Friday, March 09, 2007

Mexico: Despite gains, gays still lack acceptance

Mexico City and the northern Mexican state of Coahuila might have taken Mexico by surprise when they passed separate same-sex civil union bills last year (Mexico City's law goes into effect on March 16th while Coahuila, which adopted a more extensive law, has already seen several couples enter into a civil union), but the fact is that most gay rights advocates and organizations in the country were probably equally as surprised by these developments.

Not that similar bills had not been introduced and supported by pro-gay legislators with the backing of segments of the gay community, but - in the past - these were mostly symbolic efforts by candidates who wanted to attract the gay vote even if the bill they were sponsoring had no chance in hell of being passed.

In other words, these gains were not necessarily a result of a mass mobilization by Mexican gay rights leaders that demanded the right to civil unions but, rather, by developments in local politics that made the legislative bodies of Mexico City and Coahuila more open to voting in favor of gay rights.

Still, do these developments also reflect that Mexico as a whole is becoming more gay-friendly? Maybe... but a majority still rejects gays.

In a door-to-door survey conducted in February by Roy Campos Research/Consulta Mitofsky, pollsters interviewed 1,000 voters of 18 years of age or older throughout Mexico regarding the "Myths and Preconceptions about Homosexuality" (results of the survey in PDF form here).

With a margin of error of plus/minus 4%, here are a few of their findings:

When asked if a person with a specific characteristic who was not a relative would be allowed to live at their home: 54% said they would not allow a gay man to live with them (40% would), 52% would not allow a lesbian (39% would) and 49% said they would not allow someone with AIDS (41% would).

Breaking it down, the researchers noted that the older the person was, the more intolerant they were of gays (with 66% of those older than 50 saying they would not allow a gay man or a lesbian man in their home) and that people surveyed in rural areas also showed less tolerance than those in urban areas.

When asked what their reaction would be if one of their sons or daughters wanted to introduce a same-sex partner, 16% said that they would not want to meet the person with an additional 46% declaring that while they would accept a same-sex partner, they would also not want to meet them (only 38% said they would like to meet the partner).

43% thought that people were born gay (compared to 46% that said you could become gay) although more than 10% of those surveyed did not respond to this question. 59% said that being gay is a risk factor for AIDS.

Finally, the survey asked participants whether they agreed or disagreed with the following statements (breakdown for each follows:
  • "A homosexual couple should have the same rights as a woman-man couple" (46% agreed, 47% disagreed, 7% did not respond).
  • "Partners who are lesbian women should be allowed to adopt" (34% agreed, 58% disagreed, 8% did not respond)
  • "Homosexual partners should be allowed to enter into matrimony" (33% agreed, 58% disagreed, 9% did not respond)
  • "Partners who are homosexual men should be allowed to adopt" (23% agreed, 68% disagreed, 9% did not respond)
So, there is still a long road ahead for acceptance though I also wonder how these figures would compare to polls in the United States. At least in California, age difference also plays a big part.

Side note: The poll also asked if Mexican people would feel comfortable living with someone of indigenous background. Considering that most Mexicans have an indigenous background, it is a bit shocking to 21% would say that they would not allow such a person to live in their homes. 27% said that they would not live with someone of a different race.

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