Africa’s most and least homophobic countries

While Africa is often described as a continent that is intolerant of its varied ethnic and religious differences, surveys paint a different picture -- a high level of acceptance of other ethnic groups, religions, immigrants, and people living with HIV / AIDS. But a strongly negative attitude toward homosexuals.
While Africa is often described as a continent that is intolerant of its varied ethnic and religious differences, surveys paint a different picture — a high level of acceptance of other ethnic groups, religions, immigrants, and people living with HIV / AIDS, but a strongly negative attitude toward homosexuals.


Most tolerant countries

The Afrobarometer network, which conducts public opinion surveys in Africa, recently listed the continent’s most and least homophobic countries.

In these four African countries, the majority of residents say they would welcome or would not be bothered having a homosexual neighbor:

  • Cape Verde, 74%.
  • South Africa, 69%.
  • Mozambique, 56%.
  • Namibia, 55%.

Least tolerant countries

These five are the countries where the smallest percentage said they would welcome or would not be bothered having a homosexual neighbor:

  • Senegal, 3%.
  • Guinea, 4%.
  • Uganda, 5%.
  • Burkina Faso, 5%.
  • Niger, 5%.

Most tolerant among countries with anti-gay laws

Among countries with laws against homosexual activity, these are where residents are most tolerant of homosexuality, as measured by the percentage saying they would welcome or would not be bothered having a homosexual neighbor:

  • Namibia, 55% (where sodomy is illegal under the common law).
  • Mauritius, 49% (where the punishment for sodomy is up to 5 years in prison).
  • Botswana, 43% (where the punishment for sodomy is up to 7 years in prison).
  • Tanzania, 21% (where the punishment for sodomy is 30 years in prison).
  • Tunisia, 17% (where the punishment for sodomy is 3 years of imprisonment).
  • Morocco, 16% (where the punishment for sodomy is at least 3 months in prison).
  • Nigeria, 16% (where the punishment for sodomy is 14 years in prison).
  • Liberia, 16% (where the punishment for sodomy is up to one year in prison).
  • Kenya, 14% (where the punishment for sodomy is 5 years in prison).
Data on tolerance in Africa, presented by Afrobarometer, based on surveys conducted during 2014 and 2015.
Data on tolerance in Africa, presented by Afrobarometer, based on surveys conducted during 2014 and 2015.

The Afrobarometer study found that:

  •  Tolerance levels are particularly high in regions and countries that are ethnically and religiously diverse, suggesting that experience is an important factor in inculcating an attitude of tolerance among African citizens.
  • Similarly, tolerance for people living with HIV/AIDS is highest in countries with high HIV/AIDS prevalence, providing further evidence that intolerance and stigmatization can be unlearned through personal encounters.
  • Christians, urban residents, and younger citizens tend to be more tolerant than, respectively, Muslims, rural residents, and older people.

Because today’s younger Africans tend to be more tolerant than their elders, the study concluded that “while current attitudes are largely negative, it is possible that Africa will become progressively less homophobic over time.”

The report added:

“While our data do not yet permit analysis of trends over time, the findings of this study tell us that tolerance in Africa is not a constant. Rather, it can be nurtured and learned.

“In addition to the likely effects of contact with people of different backgrounds, education and news media exposure are drivers of a tolerant society, as more educated individuals and those who have greater exposure to the media tend to embrace more tolerant attitudes.

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

For more information, read the full Afrobarometer report.

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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