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Jakarta Post

More Indonesians tolerant of homosexuality, though vast majority still say no: Pew survey

  • Apriza Pinandita
    Apriza Pinandita

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, June 26, 2020   /   05:38 pm
More Indonesians tolerant of homosexuality, though vast majority still say no: Pew survey Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists celebrate International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia at the Hotel Indonesia Traffic Circle in Central Jakarta on May 17, 2015. (Kompas.com/Yunanto Wiji Utomo)

Public acceptance of homosexuality in Indonesia has improved slightly in the past few years, a recently published study by Pew Research Center suggests, though the level remains low compared with those of other countries.

The report -- which polled 38,426 respondents across 34 countries from May to October last year -- found that only 9 percent of Indonesians agreed that homosexuality should be accepted by society, an increase from only 3 percent in 2013.

Most respondents in the world's largest Muslim-majority country disagreed, with 80 percent of them saying homosexuality should be discouraged.

The US-based think tank said it found that public opinion on the acceptance of homosexuality in each society remained sharply divided by country, region and economic development, despite major changes in laws and norms in many countries regarding same-sex marriage and the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

Read also: Of coming out and acceptance: LGBT youth seek peace in conservative Indonesia

The report also suggested that attitudes on the acceptance of homosexuality were shaped by the country where the polled respondents lived, as it found that people in wealthier and more developed economies are "generally more accepting of homosexuality" than those in poorer and less-developed economies.

"Religion and its importance in people’s lives also shape opinions in many countries. For example, in some countries, those who are affiliated with a religious group tend to be less accepting of homosexuality than those who are unaffiliated," Pew Research Center said in its 2019 report," Political ideology also plays a role in the acceptance of homosexuality."

In its 2015 report, Pew Research Center ranked Indonesia in third place among countries that highly regard religion, with 97 percent of people in the country saying religion was very important to them.

Although the 2019 study showed a slight improvement for Indonesia, its people's level of acceptance of homosexuality is the second-lowest among other countries surveyed.

The nation of 268 million people shared the same spot with Tunisia, where 9 percent also said homosexuality should be accepted. Nigeria is the country with the lowest level of acceptance of homosexuality at 7 percent.

Homosexuality is not illegal in Indonesia -- except in conservative Aceh with its strict Islamic laws -- however, sentiment against the LGBT community has persisted in the country over the years.

The anti-LGBT rhetoric hit a new high in 2016, with an unprecedented flood of inflammatory statements and crackdowns against the minority group. Intimidation and persecution against them still persist to this day.

Read also: Recent cases of persecution set back LGBT rights advocacy

Meanwhile, in the neighboring country Philippines, 73 percent of respondents agreed that homosexuality should be accepted by society, according to the study.

Countries such as the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain, France and Germany were also placed in the higher ranks with more than 70 percent acceptance for homosexuality.

Although majorities in 16 of the 34 surveyed countries in 2019 said homosexuality should be accepted, the think tank's report showed that the global divide remains.

While 94 percent of respondents in Sweden -- the country with the highest level of acceptance on the list -- agreed on acceptance of homosexuality, only 7 percent in Nigeria shared the same sentiment.

"But even with these sharp divides, views are changing in many of the countries that have been surveyed since 2002, when the Center first began asking the question of whether homosexuality should be accepted by society or not on its international surveys," the report said.

In many of the countries surveyed, there have been double-digit increases in acceptance of homosexuality between the 2002 and 2019 studies, including a 21-point increase in South Africa and a 19-point increase in South Korea.

Across the 34 countries surveyed, a median of 52 percent agreed that homosexuality should be accepted with 38 percent saying that it should be discouraged.