Friday, May 20, 2022

New study challenges Botswana’s unfriendly gay image

A new study says young Batswana are tolerant of gays, but more than six out of 10 still believe that homosexuality is wrong. The Afrobarometer team from the University of Botswana, led by Star Awards (Pty) Ltd which interviewed 1,200 adult Batswana in June and July this year found that while Batswana affirm enjoying civil liberties, six in 10 Batswana say they would object to sharing a work environment with a colleague (60%) or supervisor (61%) who is in a same-sex relationship. The researchers also discovered that about the same proportion would object to sharing a religious community (62%) or a neighbourhood (56%) with a homosexual person.

“Again, six in 10 Batswana say they would report people involved in same-sex relationships to the police or other authorities, regardless of their relationship to the people involved,” states the study. However, intolerance levels, the study says were lower among urban residents and younger Batswana, indicating a potential for increased social acceptance of same-sex relationships in the future. While Batswana value their personal freedoms of expression, association, and electoral choice, a majority say they would feel uncomfortable working with colleagues involved in same-sex relationships. Six in 10 respondents say that they would mind having someone who is in a same-sex relationship as a co-worker (60%), a supervisor (61%), or a member of their religious community.

The researchers say that disapproval of same-sex relationships varies by locality, with urban residents reporting lower levels than their counterparts living in semi-rural and rural areas. Proportions were similar on all three questions (co-worker, supervisor, religious community member).

“There is also a clear generational pattern, with significantly higher tolerance among younger Batswana. The highest rejection levels are held by older Batswana: Three-quarters of respondents aged 50-64 years strongly disagreed ordisagreed with the “would not mind” statements regarding co-workers and supervisors, while 82% of those aged over 65 disapproved,” states the study. Respondents aged 18-29 years, by contrast, are far more accepting of working with or under individuals in same-sex relationships; approximately half reported that they would mind working with a colleague (45%) or supervisor (50%) involved in a same-sex relationship. This indicates a potential for increased social acceptance of homosexuality in the future, the study says.

In addition to asking about the workplace, the latest Afrobarometer survey asked respondents about their views on homosexuals in their communities, namely in their religious groups and neighbourhoods. Members of some religious groups in Botswana are known to take positions against same-sex relationships. When survey respondents were asked whether they would mind or not mind having someone in a same-sex relationship as a member of their religious community, 62% stated that they would mind. As for the workplace, intolerance for same-sex relationships among religious community members is higher among older citizens and lower among younger respondents. More than half (56%) of Batswana say they would either “strongly dislike” or “somewhat dislike” homosexual people as neighbours. A substantial minority (43%), however, would like it or would not care. Among younger respondents, a majority (52%) would like it or would not care.

Meanwhile, the study states that Batswana affirm that they enjoy freedom of expression (83%), freedom of association (94%), and the freedom to vote for whomever they choose (95%). Within the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Batswana rank near the top in their assessment of their freedoms, despite a decline in freedom of expression since 2008. While four of five Batswana (83%) say in the 2014 survey that they are free to say what they think, this is a drop of 11 percentage points since 2008. “Batswana continue to stand out in their enjoyment of personal freedoms, although there has been a noticeable decline in a measure of freedom of expression since 2008.This decline mirrors deterioration in the country’s political-rights rating by Freedom House, which in 2009 downgraded its rating from 2 to 3, citing decreased transparency and accountability under President Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama’s administration,” says the study. Among the 12 SADC countries that were included in the 2011-2013 round of Afrobarometer surveys, Botswana ranked near the top in their assessment of their freedom to choose whom to vote for, just 1 percentage point behind Tanzania and Mauritius (97% vs. 98%).

Respondents were asked: in this country, how free are you: a) to say what you think? b) to join any political organisation you want? c) to choose who to vote for without feeling pressured?

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