Acceptance of homosexuality is rising broadly across the world, according to a survey published yesterday, even as sharp divisions persist by region and economic development.
Support has grown from as far afield as Kenya to the United States, the Pew Research Center survey found, with an average of 52% of people across 34 countries saying homosexuality should be accepted, versus 38% against.
“Overall the changes are towards more acceptance rather than less,” said Jacob Poushter, associate director of global attitudes research at the U.S.-based think tank.
Many countries saw a considerable jump in acceptance from the inaugural survey of 2002, including a 21-point increase in South Africa and a 19-point rise in South Korea.
India saw a 22-point surge since its first survey in 2014.
However, views on homosexuality remain regionally divided, with a majority in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East agreeing that being gay should not be accepted, compared to most people in the Americas and Western Europe who embrace the issue.
Openness to LGBT issues was also tied to economic development, the researchers found, with countries such as Sweden having positive views of homosexuality, compared to opinion in lower-income countries such as Nigeria.
Around the world, laws favouring LGBT+ rights have broadly increased: since the Netherlands became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage in 2001, 27 other United Nations member states have passed laws that let gays and lesbians wed.
But gay sex is still illegal in 68 countries, according to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), with six countries imposing the death penalty for consensual, same-sex sexual acts.
Many of the countries that criminalize gay sex are in Africa, however, there, too, change is afoot, with lawmakers in Gabon’s lower house of parliament voting to reverse the country’s anti-gay sex law this week.
But the Pew Research Center said new laws might not have as much of an impact on attitudes as other factors, be it wealth, education, age or religion.
“The long-term trend has been a general rise in acceptance that might not be as impacted by the changes in the overall laws,” Poushter told the media.
“What we see is that it’s the demographic factors underlying this that generally make a lot of difference,” he said.
Younger people were much more likely to accept being gay than their older peers, the survey found, with nearly 80% of South Koreans aged 18 to 29 saying homosexuality should be accepted, versus just 23% of those over 50.
The survey was conducted between May 13 and October 2 last year among 38,426 people in 34 countries.