Survey: Africans are generally very tolerant, but just not of gay people


% of respondents who say they would “strongly like,” “somewhat like” or “not care” if they lived next to homosexuals

Despite having the most progressive laws on the continent, South Africa has been named only the second most tolerant African country when it comes to homosexuality.

A massive survey released by Afrobarometer has revealed that Cape Verde takes the honour, with 75% of its people liking or not minding having homosexual neighbours.

It found that Africans generally express high degrees of tolerance for people from different ethnic groups, people of different religions, immigrants, and people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) – with the major exception of homosexuals.

In addition to Cape Verde, the majority of citizens in three other countries on the continent expressed tolerant views towards gay people: South Africa (67%), Mozambique (56%), and Namibia (55%).

The average across Africa, however, is deeply disturbing: only 21% of Africans on average say they are not opposed to having homosexual neighbours.

An upsetting average of 78% of all the respondents said they would “somewhat dislike” or “strongly dislike” having a homosexual neighbour.

In the bottom five countries, almost the entire population is homophobic; with 97% of people in Senegal and 95% in Guinea, Uganda, Burkina Faso, and Niger expressing intolerance towards gays and lesbians.

The research also revealed that in some cases, ordinary citizens are ahead of law reform by embracing LGBTQ rights at a time when some practices are illegal in their countries. This is true in Namibia and Mauritius, two countries with comparatively high acceptance of homosexuals despite legislation that makes homosexuality a crime.

There is hope for the future. The data further found an important link between tolerance for homosexuals and respondents’ age and education levels. Younger and more educated Africans tend to be more tolerant of homosexuals than older Africans and less educated citizens.

Tolerance for homosexuals by education level, age, and urban-rural residence

Tolerance for homosexuals by education level, age, and urban-rural residence

This finding suggests that while current attitudes are largely negative, it is possible that Africa will become progressively less homophobic over time.

The researchers said that the effects of contact with people of different backgrounds, education and news media exposure “are drivers of a tolerant society.”

They added that, “the fact that younger citizens are more tolerant than their elders also bodes well for an increasingly tolerant future in Africa.”

The results were included in a report published on Zero Discrimination Day (1 March) titled Good neighbours? Africans express high levels of tolerance for many, but not for all.

The study is based on face-to-face interviews in the language of the respondent’s choice with nationally representative samples in 33 African countries, with a margin of error of +/-2%.

Homosexuality is criminalised in around 36 countries in Africa, with South Africa being the only nation on the continent with explicit constitutional protection for LGBT people, including same-sex marriage rights.

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