Dangerous places for gay travelers

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In the winter months thoughts often turn to summer holidays though these days holidays happen whenever you can take them. As the world becomes a smaller place and travel becomes relatively cheap to more exotic destinations many people think about going further a field for their vacations. In terms of gay destinations there are some old favorites of course, like the Sydney Mardi Gras, Mykonos in the Greek islands and one hundred and one other well know holiday spots. But not everywhere in the world is ‘gay friendly’ and, though you may be able to get to some of these places easily these days, the question to ask is ‘are they safe?’

I tried to find out a list of places best avoided for gay travelers:

In an interview with The Advocate, travel writer David Kirby mentioned the obvious places such as “a lot of the Islamic world” and you can imagine that Iraq and the surrounding area, though interesting, is probably best avoided at present. But he also mentions some not so obvious places. He states that Jamaica, for example, can be tricky. Some businesses there will not rent rooms to same sex couples if there is only one bed in the room and there have been reports of other anti-gay behavior too.

Deciding what new and interesting place to visit can be a tricky decision as some places we already know are very gay friendly, like Thailand and Myanmar, whereas others are not so obvious. If you travel to Brazil for example you can expect a warm welcome in some cities but not in others and the pro/anti gay feeling varies from place to place. Egypt is another paradox: you will encounter lots of attention from men (if you are a man or woman) and sex is readily available if you are discrete, you will even see policemen holding hands in the street but don’t read anything into this. The country has very harsh anti-homosexuality laws.

I did a bit of lateral thinking in my search for the top ten most dangerous places for gay travelers and found a list of the ten ‘worst’ countries to be in, if you are gay. (According to queerty.com and ‘the Southern Voice’.) These findings are based on anti-human rights reports that outline details about countries that discriminate against citizens based on their sexual orientation. Some are obvious when you think about the religions of those countries while one, at least, is very surprising, number 8, Poland. Here is the full list.

  1. Uganda (Consensual gay sex punishable by life in prison)
  2. Iran (Punishable by death)
  3. Egypt (You can be arrested and tortured especially if you have HIV)
  4. Saudi Arabia (Floggings and even death)
  5. Nigeria (Up to 14 years in prison)
  6. United Arab Emirates (You can be arrested)
  7. Cameroon (You can be arrested)
  8. Poland (President denied gay rights groups)
  9. Nepal (Not illegal but much harassment)
  10. India (Up to ten years in prison)

But it’s not all bad news. In the same The Advocate interview, Kirby pointed out that places like Great Britain and France are working hard to attract more gay visitors, as are places in the USA, Provincetown, Massachusetts, for example. The general rule when traveling is to trust your instincts. Don’t go anywhere where you don’t feel safe, don’t be provocative in your behavior and remember that if you are in a ‘danger zone’, the local police may not be on your side if you get in to trouble.

A good way to check what the gay local ‘scene’ and attitudes towards it are is to pick up a travel guide. The ‘Indie’ ones and more well known ones like Lonely Planet usually have a gay section by country so you can judge for yourself whether a place is safe or not. IN a nutshell: play it safe and have a great time.

2 Comments so far

  1. karen on March 3rd, 2008

    My girlfriend and I booked a weeklong vacation in Jamaica with two of our best friends, who happen to be a straight couple, a few years ago. I had heard about the sentiments there and we called ahead to see if they would accept us. They said no and we were only able to get a partial refund. I’ll never plan to go there again.

  2. Megan on March 4th, 2008

    A partial refund? That is horrible to hear. I would not throw a dollar towards people that are so intolerant.

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