The results of Jamaica's first ever national survey of attitudes and perceptions of Jamaicans towards homosexuality, was made released and available on J-FLAG's website today (May 17, 2011).
The research team which was headed by Professor Ian Boxill, found that the negative views of homosexuality tended to be greatest among males, non-university educated persons, listeners of mostly dancehall and reggae music and persons in the lower socio-economic groups.
The study showed 59% of respondents chose negative words to describe their feelings towards homosexuals, while 51% stated that they learnt of homosexuality at 14 years old and younger, through family and friends (32.9%) and media (31.3%) as the main sources of exposure.
The strongest objections to homosexuality were raised on religious grounds and the need to 'protect Jamaican society from changing its cultural practices for the worse'. 85% said they did not think homosexuality should be legally allowed between consenting adults, using the widely held misconception that it is illegal to be homosexual.
Interestingly, 30% agree that someone can be homosexual and Christian.
Echoing UNAIDS Executive Director, Mr Michel Sidibé, Dane Lewis, Executive Director of J-FLAG noted that “the rise in the number of reports to J-FLAG in the last three months has been significant" underscoring the reality of homophobia faced by many gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender Jamaicans.
With 49% believing that homosexuals experience genuine love and affection, like heterosexuals, in their intimate relationships, and 20% (though a significant minority) choosing positive words (e.g. tolerance and acceptance) when asked to describe their feelings towards homosexuals in spite of the prevailing climate of homophobia, the research offers some hope of movement towards tolerance in the coming months and years.
The research was conducted using a nationally representative sample of 1007 adults from 231 communities between October and November 2010. The survey was also supported by a qualitative study based on five focus groups conducted across the island between October 2010 and January 2011.
The research was commissioned by the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) with the support of AIDS Free World and Open Society Institute.
A final copy of the survey is available for reading online and/or for downloading at NATIONAL SURVEY OF ATTITUDES AND PERCEPTIONS OF JAMAICANS TOWARDS SAME SEX RELATIONSHIPS