Sex in Azerbaijan
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Mehriban Aliyeva, first lady of Azerbaijan, likes to show herself as a 1960s style femme fatale - baywatch poseFor the first-time foreign male visitor a quarter of an hour sitting outside on Fountain Square can be quite a surprise! Not only Azeri women are stunningly beautiful, but on a nominally Muslim country, many a young woman will promenade herself wearing clothes which would be bold by European standards. Even the country's first lady, Mehriban Aliyeva, likes to show herself as a 1960s style femme fatale!

However images aren't everything, and appearances hide a mixed reality.

In Azerbaijan traditional values were never fully eclipsed by Soviet concepts, and even Soviet values were not very liberal about sex. A lot of the women that you will see live with their parents and extended family, having to obey strict curfew orders. Some others, mainly with a higher education may have carved some more space for themselves.

Azery beauty: Miss Millennium 2000 - Valida AbbasovaAnyway, if you are male dont expect to go too far with Azeri women, at least on the first couple of dates. If there are feelings involved maybe you'll be luckier, nevertheless many young women will still strive to marry as virgins (or at least to appear to do so). Once you get out of the main cities expect to see much more conservative ways, and even some pockets of strong Islamic traditions. In Baku couples are often together and public demonstrations of affection are common, but not as effervescent as in the West. In private: as Azeris are, for the most part, secular muslims, expect the women to be a bit uncomfortable with oral or anal sex - Baku is not Moscow.

Fountain Square - Baku's catwalkWarning: if you are a male foreigner dating a local woman, try to keep a low profile. In a number of cases the police have arrested couples accusing the local woman of prostitution. Usually these problems can be solved at the police station, not invoking the local laws, but rather those small bits of paper bearing the initials of the European Central Bank.

Serious relationships: for many families the fact of an Azeri woman marrying a foreign man is not seen in a good light, particularly if the bride groom is not Muslim. In fact very often marriages are still arranged between families with little intervention of the interested parts. In rural areas, as in central Asia, marriage by kidnapping is not uncommon. Polygamy has not been legalized after independence.

Hotel Azerbaijan (photo Miguel Torres / a society where to a great extent young men don't have access to women you'd expect prostitution to be a thriving business, and that's the reality in Azerbaijan. In the late hours a lot of the women you'll find in bars and night-clubs will be prostitutes, so be careful with your choice of company. Many Baku nightclubs have back rooms used by prostitutes and their clients.

High class prostitutes are to be found in the bars of the good hotels, e.g. Le Chevalier at Grand Hotel Europe and 1033 at the Hyatt. In some of the hotels the staff will even offer to arrange such services to the guest... Ladies services are also available via phone, and it's not rare for the foreigner to be made discrete offers on places like Fountain Square. Free local English newspapers have a wide choice of telephone numbers of massage saloons or masseuses.

For the foreign female visitor the experience will be rather different. Usually Azeri men will be very gallant considerate and gentle treating foreign women, which are normally considered more liberal. So if the occasion occurs don't be surprised if you feel overwhelmed with attention. Unlike for women, it's is not frowned upon for an Azeri man to get married to a foreign woman.

Homosexuality is not well seen and public homosexual behaviour not tolerated, although a couple of bars seem to work as meeting places for the gay and lesbian community. The environment is more relaxed than in the central asian republics. Nevertheless gay visitors may consider keeping a low profile: anal intercourse between men was punished with 5 to 7 years in prison, by the former article 113 of the post-Soviet penal code, revoked only in September 2001. Currently article 150 only prescribes punishment for violent homosexual intercourse, which is punishable by 3-15 year imprisonment. Lesbian and non-penetrative gay sex between consenting adults is not explicitly mentioned in the laws as a criminal offence. In a recent presidential amnesty, prisoners convicted for homosexual acts were excluded from those released...  Some transvestites, mainly Russians, offer their services in the city. There are no exclusively Gay bars, but a couple of bars have a mixed clientele, try 'Club 1033' on Bakhihanov avenue or 'Terrasse' by the Caspian sea.

Anyway, male or female, straight or gay, take your precautions, HIV infection levels are on the rise in Azerbaijan. Condoms are easily obtainable, but check the quality and expire date.

Pornography is easily and cheaply obtainable in Baku, although not in most other places. Pornographic images, either printed or recorded may cause problems when crossing the border. If you are taking not hard-core, but mere nudity or erotic materials you should have no problems, but you should not take any unnecessary risks with Azeri borders guards, who are always on the lookout to make a few extra Euros.

Drugs are very prevalent and open in Baku, although illegal. Not surprising considering the geography of the country and it's neighbours. However, as a foreigner, if you are caught with drugs, expect severe police harassment and the need to pay very stiff bribes at a minimum! The quality is reputed to be good and adultered drugs are rare. Synthetic drugs shipped form Russia are also claiming their market niche. Drug rehab is primitive at best, whealthy families looking for a decent drug rehab program usually go abroad.
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