Global Attitudes About LGBT Rights May Be More Positive Than We Thought

A survey across 77 countries and territories finds that, on average, one in four people believe that same-gender relationships should be criminalized. While that widely reported statistic is certainly alarming, it doesn’t tell the whole story — one that may actually be refreshingly positive. 

This startling statistic comes as part of the Ilga-Riwi ”Minorities Report 2017: attitudes to sexual and gender minorities around the world.”

Forty-five percent of all respondents across the 15 African countries surveyed in this report said that people in same-gender relationships should face police charges. And around 36 percent of all respondents in the Middle Eastern countries surveyed said the same. Given that a significant number of those nations actually have laws criminalizing same-gender activity, or social taboos that reinforce this sentiment, that doesn’t come as a great shock.

But the report notes that this figure might actually be far lower than expected. Indeed, the report’s summary notes:

The survey data illustrates a world that is surprisingly more accepting than one might have imagined, and it will be interesting to observe trends about this in various countries over coming years as this survey continues to generate more granular data.

Interestingly, this data shows that Western nations, often painted as far more liberal and accepting, continue to have a strong vein of anti-gay sentiment.

Indeed, around 15 percent of respondents surveyed in Australia and New Zealand indicated that they wanted gay people criminalized. And nearly a fifth — 19 percent — of U.S. and Canadian residents said they thought same-gender relationships deserved criminal penalty. This figure was echoed throughout Western Europe too.

Obviously, there’s a difference between not wanting to criminalize people for their sexual orientation and actually accepting them, and the research delved into this matter.

Zeroing in on countries with laws that specifically criminalize homosexuality, the researchers found that public opinion tended to favor criminalization. Again, that’s not unexpected, but perhaps it suggests that decriminalizing homosexuality can, in fact, help to set the tone of public opinion. Over 70 global nations still criminalize homosexuality, with various penalties ranging from fines to jail time — and even death.

When examining global figures, more than one out of every four people believe that same-gender relationships should be criminalized. But that figure is obviously skewed by nations that have made less progress in the fight for equal rights. For example, over half of respondents — 55 percent –also said that they believed equal rights should be applied to all people, regardless of sexual orientation. Meanwhile, half of all respondents said that trans and gender queer people should be granted “full legal recognition of the identity they declare.”

This serves to remind us that different cultures have different conceptions of gender and gender norms, with some finding tolerance and acceptance for identities that the West has yet to fully embrace and affirm.

In terms of religious beliefs and accepting people who may identify as part of a sexual or gender minority, an interesting pattern emerged: A majority of respondents said they didn’t feel that they had to choose between their religion and upholding minority rights. Given the way in which legislative debates in the U.S. and parts of Europe have framed religious belief and LGBT rights as being directly opposed, this suggests that the general public isn’t buying into that narrative — at least not entirely.

Asian respondents appeared to be the exception, with many perceiving a greater conflict. South America, on the other hand, tended to exhibit a strong belief that religion and equal rights for sexual and gender minorities are not mutually exclusive.

None of this study’s findings erases the fact that LGBT people — especially trans people – around the world continue to face discrimination and threats of physical and sexual violence.

In addition, this research serves as a wake up call for many in the West who might have believed that the UK, Europe, the US and Canada were beyond homophobia and transphobia. This research shows that while those attitudes are in the minority, many individuals believe LGBT people should face criminal penalties simply for being who they are.

At the same time, though, this research provides hope that global attitudes may, in fact, be significantly better in regions usually associated with discrimination. Of course, public attitudes and the attitudes of government officials don’t necessarily match up, so the need for LGBT advocacy remains.

Photo by Matt Popovich on Unsplash.

46 comments

Beth M
Beth M10 days ago

ty

SEND
Beth M
Beth M10 days ago

ty

SEND
Beth M
Beth M10 days ago

ty

SEND
Beth M
Beth M10 days ago

ty

SEND
Beth M
Beth M10 days ago

ty

SEND
Beth M
Beth M10 days ago

ty

SEND
Beth M
Beth M10 days ago

ty

SEND
Beth M
Beth M10 days ago

ty

SEND
Beth M
Beth M10 days ago

ty

SEND
Beth M
Beth M10 days ago

ty

SEND