Asia Life

Asia Divided On Homosexuality

A new poll finds that Asia-Pacific nations differ drastically on whether they accept homosexuality.

Asia is divided in its views on homosexuality, according to a new released by the Pew Research Center Tuesday.

Earlier this year, the Pew Research Center asked 37,653 respondents in 39 countries if they believed that homosexuality should be accepted by society.

Eight Asian-Pacific countries were included in the survey with majorities in three of them saying that homosexuality should be accepted by society, while majorities—in some cases overwhelming majorities— in the five remaining countries saying that society should not accept homosexuality.

Australia, the Philippines, and Japan were the three countries in which a majority of respondents voiced support for society accepting homosexuality. Nearly 80 percent of Australians supported this view as did 73 percent of Filipinos. Japan was more divided with 54 percent of respondents saying that society should accept homosexuality while 36 percent opining that it should not.

The strong support for homosexuality in the Philippines is somewhat surprising in light of the historically strong presence of the Catholic Church in that country. Researchers at Pew found that “There is a strong relationship between a country’s religiosity and opinions about homosexuality. There is far less acceptance of homosexuality in countries where religion is central to people’s lives,” albeit this doesn’t seem to apply to the Philippines.

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Japan’s narrow majority of support for homosexuality was in large part due to Japanese women and youth. Although in most countries gender did not affect views on homosexuality very much, Japan was an exception with 61 percent of women believing that society should accept homosexuality while only 47 percent of men saying the same.

Similarly, 83 percent of respondents between the ages of 18 and 29, and 71 percent of respondents between the ages of 30 and 49 supported homosexuality in Japan. Less than 40 percent of Japanese respondents over the age of 50 agreed. This was similar to many countries around the world where young people were overwhelmingly more accepting of homosexuality than older persons.

The Asian countries in which majorities said that society should not accept homosexuality were South Korea, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Pakistan.

In South Korea 59 percent of people said society should not accept homosexuality compared to 39 percent of people that disagreed. These numbers signaled the largest shift in public opinion on homosexuality since Pew last posed this question in 2007. At that time, 77 percent of South Koreans said society should not accept homosexuality while 18 percent said it should, an increase of 21 percent of people supporting homosexuality in South Korean. The next largest shift took place in the United States where 11 percent more people supported homosexuality.

In China only 21 percent of people said society should accept homosexuality whereas 57 percent said that it should not. Along with Russia—where 74 percent of respondents said society should not accept homosexuality— China was one of the few countries that had a low religiosity and a low tolerance of homosexuality.

Overwhelming majorities in Malaysia (86 percent), Indonesia (93 percent), and Pakistan (87 percent) said that society should not accept homosexuality; with just 9 percent, 3 percent, and 2 percent respectively saying it should.

This put these countries in line with Muslim-majority countries around the world that remain staunchly opposed to homosexuality. Indeed, Lebanon was alone among Muslim-majority countries in having over 10 percent of the population say society should accept homosexuality. 18 percent of respondents in Lebanese expressed this sentiment compared to the 80 percent who opposed it.

The views of the three Muslim majority countries in the Asia-Pacific are likely to continue into the future, as generally speaking the younger respondents in those countries were not more supportive of homosexuality than older people. In fact, in Malaysia people over the age of 50 were more likely to be accepting of homosexuality (11 percent) than 18 to 29 year-olds (7 percent). In Pakistan support for homosexuality was 2 percent across all age groups whereas in Indonesia, 4 percent of people in the 18-29 age group supported homosexuality, compared to 3 percent among people over the age of 50.