Geneva, 31 October 2017 - Today, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) and RIWI Corp. share their 2017 round of results of the ILGA-RIWI Global Attitudes Survey on sexual, gender and sex minorities, in partnership with Viacom, Logo and SAGE.
This annual survey was first established in 2016 to gather credible data on public attitudes to issues related to sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics on every continent to assist advocates, researchers and policy-makers in their work. This year, the survey reached around 116,000 online individuals in 77 countries, further establishing itself as the largest investigation about our communities ever conducted. Significantly, the anonymous digital data-collection mechanism used for this research (devised by the Canadian technology company RIWI Corp.) allowed us to reach into highly hostile environments such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Nigeria, as well as many other countries where our communities have recently been specifically targeted in vicious crackdowns.
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Findings in this publication focus only on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. While responses related to sex characteristics require further analysis and are not included in this publication, they do seem to indicate that wide awareness of what is meant by ‘intersex’ or ‘sex characteristics’ still needs to emerge in societies. Specific attention was focused on the language used in the construction of questions in this survey. Our advisory group agreed that the acronym “LGBTI” does not receive universal comprehension and may be perceived as ‘foreign’, ‘negative’, or stigmatizing in certain contexts. As such, different formulations were used to capture sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (see “Note on language used”). Much of the data elicited in this year’s survey confirms what sexual, gender and sex minorities already know from our lived personal and organisational experiences.
“A consistent message from these data is that knowing someone in these communities has significant positive effect on attitudes towards them,” commented Aengus Carroll, co-author of the research. “At the global level, 41% of respondents know someone who is romantically attracted to people of the same sex, and 35% of respondents directly know someone who dresses, acts or identifies as another sex than the one they were born. We interpret what we are seeing in this data as suggesting that when people know each other first-hand, a de-stigmatising effect can be produced, and that counters the stereotyping too often perpetuated by religious and political leaders, as well as in media.”
The recurring evidence of this is indeed striking. As a global average, 55% of the world we surveyed agree that “equal rights and protections should be applied to everyone, including people who are romantically or sexually attracted to people of the same sex,” and that percentage rises up to 59% when it applies to people who dress, act or identify as one sex although they were born another. However, when that questions is asked of the cohort that know someone belonging to our communities, 73% agree with the proposition, while of the respondents who don’t know someone belonging to sexual or gender minorities, only 44% and 54% (respectively) agree that equal rights and protections should be applied to everyone. Similarly, of the cohort that knows someone belonging to a gender minority, 63% agree that full legal recognition of the identity they declare should be granted, while that percentage drops to 44% among those who do not know someone. Findings also demonstrate that a majority of people feel they can respect their religion and their culture and be accepting of sexual and gender diversity – evidence that strongly counters the discriminatory, and often dangerous messages, delivered by religious or political leaders. Being accepting of sexual and gender minorities and still respecting one’s religion is a concept that 48% (regarding sexual orientation) and 53% (regarding gender identity and expression) agreed with, and almost identical percentages were recorded when it comes to respecting one’s culture. More than 3 in 4 respondents among those who feel they can respect their culture and be respecting of diversity also declared positive attitudes towards having a female/male/or gender diverse neighbour.
“While many of these data may be read as not as negative as one may have feared, we know that positive attitudes do not automatically translate into full equality. On the contrary, we witness everyday how our identities and bodies are still used as convenient scapegoats by leaders who are appealing to ‘traditional values’ and looking for support from more conservative sectors of their society,” commented Ruth Baldacchino and Helen Kennedy, co-Secretaries General of ILGA. “The backlash at national levels to progress made at the United Nations and at regional human rights institutions demonstrate the ideological war that is currently occurring.”
The force of law is evident in the survey: in States that criminalize same-sex sexual activity (25 of the 77 in this survey), attitudes about equal rights and protections, neighbours, socializing, and about criminalization itself are more severe. Only 46% of respondents in criminalising States, for example, agree that equal rights and protections should be inclusive of sexual orientation, while in non-criminalising States that figure rises to 60%. In criminalising States, the average of positive comments regarding neighbours is only 37%, while the average in the non-criminalising States is 68%. These distinctions are also reflected when it comes to workplace discrimination. Around 62% of respondents in non-criminalizing States agree that work protection should apply to all workers, no matter their romantic or sexual preferences (with 20% disagreeing), while 49% feel the same in the criminalizing States surveyed (with 30% disagreeing). Similar percentages were recorded when it came to protection from discrimination on the grounds of people’s gender identities.
