Cape Town — Africans are generally tolerant of people of different ethnic groups and religions - but not of gays and lesbians, according to a new report from Afrobarometer.
The continent-wide collaborative group released the report in Maputo on Tuesday. It is based on more than 50,000 interviews with members of the public in 33 countries across the continent.
"While Africa is often portrayed as a continent of ethnic and religious division and intolerance," the report says, "(our) findings show high degrees of acceptance of people from different ethnic groups, people of different religions, immigrants, and people living with HIV/AIDS...
"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."
But the report goes on to add: "A major exception to Africa's high tolerance is its strongly negative attitude toward homosexuals... Only 21 percent of all citizens across the 33 countries say they would like or would not mind having homosexual neighbours."
The lack of tolerance is not universal - the report says most people in Cape Verde, South Africa, Namibia and Mozambique would tolerate gay neighbours. More than four in 10 in Mauritius, São Tomé and Principe and Botswana think likewise.
Nevertheless, there is "near unanimity" in rejecting homosexuality in Senegal, Guinea, Uganda, Burkina Faso and Niger. And in Algeria, Egypt and Sudan the issue was not even surveyed because Afrobarometer deemed the question "too sensitive".
The report suggested that "is possible that Africa will become progressively less homophobic over time... More educated Africans tend to be more tolerant of homosexuals than older Africans and less educated citizens".
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