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Key findings
  • Nine out of 10 Togolese express tolerant attitudes toward people of different ethnicities, religions, and nationalities. But only one in 10 show the same tolerance for people in same-sex relationships.
  • About one in eight Togolese say they experienced discrimination based on their gender (12%) or religion (13%) during the previous year. Even more (20%) suffered discrimination based on their ethnicity.
  • Togolese generally report positively on gender equality in their country today. Most say boys and girls have an equal chance at an education (96%) and women have the same chance as men to get a paying job (90%) and to own and inherit land (79%).
  • Most Togolese also support gender equality in principle when it comes to owning land (82%) and running for public office (84%). Support is somewhat weaker (65%) with regard to equality when jobs are scarce. And two-thirds (65%) of all respondents – including three-fourths (74%) of women – say it is better for a family if a woman, rather than a man, has the main responsibility for taking care of the home and children.
  • Majorities of Togolese say the country’s fertility rate could be effectively reduced by promoting universal education for girls (88%), promoting financial autonomy for women (84%), and adopting a three-child limit per family (58%).

The government of Togo has taken recent steps to protect the rights of women and minorities. One is a new penal code, adopted in November 2015 after years of advocacy by human-rights organizations, that strengthens protections against gender-based violence and discrimination based on gender, ethnicity, religion, and other factors. However, the new law reinforces sanctions against people in same-sex relationships (Journal Officiel, 2015).

Another legal step forward is a law on land rights, adopted by the National Assembly in June 2018, which reconciles traditional and modern law in a statute promoting equality for women and men (Kakpo, 2018; Korolakina, 2016; LomeChrono, 2018).

Civil-society advocacy and a government program converting traditional circumcisers to economic development agents by providing them with loans and training are credited with helping reduce the prevalence of female genital circumcision (Ministère de l’Action Sociale, de la Promotion de la Femme, de la Protection de l’Enfant et des Personnes Agées, 2008; Dagban-Zonvide, 2013; 27avril.com, 2014; Réaux, 2018). According to Togo’s third Demographic and Health Survey (2013), the prevalence of excision decreases with women’s age, ranging from 10.2% among women aged 40-45 to 0.3% among girls under age 15. The prevalence of childhood marriage (before age 15) has also declined, ranging from 11.1% among women aged 45-49 to 1.9% among those aged 15-19.

Despite advances in some areas, reality remains a step behind in others. Contrary to President Faure Gnassingbé’s promise, ahead of the legislative elections of 2013, of malefemale parity, women made up only 19% of elected members to the National Assembly – the same percentage as their representation in his government (Republicoftogo.com, 2018; Assemblée Nationale Togolaise, 2015). While access to education has improved for girls, retention in school remains problematic (PASEC, 2016). And the prevalence of violence against women remains troubling: 10% of women reported having suffered physical abuse during the 12 months preceding the survey, while 4% said they experienced sexual violence. Only 7% of victims reported their abuse to authorities (Demographic and Health Survey, 2013).

In this dispatch we examine social tolerance and attitudes toward gender equality in Togo. Findings show that most Togolese express tolerant attitudes toward people of different ethnicities, religions, and nationalities, but very few extend the same tolerance toward people in same-sex relationships.

Togolese are widely supportive of gender equality when it comes to life opportunities, such as access to education and land and a fair shot at being elected to public office. But if jobs are scarce, a substantial minority would give priority to men. And most citizens think it’s better for a family if a woman is taking care of the household and children.

On a peripherally related question about strategies for reducing the country’s fertility rate, majorities endorse promoting universal education for girls and financial autonomy for women, as well as adopting a three-child limit per family.

Thomas Isbell

Post-doctoral research fellow and research assistant at Afrobarometer

Hervé Akinocho

Hervé Akinocho is the director of the Center for Research and Opinion Polls – CROP, based in Lome in Togo.