Fewer people in France consider extramarital affairs ‘morally unacceptable’ than people in sub-Saharan Africa consider homosexuality ‘morally acceptable’

This article was published in The Telegraph

By Tanjit Rashid

This is just one of many details to be gleaned in the Pew Research Centre’s new Global Views of Morality interactive survey, which shines a light on people’s peccadilloes throughout the globe.

The Pew Research Centre, a Washington-based thinktank known for its worldwide polls, asked people in 40 countries about behaviour they considered morally unacceptable, morally acceptable, or not a moral issue. Their responses to eight themes – extramarital affairs, gambling, homosexuality, abortion, premarital sex, alcohol, divorce and contraception – have now been displayed in a revealing interactive presentation.

The results reveal the gulf in social attitudes between the west and the countries of Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

The Pew Research Centre stated: “African and predominantly Muslim countries tend to find most of these activities morally unacceptable, while in advanced economies, such as those in Western Europe, Japan, and North America, people tend to be more accepting or to not consider these moral issues at all.”

But there were notable divergences within regions. Uganda’s controversial legal reforms penalising homosexuality appears to be rooted in the fact that 93% of Ugandans consider the sexual orientation to be unacceptable. But the Senegalese are markedly more tolerant, as over a quarter of those polled in the west African country did not consider the question morally relevant.

Within Europe, the research confirmed certain national stereotypes. In France, a majority of people did not consider it morally unacceptable for married people to have an affair, attesting to the French penchant for taking mistresses and extramarital lovers. Against 47% of the French who consider such affairs unacceptable, prudish Brits disapproved to the tune of 76%.

Although countries of the ‘global south’ were the most conservative, notable exceptions include the fact that the Muslim nations of Egypt and Jordan have more liberal views on divorce than neighbouring Israel and even the United States, Canada and Britain. Only 6-7% of Egyptians and Jordanians also consider contraception unacceptable, against 17% of Israelis and Poles.

The latter issue has clearly won the moral battle, with a majority of those polled in favour of family planning. Only in Pakistan, Nigeria and Ghana did a majority consider contraception unacceptable.

Michael Lipka, assistant editor at the Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project, drew attention to the fact that Africans were most opposed to contraception, while being most blighted by HIV/AIDS, a virus spread by unprotected sex.