Azerbaijan granted women the right to vote in 1918 – as the first Muslim-majority country and one of the first countries in general. It preceded countries such as Sweden, the US, Spain, Brazil and France. By constitution, men and women enjoy the same legal rights, and it’s uncommon for women to wear the hijab. The capital Baku even has a monument of a woman getting rid of her veil.

Before jumping to euphoric conclusions about the country which ranks 166 of 180 regarding freedom of press, consider some statistics:

  • Only 11 percent of Azerbaijan’s judges are female.
  • 21 of the 125 members of parliament are female. In 1985, when Azerbaijan was still a part of the Soviet Union, 39 percent of Azerbaijan’s Supreme Soviet were female.
  • Even though domestic violence is outlawed, it’s widespread. 41 percent of Azerbaijani men say a woman should tolerate violence to keep the family intact. 35 percent of women think so, too.1
  • 44 percent of men believe that in some rape cases women want to be raped.2
  • For women on the countryside, it is not uncommon to marry when 13 or 14 years old. This is younger than Azerbaijan’s marriageable age, so the marriages go unregistered and the women can’t make any claims if they divorce or the husband dies.
  • Last but not least: After China, Azerbaijan has the second most skewed sex ratio at birth. 53 percent of new-borns are male – which means it’s common to get an abortion if a foetus is female.


  1. These numbers are from the report “Gender equality and gender relations in Azerbaijan: current trends and opportunities” by the UNFPA et al. from 2018.
  2. ibid.