“Restrictive laws, in other words, are predictors of restrictive and non-inclusive attitudes,” commented Renato Sabbadini, Executive Director of ILGA. “This is why this global survey, with its evidence-based and non-anecdotal data, is a powerful tool for the advancement of human rights of people belonging to sexual, gender and sex minorities around the world: it offers significant opportunity to inform the public about actual prevailing attitudes, and thereby assists not only human rights defenders, but also agencies, businesses, employment organisations and governments, as well as regional and international organisations, in the efforts to reduce stigma, violence and discrimination against our communities. To those who use ideology to justify discrimination, we respond with evidence and data that can contribute to changing the world and the lived realities of many people worldwide.”
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Key figures: Around 116,000 unique respondents were approached by the survey. Data were collected from 75 States (plus Hong Kong and Taiwan) – we speak of ’77 countries’ in the report, acknowledging the imprecision - with over 1000 respondents in each: 15 African States, 23 from Asia, 15 from the Americas, 22 from Europe, and two (2) States from Oceania. In each country surveyed, a minimum of 1,000 respondents was achieved. The survey went out in 39 languages (including English), and was live for 90 days.
Methodology: The survey fielding approach for this study used RIWI Corp.’s (www.riwi.com) patented Random Domain Intercept Technology™, which targets random Web users around the world, including remote locations, who are surfing online through an anonymous opt-in survey. More detail on the global RIWI survey system, which collects no personally identifiable information, may be found here: http://riwi.com. ILGA was advised by a reference group of academics, statisticians and activists from various regions, expert in dealing with data pertaining to sexual, gender and sex minorities. The survey questions were translated by sexual, gender or sex minority activists into 38 languages (core language was English), ensuring exact and non-stigmatising translations were captured.
Note on language used: This is NOT a survey on LGBTI people in the world. It is a survey about sexual and gender minorities. Although the language that was evolved in Western cultures related to sexuality (lesbian, gay and bisexual - LGB), is frequently used by multi-State institutions like the UN, such language is not so well understood in numerous cultures, and may be comprehended as ‘foreign’, ‘negative’ or in some way stigmatizing. Regarding transgender (the T in the LGBT acronym), the concept of ‘crossing’ pre-determined gender lines may not be conceptually shared or accepted by some ancient and traditional ‘third sex” communities, like Hijra or Kothi, or indeed by other indigenous peoples. The acronyms LGBT or LGBTI (including intersex) do not translate very well or receive universal comprehension. As such, in this survey we use the formulation of “romantic or sexual attraction” to capture sexual orientation, and “dress, act or identify as another sex than that which you were born” to capture gender identity and expression. Although, the present report is not delivering data on our findings regarding sex characteristic status, we use the construction “people whose bodily organs, such as genitals, are not clearly male or female” to capture that part of the population.
About ILGA: The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) is a worldwide federation of organizations committed to equal human rights for LGBTI people. Founded in 1978, it enjoys consultative status at the United Nations, where it speaks and lobbies on behalf of more than 1,200 member organisations from 132 countries. ilga.org
About RIWI Corp.: RIWI (www.riwi.com) is a global survey technology and sentiment analysis firm that gathers citizen opinion data and accelerates engagement initiatives in every country in the world using its patented Random Domain Intercept Technology™ (RDIT™)." RIWI provides clients with access to otherwise unobtainable citizen and consumer opinion from new, broad audiences, fragile contexts, and in multiple regions congruently. RIWI specializes in topics of a sensitive nature for which confidential and reliable data are paramount. Using RIWI data, clients are able to create improved and tailored initiatives, operations and programs, to understand, predict and inform public opinion from a large multitude of random, diverse voices in all regions of the world, and to improve ‘voice and reach’ for campaign advocacy and messaging. Profiled in Nature and other scholarly journals, RIWI is used by governments and organizations such as United States Department of State, World Bank, UN World Food Program, Omidyar Network, Inter-American Development Bank, UNICEF, and others seeking better opinion data and more effective ways for directly engaging citizens.