Johannesburg, Gauteng (Pic: Dylan Harbour)
It seems Gauteng residents are becoming more tolerant, with “only” 6% saying that they approve of violence against lesbian and gay people.
This startling fact is included in the latest Gauteng City-Region Observatory’s 5th Quality of Life Survey, spanning the period 2017/2018.
The survey has been run every two years since 2009, and the latest edition interviewed 24,889 people across Gauteng, South Africa’s economic hub and most populous and urbanised province.
Among the questions, is one that addresses attitudes towards LGBTQ people. Respondents were asked whether or not they agreed with the following statement: “It is acceptable to be violent to gay and lesbian people.”
Response options were strongly agree, agree, neither agree nor disagree, disagree, and strongly disagree. The proportion of respondents who agreed with this statement was 6%.
This means that more than 880,000 people, out of Gautneg’s total population of 14,7 million, approve of homophobic violence.
While that number is frightening, it actually represents a dramatic decrease since the last 2015/2016 survey, in which 14% agreed with the statement (around 1.26 million people at the time).
Dr Julia de Kadt, Senior Researcher at the Gauteng City-Region Observatory, told MambaOnline she was unable to speculate on possible reasons for the marked decline, but said the results “are in line with global trends towards greater acceptance of LGBTQ individuals.”
She commented that the latest survey painted a “complex picture regarding social attitudes.” De Kadt noted that the proportion of respondents who believed all foreigners should be sent home has dropped from 23% to 17%, “also hinting at increasing tolerance.”
At the same time, a greater proportion of respondents believed that black and white people would never trust each other; up from 58% (2015/2016) to 64% (2017/2018). Nevertheless, 75% of respondents agreed that inter-racial dating or marriage is acceptable.
Lerato Phalakatshela, Hate Crime Manager at OUT and spokesperson for the Love Not Hate campaign, welcomed the apparent improvement in tolerance towards LGBTQ people. “This clearly shows that some of the work and programming LGBTQ organisations and allies do is making some impact and is effective,” he said.
Phalakatshela also suggested that Gautengers are increasingly more exposed to sexual and gender diverse individuals as LGBTQ people tend to flock to urbanised areas like the province. He added that more young people move to Gauteng every year, for school or work. “Younger people are known for being open minded and more accepting of diversity than older people,” he said.
While Phalakatshela agrees that even 6% of Gauteng’s population approving of anti-gay violence is unacceptable, he sees any step forward as a positive development. “In an ideal world we would want to have the number at 0%. But we do not live in an ideal world, so we accept the positive change,” he said.