A poll conducted by the BBC has found that British Asians are more socially conservative than UK society as a whole.
In the survey of 2,000 people, less than half (43%) of respondents said they thought same-sex relationships were acceptable. This compares with 75% of the British population as a whole. Thirty-six per cent of British Asians explicitly stated called such relationships ‘unacceptable’ (compared to 15% of UK as a whole).
Of the survey respondents, approximately half were born in the UK. The other half had been born elsewhere and moved to the UK. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka were the main Asian countries of origin.
The figures around acceptance of same-sex relationships remained fairly stable across age groups. Of those aged 18-34, 44% said they accepted same-sex relationships, 43% of those aged 35-54, and 42% of those aged 55+.
Sex before marriage
The pollsters also asked about sex before marriage. Only 5% of British society said they would be offended by someone having sex before marriage. However, this rose to 36% of the British Asians questioned.
The survey also found that British Asians are more optimistic than the rest of society. Of those questioned, 72% said Britain is somewhere you can ‘fulfil your aspirations and ambitions,’ compared to 64% of the population at large.
‘Acceptance comes from both within, and those around us’
Mahmood died in 2014 in London, two days after he came out to his Muslim parents. They did not react well to his coming out.
The Foundation’s aim is to ‘tackle homophobia triggered by religion to help parents accept their children.’
Reacting to the survey, Matt told Gay Star News: ‘We must continue to build bridges and create respectful, honest dialogue with the 36% of individuals who stated that they found “same-sex relationships” not acceptable.
‘Being true to oneself, and being accepted for who we really are, plays a major factor in how happy and content we feel inside.
‘Sadly for many individuals who are LGBTQI+ and born into any family who enforces strict, conservative interpretations of their religion or culture, this may often seem like a distant dream rather than a reality. True acceptance comes from both within, and those around us.
‘You are responsible for your own happiness and nobody should be allowed to take this away from you.’
‘Not just a South Asian phenomenon’
DJ Ritu has been running London’s monthly Club Kali, a night for LGBTI South East Asians, for over 20 years. She said she was not surprised by these findings.
‘I run two clubs that feature South Asian music, mainly Bollywood. One is straight and the other is gay. We keep them apart for good reason.
‘Even after 23 years of promoting the LGBT one – Club Kali – we still find that the majority of clubbers coming to us, who are from South Asian or other BAME [Black And Minority Ethnic] backgrounds, are not out to their family.
‘And just to emphasize the cultural distinction, there is still a lot of homophobia in Asian, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, African and Caribbean communities. It’s not just a South Asian phenomenon.
‘There are very few, if any at all, out LGBT role models from these communities
‘The (heterosexual) family structure is very strong and definitely the norm, and people are expected to conform to that.’
She says the consequences can be a whole host of mental health issues for LGBTI people from BAME communities: ‘Some leading double-lives, fear of being outed, suppressing one’s true identity, and so on. At Kali, we see men married to women, cruising men, and people with internalized hatred or self-loathing.
‘And then of course, there’s all the people we don’t see, that live a “normal life” and never come out at all.’