Westernisation in Conservative Societies

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In the modern world, there is a growing international pressure to decriminalise certain acts that are perceived as deviant in some societies, especially those pertaining to LGBT (Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender) issues. However, not only is capitulating to such pressure detrimental for the stability of said societies, but the maintenance of one’s culture and traditions is a valid reason to justify not conforming to Western values and norms in the face of pressure from foreign human rights institutions and advocates.

Supporting Reasons:

Westernisation, being the process of a non-Occidental society adopting Western cultural traditions, beliefs and norms, implies an infringing upon the local culture, forcing people to adapt through modifying their cultural practices. According to the functionalist perspective (Durkheim 1984), such a drastic paradigm shift would result in the community fracturing along ideological lines as moral consensus is no longer shared between its members, resulting in social instability due to the lack of adequate feelings of kinship to bond them together. Thus, in societies where homosexuality is frowned upon, not acceding to international demands to liberalise to maintain the community’s shared culture can be justified to avoid increased rates of socially destructive deviant behaviour.

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Conforming to pressure from Western humanitarian organisations to repeal laws criminalising homosexuality may not achieve its intended effect in certain societies, due to the perception of the local culture being dominated by Western belief systems. In regions that perceive their cultural traditions to be under attack from the West, such as in the Middle East, opposing such demands have been construed as “a means of affirming cultural identity and authenticity”, creating moral panics in which homosexuals were deemed to be a corrupting influence on their belief system. (Dalacoura, 2014). Thus, instead of alleviating attitudes towards homosexuality, repealing laws criminalising homosexuality could instead result in an entrenchment of local beliefs about it being a corrupting influence upon their culture.

For a society to wholly conform to the Western concept of the LGBT community and the people who belong in it may erase distinct cultural expressions of gender expression and sexuality, conflating native culture with the contemporary LGBT movement. There exist expressions of gender and sexuality in certain societies that do not correspond entirely to the term ‘homosexual’ or ‘transgender’, such as the Indonesian waria (Dayanti, 2013) who occupy spiritual positions in Indonesian society and who exist outside of the ‘two-gender’ paradigm based on biological sex (Birke, 2000).


According to Durkheim, deviance cannot be eliminated from society, being a social construct in which Political homophobia as a tool for manufacturing moral panic, a perceived threat to social order, and a fear of ‘Western values’ overriding local customs and practices can be found in the two Southeast Asian countries of Singapore and Indonesia. This is despite both countries possessing a history of gender nonconforming people within their societies, with Singapore’s Bugis Street featuring transvestites during the colonial period and Indonesia’s indigenous third-gendered communities of waria and bissu. In their theory of political homophobia Bosia and Weiss (2013), state that, via adherence to “traditional” values and scapegoating of an “other”, a national identity is established and political power legitimised, demonstrating state sovereignty through the challenging of international norms.

In the case of Indonesia, Boellstorff (2009) notes that homophobia can be attributed to a strict understanding of gender roles and identity, with the interpretation of homosexual activity as an attack on the masculinity of the nation, thus needing to be retaliated against to maintain cultural conceptions of gender. Similarly, Singapore has invoked the concept of ‘Asian values’ that contrast against liberal ‘Western values’, particularly emphasizing “the traditional importance of the Asian family unit” (Nair, 1976), positing acts that fall outside of the heteronormative norm to be detrimental to the cultural and social fabric of Singapore in order to stir the narrative of “western values infringing upon our traditional values’. (Lee, 2016). Through the rhetoric of “traditional values” in response to perceived ‘Western values’, moral panic and scapegoating of the ‘other’ as detrimental and unnatural to the society is legitimatised, thus making conforming to international norms likely to be more detrimental to the social stability as the people’s fears of their culture being erased by the West are realised.”

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Westernisation in Conservative Societies. (2021, Mar 27). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/westernisation-in-conservative-societies/