The results of the European Social Survey (ESS), due to be published today, suggest that Albania is the most homophobic society of the countries surveyed.

According to the ESS, 53% of Albanians believe that “gays and lesbians should not be free to live life as they wish,” reports BalkanInsight.

Albanians were the highest percentage to agree with that statement, compared to just 3% in Sweden and the Netherlands.

The survey, however, did not include other countries in the Western Balkans, where it is believed that homophobia is just as strong, if not higher.

As well as being opposed to gay rights, a majority of Albanian residents also do not approve of cohabitation before marriage, with 95% of respondents saying that they had not lived with a partner before getting married.

Compared to that figure, 10% of Bulgarians and 15% of Croatians said they had lived with a partner before marriage.

Nearly half of respondents in Sweden in Denmark said they had cohabited with a partner out of wedlock.

Xheni Karaj, a gay rights activist from the Albanian capital Tirana, said the survey’s findings reflected the attitude towards gay and lesbian people in Albania.

“It’s part of a mentality that does not see us as members of the community, and often perceives [being gay] as a phenomenon imported from developed countries and that there is no such thing as homosexual in Albania,” she said.

“People should understand that we have been, are and will countinue to be Albanians and homosexual,” Karaj added.

The ESS is conducted biannually, it was established in 2001, and Albania was added in 2012.

The survey, which takes place throughout 30 countries, and is conducted by the Open Society Foundation, interviewed 1,600 people. The survey was designed by City University in London.

“For the size of Albania’s population the survey is considered representative on a national scale,” OSFA said.