What do Belarusians think about abortion and gender inequality?
In the latest phase of Chatham House’s survey research, we asked 804 Belarusian citizens about their attitudes towards abortion, gender equality, and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In the survey, Belarusian society is divided into five segments: the democratic core, sympathisers, silent observers, authoritarians, and Lukashenka’s base.
Researcher of the Center of New Ideas
Lesia Rudnik

Photo: Belsat

Today, 63% of Belarusians believe that abortion should be legal in most or all cases. The attitudes of Belarusians towards abortion are similar to those of Americans, 62% of whom support the right to an abortion in most or all cases. However, this number has fallen from 75% in Belarus since November of 2020, when Chatham House carried out a similar survey. Furthermore, the number of people who do not have a position on this question has grown: from 7% to 20%.

Interestingly, support for abortion rights increases predictably in proportion to a city’s size. Thus, residents of Minsk display the most support for abortion rights in all cases (at 38%), while residents of small towns (with populations of 5,000 to 15,000) are the most likely to support a complete ban on abortion.

No particular gender discrepancy can be observed when it comes to the abortion question, although slightly more men than women (15% and 10% respectively) support a ban on abortion in all cases. We also looked at the correlation between positions on abortion and geopolitical preferences. We found that among supporters of an alliance with the EU, more than 80% support abortion rights in most or all cases. Meanwhile, 53% of Belarusians who align themselves with Russia hold a similar position on abortion. Not a single respondent supported both alignment with the EU and a total ban on abortion; 7% of proponents of an alliance with Russia would totally ban abortion.

When we break society down into segments, the democratic core and sympathisers largely support the right to abortion in all or most cases (at 72% and 77% respectively). Also of note, among the silent observer group, almost half of respondents did not have a position regarding abortion.
Opinions on abortion have changed over the last two years

Infographic 1. The attitude of Belarusians towards abortion according to city size, geopolitical preference, and segment of society
In our survey, we asked Belarusian citizens to evaluate the salience of problems associated with gender inequality: domestic violence against women, gender-based discrimination on the labour market, and distribution of household responsibilities. Two thirds of Belarusian society believe that domestic violence remains an important problem. Women especially perceive this problem to be very pertinent: about 70% believe it to be a pressing issue, compared to 41% of men.

At the same time, about half of respondents did not perceive discrimination against women on the labour market to be a significant problem; this number was similar for both men and women. The attitudes of Lukashenka’s base stand out when compared to other segments of society: regime supporters are the most likely to believe that discrimination against women on the labour market is not a major problem (71%).

Sixty percent of those surveyed believed that the distribution of household duties is a problem, namely because women perform most of the housework. A considerable majority of women (75%) believe this is a significant problem, compared to only 43% of men.
Violence against women, the labour market, and distribution of household responsibilities
Infographic 2. In your opinion, how significant are the following problems: domestic violence against women; discrimination against women on the labour market; the fact that women perform far more housework than men do
For almost half of Belarusians, the issue of women’s representation in government is not perceived as a problem, although 26% have not yet formed an opinion on this matter. At the same time, there is a notable difference between the views of men and women on this issue: whereas 38% of women believe that the low representation in government is problematic, the number of men with this opinion does not even account for one fifth.

On this issue, there is a notable difference in opinions between supporters of an alliance with the EU versus Russia. Thus, 48% of the former believe low representation of women in government to be a problem, while 53% of those who support an alliance with Russia believe that this issue is not important. Compared to other segments of society, Lukashenka’s base is an outlier, with only 13% believing that the Belarusian government has a problem when it comes to representation of women. We also ascertained the degree to which trust in oppositional politicians affects perceptions of insufficient representation of women in government. The numbers are fairly predictable: the higher the trust in oppositional politicians, the more acute this problem is perceived to be. Among those who trust Tsikhanouskaya, 90% of respondents believe that there are not enough women in government.
Representation of women in government worries liberal Belarusians
Infographic 3. In your opinion, how significant is the following problem: women are not sufficiently represented in government compared to men
Respondents were divided over whether the problem of discrimination against people with a non-traditional sexual orientation is significant: 43% believe this problem is not important, 25% believe it is, and another 32% are unsure. City size does not appear to predict respondents’ position on this issue, although residents of towns with a population of 50,000 to 150,000 were most likely to find this problem important. There is a noticeable difference in opinion according to gender: whereas just 16% of women deemed this problem to be irrelevant, this figure was twice as high among men.

The opinions of those who support an alliance with the EU versus Russia differ significantly. More than half of the first group believe that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a significant problem. Conversely, half of those who support an alliance with Russia do not believe this problem to be important. If we look at differences in opinion on this issue among various segments of society, it becomes evident that Belarusians are ambivalent when it comes to awareness of this problem. This is evidenced by the high number of people who were unsure about this question, which is especially true for the silent observer group (70%). The opinions of Lukashenka’s base also stand out: almost 50% of this group do not believe discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation to be a problem.
Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation
Infographic 4. In your opinion, how significant is the following problem: people with a non-traditional sexual orientation face discrimination
Belarusian society is noticeably divided when it comes to attitudes on gender inequality. Opinions vary depending on what segment of society a person belong to, as well the geopolitical orientation they find more acceptable for their country (the EU or Russia). This is reflected, for example, in attitudes toward discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and awareness of violations of women’s labour rights. Opinions on abortion also correlate with geopolitical preferences, although there is more consensus surrounding this issue than others. Meanwhile, the total number of people who report being unsure about questions related to gender inequality remains relatively high. This indicates low awareness of problems in this area or low relevance of the topic on today’s public agenda.
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