Why Do Some Countries Disapprove of Homosexuality? Money, Democracy and Religion

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. This post is republished during the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences conference occurring March 21 – 25 in Kansas City, MO. #ACJS2017


By Amy Adamczyk, City University of New York, author of Cross-National Public Opinion about Homosexuality: Examining Attitudes across the Globe

Image 20170227 18526 18hfh5y
Gay pride – but not everywhere. bensonkua/flickr, CC BY-SA

With Trump’s removal of federal protections for transgender students, debate over LGBTQ rights rage again across the U.S. The Conversation

Despite these disagreements, Americans are relatively liberal compared to countries across the world, where the consequences for gay or transgender citizens are far more dire.

In Europe and here in the Americas, only a minority of people believe that homosexuality is never justified. The percentage increases in places like Russia, India and China. In Africa, the Middle East and parts of Southeast Asia, attitudes become even more conservative.

Why are there such big differences in public opinion about homosexuality? My book, Cross-National Public Opinion about Homosexuality, shows that a key part of the answer comes in understanding how national characteristics shape individuals’ attitudes.

Within countries, a similar set of demographic characteristics tend to influence how people feel about homosexuality. For example, women tend to be more liberal than men. Older people tend to be more conservative than younger ones. Muslims are more likely to disapprove of homosexuality than Catholics, Jews and mainline Protestants.

Just like people, countries too have particular characteristics that can sway residents’ attitudes about homosexuality. I have analyzed data from over 80 nations from the last three waves of the World Values Survey, the oldest noncommercial, cross-national examination of individuals’ attitudes, values and beliefs over time. It is the only academic survey to include people from both very rich and poor countries, in all of the world’s major cultural zones. It now has surveys from almost 400,000 respondents.

My analysis shows that differences in attitudes between nations can largely be explained by three factors: economic development, democracy and religion.

Money matters

Sweden, Switzerland and the Netherlands are some of the richest nations in the world. They are also some of the most tolerant. In sharp contrast, countries like Uganda and Nigeria are quite poor and the vast majority of residents disapprove.

How does the amount of money a country has shape attitudes? In very poor countries, people are likely to be more concerned about basic survival. Parents may worry about how to obtain clean water and food for their children. Residents may feel that if they stick together and work closely with friends, family and community members, they will lead a more predictable and stable life. In this way, social scientists have found that a group mentality may develop, encouraging people to think in similar ways and discouraging individual differences.

Because of the focus on group loyalty and tradition, many residents from poorer countries are likely to view homosexuality as highly problematic. It violates traditional sensibilities. Many people may feel that LGBTQ individuals should conform to dominant heterosexual and traditional family norms.

Conversely, residents from richer nations are less dependent on the group and less concerned about basic survival. They have more freedom to choose their partners and lifestyle. Even in relatively rich countries like the United States, some people will still find homosexuality problematic. But, many will also be supportive.

Regardless of how much money they make, most people living in poorer countries are likely to be affected by cultural norms that focus on survival and group loyalty, leading to more disapproval.

Freedom of speech

The type of government also matters. People living in more democratic countries tend to be more supportive of homosexuality.

Democracy increases tolerance by exposing residents to new perspectives. Democracy also encourages people to respect individuals’ rights, regardless of whether they personally like the people being protected.

Freedom of speech also allows residents to protest and not be arrested. When residents feel that they can freely express their ideas, they become even more inclined to speak up for themselves and others. This leads to more tolerance.

Dominant religious views

The final factor shaping individuals’ attitudes is religion. Countries dominated by Islam, Eastern Orthodoxy and those that have a mixture of conservative and mainline Protestant faiths are more likely to disapprove.

In contrast, nations dominated by mainline Protestant religions and Catholicism – such as Sweden, Spain and the United Kingdom – are much more liberal.

Why are people from Muslim majority nations so opposed to homosexuality? Both Islam and conservative Protestant faiths generate high levels of religious belief. Most religious texts say that homosexuality is problematic. More religious people are more likely to take these religious precepts seriously. When a large proportion of people are highly dedicated to their religion, everyone within the country tends to develop more conservative views.

In these countries, the media are likely to reflect dominant religious views. Schools and businesses are more likely to support religious perspectives that disapprove of homosexuality. The government may censor the media so that they do not violate religious sensibilities. They may also restrict nonprofit organizations and human rights groups that promote views inconsistent with conservative religious values. Religious friends and family members are likely to reinforce anti-homosexual views.

Finally, there may not be any gay bars or other places to meet people with friendlier attitudes in these countries. Likewise, there may be limited internet access where residents could get more information about gay men and lesbians. In these countries most people are likely to disapprove, regardless of whether or not they are personally religious.

Are most nations becoming more liberal?

In 1996, there were only six nations that allowed for civil union or marriage. Seventeen years later, 43 nations allowed for it.

However, there has also been an increase in the number of nations that have a constitution or legal ban on homosexuality, indicating that there seems to have been a small backlash. These actions could be a reaction against the liberal legislation put in place in other countries.

