Homosexuality a taboo for most urban youth

Religiosity, among other things, could be shaping the rejection of homosexuality among most urban Indian youth, indicate findings of a new survey

Nikita Kwatra
Updated27 Mar 2019

Six months ago, in a historic verdict, the Supreme Court of India struck down Section 377, a British-era law which criminalized same-sex relationships between consenting adults in India.

The law’s demise was a cheerful conclusion of a protracted legal battle for LGBTQ rights in India—but the fight for LGBTQ societal acceptance is far from over.

Homosexuality remains a taboo for a large portion of Indian society, even among the youth. Less than half of India’s urban youth approve of same sex relationships, shows survey data collected by market researcher YouGov in collaboration with Mint.

Even among those residing in the major metro cities, acceptance of same-sex relationships is low, especially in the southern regions of India.

Social acceptance of homosexuality is the highest in Delhi-NCR, closely followed by Mumbai. About 50% of the youth are supportive of same-sex relationships in these cities.

In comparison, only a third of Chennai’s youth approves of such relationships. Youth here refers to India’s millennials and Generation-Z, that is, those aged 18-38 in 2019. These results are from the YouGov-Mint Millennial Survey conducted in January 2019 with an online poll of over 5,000 respondents across different age groups in 180 cities.

These results are from the YouGov-Mint Millennial Survey conducted in January 2019 with an online poll of over 5,000 respondents across different age groups in 180 cities.

The survey shows that among India’s urban youth, those with stronger religious predispositions display more prejudice against homosexuality compared to their less-religious counterparts (See chart 2). The findings suggest that religiosity might be playing a part in shaping the rejection of homosexuality in Indian society—a link that has been established in a previous public opinion research. A 2013 survey conducted by Pew Research Center found that acceptance of homosexuality was particularly widespread in countries where religion was less central in people’s lives.

The YouGov-Mint survey also shows that women are more accepting of homosexuality than men. The share of women who support same-sex relationships is almost 10 percentage points higher than that of men, the survey finds.

This is also in line with global trends: research has revealed that women generally tend to be more accepting of homosexuality .

While the survey results suggest a big lag between societal acceptance and legal sanctioning of homosexuality in India, they also indicate that the tides in Indian society are turning.

The youngest respondents of the survey offered far more tolerant views on homosexuality, compared to their older cohorts.

Nearly 54% of people between ages 18 to 22 (the Generation-Z) said they approved or ‘somewhat’ approved of same-sex relationships and marriages, while only 21% aged 39 or more said they approved of same-sex relationships.

This corroborates other survey data which revealed a similar trend of growing acceptance of homosexuality, as a previous Plain Facts piece had highlighted . Yet even these changes cannot mask the continuing deep prejudice against homosexuality which remains a blot on Indian society.

India may have decriminalized homosexuality, but it is still a long way from de-stigmatizing it.

(This is the first of a three-part series on Indian millennials’ values and beliefs.)

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