Dangerous places for gay travelers
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.
- Uganda (Consensual gay sex punishable by life in prison)
- Iran (Punishable by death)
- Egypt (You can be arrested and tortured especially if you have HIV)
- Saudi Arabia (Floggings and even death)
- Nigeria (Up to 14 years in prison)
- United Arab Emirates (You can be arrested) Yes, it includes Dubai.
- Cameroon (You can be arrested)
- Poland (President denied gay rights groups)
- Nepal (Not illegal but much harassment)
- India (Up to ten years in prison)
- Chechnya and most likely most of Russia while Moscow does have some gay bars (See below regarding Chechnya).
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. For sure be careful when on Grindr or other apps where the police can set you up to be jailed or beaten. Places like Russia where they make you a sex offender for being gay.
Update April 2017: Chechnya, located in Russia, continues to dominate the headlines amid reports of its mass arrests and torture of gay men. Most recently, Britain’s Deputy Foreign Secretary and openly gay Parliament member Sir Alan Duncan claims to have heard reports of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov vowing to eliminate Chechnya’s gay community by the start of Ramadan (May 26). This alleged vow comes a week after Kadyrov said that no gay men even live in Chechnya. One thing to note is that Islam is the predominant religion in this Chechen Republic.
June 2016 Update:
A British man was jailed in Dubai in 2012 on gay sex charges. Move forward to 2016 and Dubai is still a dangerous place to travel for LGBT. The gay British gay couple were traveling Emirates Airlines, which is wholly owned by the government of Dubai’s Investment Corporation of Dubai when they complained about rude treatment in an airport in Dubai. This is a place where local gay men risk the death penalty or life in prison. ?Lee Charlton?, 42, had been travelling with his partner Jason and son Kieran from Manchester in the UK to Durban, South Africa with a short stop-over in Dubai.Mr Charlton, who appears to have been unaware of the country’s stringent anti-gay laws, complained on the Emirates Facebook page that Emirates handling staff at Dubai International Airport pulled his family aside for “checks” when he informed them they were gay parents. Mr Charton claimed: “I asked if it was because we are gay and I was laughed at. I have never felt so embarrassed.” The pair were allegedly “asked us to wait in a room” while the airport investigated their clearance to travel, and nearly missed their connecting flight. Mr Charlton said he was “amazed at the small mindedness of your [Emirates] handling team in Dubai”.
Update: It’s actually not just the LGBTQ population that needs to worry about travel to Egypt. In September 2015, 12 Mexican and Egyptian tourists were killed In Egypt mistakenly shot by egyptian security forces. Be extremely careful when traveling to these countries dealing with an ISIS or high terror threat. Especially along their borders off beaten paths. Remember there are drones and other ways someone can not only mistake you for a terrorist.