Mapping homophobia

Included in the many attitudinal questions in GCRO's 2015/16 Quality of Life IV survey were three questions which attempted to ascertain the acceptability of three different forms of violence. Respondents were asked ‘Is it ever acceptable for a man to beat or hit his partner?’ Two percent of the respondents said that it was acceptable to do so. While this may seem like a small percentage, it nevertheless translates into approximately 190 000 adults in Gauteng (based on Census 2011 population figures).

Respondents were also asked whether or not they agreed with the statement ‘it is OK to physically attack foreigners to make them leave’. 3.6% of South African-born respondents (representing 300 000 adults) said that they agreed. (See March 2017 Map of the month.)

In a third question, respondents were asked whether they agreed with the statement ‘it is acceptable to be violent to gay and lesbian people’. Here around 14% of the respondents (representing 1.26 million adults in Gauteng) said that they agreed with the statement.


Those who believe that violence towards gay and lesbian people is acceptable are concentrated in certain wards, for example in parts of Heidelberg, Tembisa, Sebokeng and Soshanguve. In the map below, wards with a red dot indicate that more than a quarter of the respondents in the ward said that it is acceptable to be violent to gay and lesbian people. Outside of these concentrations, respondents in large parts of Soweto, central Johannesburg, central Pretoria and the far East Rand seem less likely to condone violence towards gay and lesbian people.

These concentrations are only sometimes related to whether or not respondents felt that gays and lesbians were entitled to equal rights (as indicated by the grey shading). For example, respondents in Atteridgeville and suburbs north of Johannesburg are less likely to support equal rights for gay and lesbian people but also do not seem to justify violence against gay and lesbian people. On the other hand, respondents in Soshanguve and Alexandra hold more conservative attitudes in both respects in that they are less likely to support equal rights for gay and lesbian people and more likely to support violence to gay and lesbian people.

It is important to note that these intolerant attitudes are minority attitudes. In the survey, 72% of respondents were opposed to violence against gay and lesbian people and 56% of respondents agreed that gay and lesbian people deserve equal rights with all other South Africans. That said, the tragic frequency with which attacks on gay and lesbian people do occur suggests the need for a better understanding of the relationship between homophobic attitudes and behaviour.


Note: Maps are drawn using 2011 boundaries.

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