Human Rights: Data from the Views on Sex, Sexualities and Gender Survey

By Josien Reijer

Introduction

This is the second of a series of blog posts showcasing the preliminary data from the Views on Sex, Sexualities and Gender Survey conducted amongst students and staff at the University of Johannesburg. In this blog post we focus on the views of students regarding the inclusion of specific categories/groups of people mentioned in the South African Constitution.

Constitutional rights

In the survey respondents were presented with the following information:

Chapter 2 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (1996) includes the Bill of Rights, of which section 9 reads:

Everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and the benefit of the law. Prohibited grounds of discrimination include race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.

Respondents were then asked which statements came closest to their views regarding the inclusion of some of the categories mentioned in the Constitution.  The following chart provides an overview of the responses:

From the above it can be seen that an overall majority of the respondents indicated that they believed that the various categories should stay in the Constitution. This was lowest for Marital status were 74.7% (n=1058) said it should remain in the Constitution, whilst 19.3% (n=273) indicated they did not care whether it remained or not and 6% (n=85) felt it should be removed from the Constitution altogether. The majority of respondents agreed (95.4%, n=1351) that it is important that the category disability should stay in the Constitution, 2.9% (m=41) indicated they did not care and 1.7% (n=24) indicated it should be removed from the Constitution.

Student attitudes on statements about LGBTI rights

The survey also contained a number of Likert-type statements where students were asked to report to what degree they agreed with these statements (5-point Likert scale ranging from Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree). A number of these statements focussed directly and indirectly on the rights of LGBTIQ+ students.

LGBTIQ+ Rights

  • Gays and lesbians deserve the same rights as straight South Africans
  • Gay people should be allowed to adopt children
  • Marriage between same-sex couples should be banned

The above indicates that the majority (90.8%, n=1286) of the students (strongly) agree that ‘gays and lesbians deserve the same rights as straight South Africans’. However, when asked if ‘gay people should be allowed to adopt children,’ the proportion of students who (strongly) agree with this statement decreases to 78.3% (n=1109). While only 4% (n=57) of the students (strongly) disagreed that ‘gays and lesbians deserve the same rights as straight South Africans’ more than double (10.5%, n=149) the number of students (strongly) disagreed that ‘gay people should be allowed to adopt children’. Similar results were seen when discussing same-sex marriage, where 74.2% (n=1051) of the students indicated that they (strongly) disagreed with the statement ‘marriage between same-sex couples should be banned’ and 9.4% (n=133) strongly (agreed).

Education about LGBTIQ rights

  • There should be community-based education to make South Africans aware of gay and lesbian rights
  • Learners should be taught about gay and lesbian rights at school

The graph indicates that around 3 out of 4 of the students (strongly) agree that people in South Africa should be educated about gay and lesbian rights. Support for community-based education was higher (77.9%, n=1103) than for learner-based education at schools (72.0%, n=1019).

Conclusion

The majority of the students who took part in the survey indicated that they believe that it is important that the various categories of people included in the South African Constitution should continue to be protected under the Constitution. In addition, we also saw that the majority of the students believe that LGBTIQ rights are important. It is interesting to note, that while the majority agree that ‘gays and lesbians deserve the same rights as straight South Africans’ this support decreases somewhat when asked if ‘gay people should be allowed to adopt children’.

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