to Kinetic


Global Expansion in the Digital Age

Hungary and Israel: the Collision of Past and Present

Budapest synagoge

Examining How a Strong Swiss Franc Could Single-Handedly Topple Poland’s Economy

The Netherlands’ Objection to the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement could be Costly to Europe

Belarus 2020: Turning the Vicious Circle Into an Upward Spiral

Poland’s Unicorn, Slovakia’s Flying Car and the Future of Europe

Ex-Transition Economies’ FDI Recovery

dollar euro fdi

The Voice of European Business Must Be Heard Loud and Clear by Brexit Negotiators

Could the West At Least Help Ukraine To Insure FDI Against Political Risks?

Slovenia’s Presidential Election: Pahor Expected to Romp Home

Slovenia flag against blue sky waving in wind

Political Tensions Rise As Croatia Allegedly Breaks the Dublin III Refugee Regulation

croatia migrants

Are Labour Shortages Driving Economic Growth?

Serbia’s New PM Is Cut From a Familiar Cloth

Serbian flag emerging europe

Defending EU Values in Poland and Hungary

Eu hungary poland

Is the CEE Region About to Steal the Outsourcing Crown From India?

Amazing view on the Taj Mahal in sunset light with reflection in water. The Taj Mahal is an ivory-white marble mausoleum on the south bank of the Yamuna river. Agra Uttar Pradesh India.

Stuck in Neutral: Georgia’s Constitutional Reforms

Tbilisi Parliament Georgia

The EU’s Benign Neglect Of Eastern Europe

The Global Outsourcing Industry — the Rise of the Phoenix

Brexit: Let’s Learn the Lesson and Hope a Better Europe Will Arise

Fiscal Policy Predictability in CEE — It’s Time for Change

Poland: Is it Ready, and is it Time to Adopt the Euro?

Changing Perspectives and Showing That True Romania is a Vibrant Innovative Country

Poland’s Capital Saturation Lower Than the Czech Republic’s

deloitte fdi poland

International Women’s Day — Let’s Take Action And Then Celebrate

Only a United Opposition Can Defeat Poland’s Ruling Law and Justice Party

Classical building of Polish parliament. Warsaw in Poland.

2018 Elections — Vital Decisions for Hungary’s Future

Victor Orban energing europe

The EU’s Choice: Fundamental Reform Or Disintegration

January Kicks Off an Exciting Year for Emerging Europe

Under Promise, Over Deliver: Prospects for the EU’s Eastern Partnership in 2018

Eastern partnership

Hungary’s Nationalist Assault on Free Enquiry

victor orban ceu

How strong is V4?

Viktor Orban

China: A Giant That Is Hard to Crack

Breaking With Imitations of the Past

CEE — Do We Need a Launch Pad For Our On-Site Tech Intelligence in the Silicon Valley

A Positive and Modern View of Entrepreneurship

The GREAT London Food Scene

Bakery in London

Is the Level of Foreign Ownership a Problem in Emerging Europe?

Flags of European countries flying from their capital cities. Viewed from the South.

PiS Uses Media Control to Bring Poland to Heel

Jaroslaw kaczynski pis emerging europe

Not All Quiet on the Eastern Front

People Power Reminds the Government of the Rule of Law

After Its Significant Rise the Georgian Economy May Now Fall

Panorama of Tbilisi, Georgia in sunset rays. Vivid, saturated, splittoned image.

We, the Post-Communist Generation, Have the Skills to Rid of the Past And Create Our Own Future

History as Destiny? Institutional Erosion in Ukraine and Poland

European Volatility Makes Economic Development Slower for Ukraine

Good Match But Unlikely Marriage

The Right to Water: Who Can Change Today’s Situation?

The Morawiecki Plan Promises a Brighter Future for Poland

Bulgaria Needs a Reform-Oriented Government to Take Full Advantage of its EU Membership

bulgaria emerging europe

Can Armenia Keep a Foot in Both Camps?

European union armenia russia emerging europe

Outsourcing in Germany: Stop Talking at and Start Talking to

Will a Two-speed European Union Side-line the Visegrad Four?

How Will Trump’s Visit Affect Polish Politics?

Donald trump

When Neutrality Isn’t an Option

President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin

Will the New Five-day Visa-free Regime Encourage More Visitors to Belarus?

The Competitive Edge in Central and Eastern Europe

SOFIA BULGARIA - MAY 5: View of the Ivan Vazov National Theatre in Sofia on May 5 2016. Sofia is the largest city and capital of Bulgaria.

Polish Tax Laws — Fighting a Winning Battle Against Tax Evaders

Azerbaijan: The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Nothing


How Will Poland Approach the Brexit Negotiations?

Is there any prospect of ‘Polexit’?

poland european union polexit

Romania Surviving the Waves of Recent Political Tsunamis in Europe

Adam Smith’s Warning for Poland

Prepare for a New Europe

Macedonia’s Controversial Coalition Government

SKOPJE MACEDONIA emerging europe

Business Moving Forward with Cautious Optimism — Can Investors Win the Confidence Game?

Poland Needs to Cling to the Eurozone

zloty euro emerging europe

Moldova Falls Victim to Politicising

moldova emerging europe

A New Division Between Eastern And Western Europe?

EU-CEE Is Still Growing at a Healthy Rate

Prague emerging europe

Partnership is the Key to CEE-Indian Business

Impact of Brexit on EU-CEE Not Overstated

theresa may brexit

EU Visa-Liberalisation Strengthens Georgia’s Pro-Western Path

georgia emerging europe eu

Will Poland Leave the European Union?


Big Fish, Small Fish, Where to Fish? On the Eve of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Are There Differences Between How Tax Regulations in Poland and IAS Treat Intangible Assets?

Falling into Old Ways in 2017? Ukraine’s Struggle for Functioning Economic Institutions

The Long Tail of Global Expansion

Poland Challenges the European Identity

Poland emerging europe

Why Hungary’s New NGO Law Is Harmful for Business

Budapest, Hungary. Aerial view of the old city Budapest, Hungary with river and Parliament Building with cloudy blue sky

A Bosnian Referendum Shows Russia’s Influence in the Balkans—As Well As Its Limits

Central and Eastern European Consumers Are Joining the Global Trends for Change

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *