Malawi has been ranked overall second on Afrobarometer’s Tolerance Index out of 33 countries in Africa despite the fact that only six out of 100 Malawians would tolerate to have a homosexual neighbour.
In the survey, Afrobarometer also found that 91 percent of Malawians would not mind having an HIV positive person for their neighbour.
In recent months, Malawians have engaged in a debate on whether to legalise homosexuality in the country following the arrest and subsequent release of two young men in Lilongwe after they were suspected to have been engaged in same sex activities.
The Afrobarometer Round six findings exhibited largely tolerant attitudes toward social differences, with the major exception of homosexuality.
The findings from 33 countries were presented by Boniface Dulani, Gift Sambo, and Kim Yi Dionne in Mozambique on Zero Discrimination Day which falls on March 1.
The report said while Africa is often portrayed as a continent of ethnic and religious division and intolerance, findings show high degrees of acceptance of people from different ethnic groups, people of different religions, immigrants, and people living with HIV and Aids (PLWHA).
In an interview yesterday, Dulani said Malawi ranked second among 33 countries on the Tolerance Index.
He said: “Of course, we are still among the most intolerant when it comes to acceptance of homosexuals, but we are not unique in this regard as most African countries, with a few exceptions, are also intolerant on this subject.”
Only six percent of Malawians said they would have homosexual persons as their neighbour scoring 24 out of the 33 countries. Afrobarometer found out that Cape Verde was the most tolerant country towards homosexuals while Senegal was the most intolerant at only three percent.
But 91 percent of Malawians said they would not mind having a person living with HIV and Aid as their neighbor with Botswana on top at 96 percent and Niger at the bottom with only 22 percent responding positively.
On ethnicities, Malawi scored below average at 89 percent while Senegal scored highest with 99 percent of its citizenry tolerant to ethnicities and Morocco was the lowest at 74 percent.
Malawi came out better on religious tolerance, scoring 92 percent to rest at number 18 out of 33 countries. Côte d’Ivoire was recognised as the most religious tolerant country at 98 percent while Niger was the most intolerant at 51 percent.
Malawi is also tolerant to immigrants scoring 84 percent and came 16 out of 33 African countries
On homosexual the report indicated that Mozambique offers an interesting demonstration of how policy change may interact with popular attitudes.
Reads the report in part: “In 2014, Mozambique adopted a new penal code that decriminalises homosexuality. The two countries expressing the highest tolerance for homosexual citizens, Cape Verde and South Africa, also do not criminalise homosexuality.
“However, in some cases, ordinary citizens are ahead of law reform by embracing LGBT rights at a time when some practices are illegal in their countries. This is true in Namibia and Mauritius, two countries with comparatively high acceptance of homosexuals despite legislation that make homosexuality a crime.”
Further, the report said data suggested an important link between tolerance for homosexuals and respondents’ age and education levels, with younger and more educated Africans being more tolerant of homosexuals than older Africans and less educated citizens.
The most tolerant countries on the index are Namibia (3.71), Malawi (3.69), and Burundi (3.68), while the least tolerant countries are Niger (2.30), Tunisia (2.35), and Morocco (2.36).
“In general, North African and Central African countries have some of the lowest tolerance scores, while other regions are represented all along the spectrum,” reads the report.
The report also said Christians, urban residents and younger citizens respectively tend to be more tolerant than Muslims, rural residents and older people.