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Repeal 76 countries' anti-gay laws? Road ahead is long

Countries where homosexual activity is a crime. (Click the image for list of countries.)
Countries where homosexual activity is a crime. (Click the image for list of countries.)

Is it possible that we can move toward a world where no adult couples are thrown in jail for being in love?

That prospect, which would require repeal of 76-plus countries’ laws against homosexual activity, seems more daunting than ever in the light of a recent Pew Research Center survey of attitudes about homosexuality in 39 countries.

In almost all of those countries, the nation’s laws about homosexuality are well aligned with their citizens’ attitudes about homosexuality:

  • In all 12 surveyed countries WITH laws against homosexual activity, an overwhelming majority of citizens say that homosexuality IS NOT acceptable.
  • In 17 surveyed countries WITHOUT laws against homosexual activity, a majority of citizens say that homosexuality IS acceptable.  In another six surveyed countries WITHOUT laws against homosexual activity,  a substantial minority (32 percent to 43 percent) say that homosexuality IS acceptable.
Jailed-link
Click image for list of people in prison or awaiting trial for homosexual activity.

In a few countries, discord between the nation’s laws and citizens’ attitudes suggests that change might be possible — but the change might be undesirable, by making the laws more repressive to match citizens’ anti-gay sentiments.

In four surveyed countries, citizens’ acceptance of homosexuality is so low that re-criminalization might conceivably win popular support. Those countries are China (only 21 percent saying homosexuality is acceptable), Russia (16 percent), Turkey (9 percent) and Jordan (3 percent). It’s not by chance that the lower of house of the Russian parliament has unanimously passed a ban on “gay propaganda” that already is force in 10 of the nation’s regions.

Among countries with laws against homosexual activity, the survey found only three countries where more than 4 percent of citizens found homosexuality to be acceptable. Those three are Lebanon (18 percent), Malaysia (9 percent) and Kenya (8 percent).

The survey had a margin of error that varied from country to country, but mostly about +/-4 percent.

Pew survey 2013-HomosexualityThe Pew Research Center presented its survey results in a variety of formats:

  • By continent, with the Americas and Europe generally favorable, Africa and Middle East generally opposed.
  • Change in attitude from 2007 to 2013, with the greatest change toward accepting homosexuality in South Korea (up 21 percentage points), the United States (up 11 percentage points) and Canada (up 10 percentage points). The greatest changes in the opposite direction were in France (down 6 percentage points) and in Turkey and Palestinian Territories (down 5 percentage points), but those were close to the survey’s margin of error.
  • By age, with young adults generally more accepting of homosexuality (for example, 70 percent in the U.S.) than those age 50 and up (52 percent in the U.S.). The greatest gaps by age were in South Korea (55 percentage points), Japan (44 percentage points), Brazil (28 percentage points), and Greece and Bolivia (26 percentage points each). Unfortunately, in most countries with anti-gay laws, there’s little or no age gap. The largest gap is in Lebanon, where  27 percent of young adults find homosexuality acceptable vs. only 10 percent of older adults. In Uganda, young adults (3 percent) are less accepting than older adults (7 percent).
  • By gender, with women more accepting than men by 10 percentage points or more in eight nations (Israel, Venezuela, Britain, Japan, Chile, Greece, U.S. and France).
  • By “religiosity,” with more religious nations generally less tolerant of homosexuality than less religious nations. But several exceptions stand out, including non-religious Russia and China, which have low levels of acceptance of homosexuality, and much more religious Brazil and Philippines, which rate high in tolerance.

Here are the estimated percentages of citizens in each surveyed country who consider homosexuality to be acceptable,  divided between nations that do and those that do not penalize homosexuality:

Homosexual activity legal:

88% Spain
87% Germany
80% Czech Republic
80% Canada
79% Australia
77% France
76% Britain
74% Italy
74% Argentina
73% Philippines
68% Chile
61% Mexico
60% Brazil
60% United States
54% Japan
53% Greece
51% Venezuela
43% Bolivia
42% Poland
40% Israel
39% South Korea
34% El Salvador
32% South Africa
21% China
16% Russia
9% Turkey
3% Jordan

Homosexual activity illegal:

18% Lebanon
9% Malaysia
8% Kenya
4% Uganda
4% Palestinian Territories
3% Indonesia (Aceh Province and South Sumatra)
3% Egypt
3% Ghana
3% Senegal
2% Tunisia
2% Pakistan
1% Nigeria

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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