Attitudes Toward Homosexuality in Sub-Saharan Africa
Posted: 12 Apr 2013
Date Written: April 12, 2013
Despite the adoption of liberal constitutions that provide for extensive bills of rights, there has been strong resistance among African countries to extend these rights to include minority groups, particularly the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LBGT) community. To date, homosexuality remains outlawed in more than two-thirds of African countries. Although several African leaders have spoken out against homosexuality in very strong terms, describing it as ‘un-African,’ most laws criminalizing same-sex acts were inherited from the colonial era, enacted without the input of the people that currently enforce them. In this study we examine the extent to which existing anti-homosexual legislation reflects the true opinion of ordinary Africans. We analyze cross-national public opinion data from 15 countries on attitudes toward homosexuality in Africa, where the topic has been a subject of major debate in recent years. We study whether ordinary citizens think homosexuality is ever justifiable and whether they are willing to accept homosexuals as their neighbors. We complement the cross-national analysis with analysis of new data from Malawi, an aid-dependent country in which LGBT rights were central to a recent popular debate. The results indicate that Africans have negative attitudes toward homosexuality, with some variation by age, gender, religion, locality or education. Still, there is little support for LGBT rights among educated, urban, and younger Africans, which stands in sharp contrast with the United States, where these three demographics have become increasingly tolerant of homosexuality over time.
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