Pew survey: Eight in 10 Malaysians oppose same-sex marriage, local Buddhists most supportive

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 12 — An overwhelming eight out of 10 Malaysians polled said they oppose letting gays and lesbians marry legally here, a Pew Research Center’s survey on six countries in Asia showed.

The report released tonight said in Malaysia, only 17 per cent of respondents polled said they favoured allowing same-sex marriage to be made legal — the second-lowest level of support among the six countries surveyed, after merely five per cent in Indonesia.

According to the report, the country with the strongest opposition to allowing the legalisation of same-sex marriage was Muslim-majority Indonesia at 95 per cent of those polled, followed by neighbouring Muslim-majority Malaysia at 82 per cent of the 1,999 respondents polled, and Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka at 69 per cent.

Singapore, where no single religious group form the majority, was split with 51 per cent opposing legal same-sex marriage while 45 per cent were in favour.

On the flip side, only two countries surveyed saw the majority of respondents expressing support for same-sex marriages: Buddhist-majority countries Thailand (60 per cent) and Cambodia (57 per cent).

Among Malaysian respondents, Buddhists showed the greatest proportion of support for legalising same-sex marriage compared to three other major religions.

In Malaysia, 59 per cent of Buddhists polled either strongly favour or somewhat favour legal same-sex marriage, followed by Hindus (49 per cent), Christians (35 per cent) and just eight per cent of Muslims polled.

This appears to match the survey findings in other countries, where more than half of Buddhist respondents in Thailand (64 per cent), Cambodia (57 per cent) and Singapore (53 per cent) supported same-sex marriage being legalised. But Sri Lanka stood out with just 24 per cent of Buddhists polled being in support.

“Overall, Buddhists are much more likely than Muslims and Christians to support gays and lesbians marrying legally,” the survey report said.

But specifically in Singapore, the report noted that those without a religious affiliation (62 per cent) are more likely than Buddhists surveyed there to support legalising same-sex marriage.

“By contrast, no more than about a quarter of Muslims in any country surveyed support legal same-sex marriage, including just four per cent in Indonesia.

“Support for allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry is somewhat more common among Christians, but still no higher than 35 per cent in any of the countries studied,” the report said.

According to Pew, same-sex marriage is currently not legal in any of the six countries in the survey.

In Malaysia, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community are at risk of having Section 377A in the Penal Code — which covers the offence of “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” and which makes oral and anal sex illegal for all citizens — being used against them. Furthermore, state Shariah laws in states in Malaysia also criminalise homosexual relations and cross-dressing.

After coming into power, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim insisted that his administration would never recognise the LGBT community, secularism and communism.

The survey by the US-based non-partisan think tank was carried out in six countries in Asia from June 1 to September 4, 2022, for the report titled “Buddhism, Islam and Religious Pluralism in South and Southeast Asia”, where 13,122 adults were interviewed.

In Malaysia, a total of 1,999 adults were polled through computer-assisted telephone interviewing using mobile phones from June 1 to August 9, 2022 in the languages of Chinese, English and Malay, with a margin of error of 3.0 percentage points.

Out of those, 75 per cent said they were Muslims, followed by Christians (10 per cent), Buddhists (7 per cent), Hindus (5 per cent), while 2 per cent said they have no religion, and 1 per cent said they are followers of Chinese traditional religions (which includes Tao, Confucian, or Chinese local religions).

According to the latest census by the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM) in 2020, Malaysia’s population is comprised of 63.5 per cent Muslims, followed by Buddhists (18.7 per cent), Christians (9.1 per cent), Hindus (6.1 per cent), and others (2.7 per cent).