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Familiarity breeds tolerance

11 February 2010

Esther (From Xico) has been experiencing technical difficulties with her website the last few days (please stand by).  She hasn’t been  able to put up the links to the original sources or go back and correct typos. But there’s enough information in her post for anyone who wants to do a little digging and confirm her data (or seeks to discredit it).

A December 2009 Consulta Mitofsky survey of attitudes towards abortion suggest one reason the wave of anti-abortion state laws passed by State Legislatures in light of the legalization of the procedure in the Federal District (and subsequent ruling by the Supreme Court upholding the District law) are unlikely to remain on the books very long.  The better educated one is, the more tolerance one shows.  And, the younger one is. Both unremarkable, but one finding that is rather eye-opening is that nearly 2/3rds (62.6 percent) of those surveyed in Central Mexico (the Mexico City environs) support legal abortion.  Familiarity breeds tolerance.

I though of that this morning, when I was reading about a former federal prosecutor, Diego Valadés Ríos, now a law professor, urging his former employers NOT to go ahead with a planned challenge to Mexico City’s same-sex marriage bill. Valadés is concerned that the reaction outside the Federal District will be similar to what happened when the Federal District’s abortion law passed constitutional muster.  Twenty-one states changed their state constitution to specify that “life begins at conception” and he expects legal homophobia (probably something along the lines of the popular “one man-one woman” definitions of marriage in U.S. states) to spring up in the state legal codes.

He is probably correct in that there will be a legal backlash — something I think is going to happen whether there is a court challenge by the Federal Attorney General or not.  As I’ve said before,  I don’t see the Supreme Court, even with two new more conservative ministers than were on the court when it heard the abortion law,  upholding the challenge.  But, what is also likely to happen is that — as with abortion — those most likely to be affected or more likely to follow the news are going to be the most tolerant, and the rest of society will rapidly fall into line.

In 2007, 73.9% of the population thought abortion ought to be a crime, but by 2009  only 41.1% of those surveyed held the same opinion.  In other words, one third of Mexicans changed their thinking within two years as the issue was openly discussed.

With discussion of same-sex marriage now in the news, public attitudes are probably undergoing a sea change, with younger people (who are most likely to be affected by both pregnancy and marriage issues) and the well educated (with more access to information) leading the way, and those who see the effects of the change (or, rather, the lack of social disruption caused by the change) the first to embrace what, as for today, is defended only on the grounds that the people don’t like the idea.  Maybe that was true only because the people weren’t really asked to think about it before.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 12 February 2010 7:44 am

    Mexico varies a lot from region to region and population characteristic to characteristic as is clear on the abortion survey. We live in Veracruz, in the southeast, which seems more conservative statistically, and yet as I mentioned in a very old blog post, gays live here in our particular area fairly happily and somewhat openly. This came up in a discussion in a class I was taking at UV once, when foreigners asked about attitudes. Generally, the instructor, who was (probably) gay said that while people might not want to find out their own kid was gay, they were accepting when other people were. I know this is true among quite a lot of people. I say all this because my experience here is that people just don’t seem to feel the need to divide into such angry camps as they do in the States and this makes it easier for social matters to evolve. Or so it seems. I grew up in the fifties in NYC. I studied ballet for a long time at professional schools. Gays were part of the scene. I mention this because my memories were that they were just part of the population … and people, including my parents, found the need to hide one’s orientation in othere parts of the coundry quite sad. I also remember, as I grew into adolescence, that my fellow teenage girls would be disappointed to discover that a particularly guapo dancer was gay and therefore unavailable.

    It’s interesting. Lots of us who grew up in, say, arty circles and professional circles in NYC grew up in a really diverse world. Our prejudices centered on the world outside NYC: why would anyone live in Nebraska? I remember feeling that I was doing A Noble Thing going out with a boy from Nebraska in college.

  2. 12 February 2010 7:54 am

    Wow, I babbled. I meant to say that when a culture doesn’t go for extreme expression, acceptance and change are easier, I think.

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