As people across the world develop more liberal attitudes, many still disagree. Countries that are highly opposed to homosexuality tend to put in place policies and laws that reflect this disapproval.

While religion, economic development and democracy have a major role in shaping attitudes, the march toward greater liberalization is less straightforward than these factors alone would suggest.

Nations are embedded in a global context. Many countries located in Europe and North America were the first to become wealthy and democratic. Because they were the leaders, they were not subject to the pressure that currently up-and-coming countries now face from more powerful countries that led the way for gay rights.

Additionally, religion remains relevant, even in many rich societies, like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and up-and-coming countries, like Egypt and South Africa.

Future changes in attitudes are likely to be complicated by international forces and the continuing significance of religion.

Eighty percent of the countries I examined are becoming more liberal. However, we can’t assume that these changes will always be linear or simple. While we’ve seen a general trend toward more liberal views regarding homosexuality, there are likely to be hiccups along the way that affect how these different socioeconomic and cultural influences take shape nationally and across the world.


Amy Adamczyk is Professor of Sociology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the Graduate Center, City University of New York.

 


Police Intelligence: Linking Teaching, Practice and Research

By Dean Dabney & Richard Tewksbury, authors of Speaking Truth to Power: Confidential Informants and Police Investigations

This guest post is published as part of a series in relation to the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences conference occurring March 21 – 25 in Kansas City, MO. #ACJS2017

In the world of police intelligence the ideas of teaching, practice and research are all critically important for an integrated approach to one of the foundational activities that sets the gears of the criminal justice machine in motion. One powerful and increasingly relied upon component of the law enforcement toolkit for gathering of intelligence is the use of confidential informants. The practice is widely acknowledged but plagued by a dearth of research and teaching about the issue. When most Americans think of confidential informants (or, “snitches”) they immediately envision media-inspired/perpetuated stereotypes and images. Who are informants, how they work, with whom they work, and when, where and why the police employ informants are all issues about which people primarily “learn” via entertainment media. Are those images correct? Maybe, but maybe not. Unfortunately, we have a paucity of research about the topic.

In fact, unfortunately we have very little research on how police gather information, regardless of the means. As scholars we have done a good job examining how the police use information in investigations, prevention programs and solving crimes. But, how information is gathered is largely beyond the view of social scientists. This is especially crucial in the War on Drugs, where information gathering is critical for any and all of our “successes”.

This is because it is a secretive activity, and there is a need for such activities to be at least somewhat undercover for them to be effective. However, that argument can be made for many types of activities, by many types of actors – both inside and outside the criminal justice system. The fact is that we do have knowledge about all kinds of “hidden” aspects of many social activities. In fact, there is no reason we cannot, or should not, study these realms. The question becomes why we do not investigate police intelligence gathering more frequently and in more depth and detail?

The argument that scholars are “kept out” would be easy to make, and many can offer stories of their own efforts to gain access to data but being thwarted in their efforts. But, this is not to say that there is a police conspiracy to keep researchers out. As our own experiences showed, access, and even acceptance, inside the policing world is achievable. The key is to find the right “spot” for making entry. If we find receptive individuals and organizations and we approach the issue in an open and unbiased way, it can be done.

Scholars are not systematically and universally excluded from studying police and their activities from the inside. There are opportunities, but as scholars we need to seek, find and perhaps most importantly nurture relationships that can facilitate our ability to “see it from the inside”. How can we truly “see it from the inside”? In order to do so, we need to actually physically be inside, and then stay there. We need to actually talk to police, community members, and even offenders. We need to meet the people who do the gathering of information, and we need to see them actually do it. We need to understand how the experience feels, how it rewards and frustrates, and what can be done when unanticipated obstacles arise. In short, we need qualitative, ethnographic research on the topic.

The practice of law enforcement intelligence gathering and use of confidential informants is a practice that is common, valuable but severely lacking in research. Without research on the topic we also have nothing to teach about the topic, except for what is common in our entertainment media. In this way the issue of police intelligence and use of confidential informants is a prime example of the need to integrate teaching, practice and research. As we stand now without that integration – and without quality ethnographic investigations — we are left with no knowledge, and no promises of gaining knowledge to teach about a practice. Only with the dedication of pioneering scholars will we be able to overcome our dearth of knowledge and learn how to better manage our law enforcement practices.

See Dean Dabney at: ACJS’s Author Meets Critic Session
Wednesday, March 22nd
11:00 am to 12:15 pm
Muehlebach Tower: Floor Trianon Level – Lido

Moderator:
Rod Brunson, Rutgers University

Critics:
Scott Decker, Arizona State University
William Wells, Sam Houston State University


Dean A. Dabney is Associate Professor of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Georgia State University.

Richard Tewksbury is Professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Louisville.

 


Save 40% with UC Press during the 2017 Academy of Criminal Justice Annual Meeting

The 2017 ACJS Annual Meeting meeting convenes March 21 – 25 in Kansas City, MO.

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