African, Religious, and Tolerant? How Religious Diversity Shapes Attitudes Toward Sexual Minorities in Africa


Despite trends towards greater LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) rights in industrialized democracies, the rights of sexual minorities have become increasingly politicized and restricted throughout Africa. Recognizing religion’s central role in shaping attitudes toward gays and lesbians, we hypothesize that local religious diversity could expose individuals to alternative religious perspectives, engender tolerance toward marginalized communities, and therefore dislodge dogmatic beliefs about social issues. Employing cross-national Afrobarometer survey data from 33 countries with an index of district-level religious concentration, we find that respondents living in religiously pluralistic communities are 4–5 points more likely to express tolerance of homosexual neighbors (50% increase) compared to those in homogeneous locales. This effect is not driven by outlier countries, the existence of specific religious affiliations within diverse communities, respondents’ religiosity, or other observable and latent factors at the country, sub-national, district, and individual level. Further robustness checks address potential threats to validity. We conclude that religious diversity can foster inclusion of sexual minorities in Africa.

Politics and Religion