Attitudes to same-sex relationships around the world

Sub-Saharan Africa is more liberal than Asia

In The West, few civil-rights movements have prevailed so quickly and comprehensively as the campaign for gay rights. In America, support for same-sex marriage has shot up from 27% to 64% since 1996—faster than the rise in acceptance of interracial marriage beginning in the late 1960s. Ireland has gone from having few openly gay public figures to legalising gay marriage and having a gay prime minister.

But what about the rest of the world? How do Chinese or Peruvian people feel about gay rights? For that matter, what about the inhabitants of Angola? The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) has released some numbers that provide a tantalising hint, if not much more than that.

Take one straightforward measure—the proportion of people who strongly agree with the proposition that equal rights and protections should be applied to everyone, including people attracted to others of their sex. Not surprisingly, a majority of Americans, Spaniards and Swedes put themselves in that camp. A bit more surprisingly, Americans are somewhat less keen on gay and lesbian rights than are Argentinians, Brazilians, Chileans or Mexicans.

Most astonishing are the results from Africa. Although north African countries like Algeria, Egypt and Morocco are broadly opposed to gay rights, Sub-Saharan Africa looks rather liberal. Attitudes in Angola, Ghana, Kenya and Mozambique are comparable to those in America—and much more liberal than attitudes in China or Japan. South Africa, as befits the fifth country in the world to legalise gay marriage, appears to be hotter on gay rights than America or Britain.

Can this possibly be true? ILGA’s figures come from RIWI, a firm that uses an unusual method of soliciting opinion called “random domain intercept”. When somebody types in an incorrect internet domain name, they might land on a site owned by RIWI, which (after checking the user is not a bot) asks them to complete a survey. So this is a poll of fat-fingered internet users, not of people in general.

Attitudes to homosexuality in, say, rural Angola are highly likely to differ from attitudes among the connected classes in Luanda. Still, the results are suggestive. If a goodly number of internet-using, middle-class Africans are coming round to gay rights, that is something. The battle for gay rights in Africa and Asia is going to be a long, hard slog. A beachhead, however small, will help a lot.

by The Data Team
Source – The Economist