The largest global survey on attitudes towards LGBT people has found that while most support equality for sexual and gender minorities, large percentages still believe we should be criminals.
Undertaken by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) and RIWI Corp, the massive poll surveyed around 116,000 individuals in 77 countries.
As a global average, 55% of the world agrees that “equal rights and protections should be applied to everyone, including people who are romantically or sexually attracted to people of the same sex,” and that percentage rises up to 59% when it applies to people who dress, act or identify as one sex although they were born another.
In South Africa, 4,031 people were surveyed.
Of those, 67% believe to some degree that LGB people should have equal rights while 72% feel the same about transgender or gender non-conforming people.
Disturbingly, almost a quarter of South Africans (24%) agree that people who engage in romantic or sexual relationships with people of the same sex should be charged as criminals. (In Africa as a whole, 45% agree that LGB people should be criminalised, compared to 33% in Asia / Middle East, 21% in Europe and 19% in the Americas.)
Most South Africans, however, say that culture and religion are not a stumbling block to equality. Around 62% feel that their culture is to some degree compatible with accepting LGB people and 60% feel the same about their religion (these numbers for trans people are 69% and 65%, respectively)
When it comes to socialising, 28% of South Africans aren’t comfortable socialising with LGB individuals while 21% are not comfortable around trans people.
Fourteen other African countries were surveyed, including Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Angola, Cameroon, Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda.
Acceptance of LGB people in these nations range from a low of 37% (Algeria) to a high of 61% (Angola and Mozambique). In Tanzanian, 66% of people believe that same-sex love should be a criminal offence.
As in the rest of the world, acceptance appears to be higher towards transgender people compared to sexual minorities; in some cases, such as Ethiopia, with a more than 20% higher level of acceptance.
Personally knowing an LGBT person increases acceptance
At the global level, 41% of respondents know someone who is romantically attracted to people of the same sex, and 35% of respondents directly know someone who dresses, acts or identifies as another sex than the one they were born.
Aengus Carroll, co-author of the research, said that it appears that personally knowing someone who is LGBT has a “de-stigmatising effect… that counters the stereotyping too often perpetuated by religious and political leaders, as well as in media.”
When asked if LGBT people should have equal rights, 73% of those who know an LGBT person agreed, while among those who don’t know an LGBT person only 44% to 54% agreed.
The impact of the law is also evident in the results. In states that criminalise same-sex sexual activity (25 of the 77 in this survey), only 46% agree that equal rights and protections should be inclusive of sexual orientation, while in non-criminalising states that figure rises to 60%.
“Restrictive laws, in other words, are predictors of restrictive and non-inclusive attitudes,” commented Renato Sabbadini, Executive Director of ILGA. “This is why this global survey, with its evidence-based and non-anecdotal data, is a powerful tool for the advancement of human rights of people belonging to sexual, gender and sex minorities around the world.”
He said the survey aims to provide information about actual prevailing attitudes to assist activists, businesses, agencies and governments to reduce stigma, violence and discrimination against LGBT communities.
“To those who use ideology to justify discrimination, we respond with evidence and data that can contribute to changing the world and the lived realities of many people worldwide,” added Sabbadini.