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Social Issues
Homosexuality: How The World Is Divided
June 5, 2013
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France's first gay marriage

There's no question homosexuality is now largely accepted in Canada, which in our view is a good thing.

But according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center, it's certainly not a view that's shared around the world.

The folks at Pew surveyed more than 37,000 people in 39 countries over two months to gauge their attitudes about gays and lesbians. Here are some of their key findings:

In Canada, 80% of respondents said homosexuality should be accepted by society. That's up from 70% six years ago.

In the United States, views aren't quite as positive but they do seem to be changing. 60% said homosexuality should be accepted, up from 49% in 2007.

Across the European Union, homosexuality is widely accepted by a strong majority in Spain (88%), Germany (87%), the Czech Republic (80%), France (77%), Britain (76%), and Italy (74%).

Poland is the only EU country surveyed where views are sharply divided; 42% say homosexuality should be accepted; 46% believe it should be rejected.

In Russia, just 16% said homosexuality should be accepted while 74% said no.

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Gay rights activists in Russia

Opinions about homosexuality are generally positive in parts of Latin America. In Argentina, 74% say it should be accepted. In Chile (68%), Mexico (61%), Brazil (60%), and Venezuela (51%), a majority also accept it.

The same can't be said of El Salvador, where 62% said homosexuality should be rejected.

It's a similar story in predominantly Muslim countries, where a vast majority of those surveyed said homosexuality should be rejected...

Jordan - 97%
Egypt - 95%
Tunisia - 94%
The Palestinian territories - 93%
Indonesia - 93%
Pakistan - 87%
Malaysia - 86%
Lebanon - 80%
Turkey - 78%

Same goes for several countries in sub-Saharan Africa - homosexuality rejected.

Nigeria - 98%
Senegal - 96%
Ghana - 96%
Uganda - 96%
Kenya - 90%

And the Pew survey points out that "even in South Africa where, unlike in many other African countries, homosexual acts are legal and discrimination based on sexual orientation is unconstitutional, 61% say homosexuality should not be accepted by society, while just 32% say it should be accepted."

A majority in South Korea (59%) and China (57%) also said homosexuality should be rejected, although as Pew reports views in South Korea have "shifted considerably since 2007 when 77% said homosexuality should be rejected."

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A gay marriage in South Korea

In other countries such as Australia (79%), the Philippines (73%), and Japan (54%) views are more positive, with a majority saying homosexuality should be accepted by society.

So, why the disparities in different regions? Well, the folks at Pew say generally speaking "there is a strong relationship between a country's religiosity and opinions about homosexuality."

They go on to write "there is far less acceptance of homosexuality in countries where religion is central to people's lives - measured by whether they consider religion to be very important, whether they believe it is necessary to believe in God in order to be moral, and whether they pray at least once a day."

In countries where religion isn't as big a part of people's lives, homosexuality is much more widely accepted. These are also many of the wealthiest countries in the world.

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A gay rights activist in Indonesia holds a sign that says "homosexuality is not a mental illness

However, in poorer countries with high levels of religiosity, few believe homosexuality should be accepted.

The survey also notes that "age is also a factor in several countries, with younger respondents offering far more tolerant views than older ones. And while gender differences are not prevalent, in those countries where they are, women are consistently more accepting of homosexuality than men."

With respect to age, Canada's older generation has a positive view of homosexuality, with 75% of Canadians aged 50 and older saying it should be accepted.

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