LGBTQ+ rights have come a long way in many places. Where this minority was once oppressed and kept hidden from the sight of the public eye, there are now annual celebrations in many places, focused on the pride of the LGBTQ+ community and honoring the right to be yourself. But, though there has been a lot of progress made in many countries, particularly western nations, there are still just as many countries where homosexual, bisexual and trans identities are marginalized. One thing that LGBTQ+ travelers have to contend with that others don't is understanding how to navigate these varying levels of acceptance when planning out vacations and trips abroad. Unlike how it is for the average straight cis-gendered person, not all places are open and safe for travel when it comes to the queer community.
The SPARTACUS Gay Travel Index is an annual report put together to inform travelers about the circumstances of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as reviewed in 197 countries and regions. The most recent 2019 report noticed a lot of changes in the rankings. For instance, India moved from rank 104 to 57 due to the decriminalization of homosexuality and an improved social climate. But things aren't all positive as some countries like Brazil and the USA have dropped down the list due to right-wing conservative governments. On that note, here are some travel destinations that LGBTQ+ tourists should definitely avoid.
Jamaica is not a great place to be for LGBTQ+ people, though in terms of rankings it is not quite near the bottom of the gay travel index. In particular, it scores poorly in terms of transgender rights, religious influence, anti-gay laws, murders, and hostility of the local populace. It's a shame that this community is so opposed to queer people as the country boasts beautiful beaches and amazing all-inclusive resorts that are a treat to enjoy. Unfortunately, the very act of male homosexuality is illegal and comes with a potential penalty of 10 years in prison doing hard labor, so steer clear.
Russia is a country that has something of a reputation as being hostile towards LGBTQ+ people. Though homosexuality is not criminalized and legal gender changes are possible in the country, there is still no recognition of same-sex unions in the nation. Despite the legal specifics, attitudes towards homosexuality are also still negative and disapproved of by most Russians. There are also no laws against discrimination based on gender identity or sexuality, which combined with conservative attitudes, makes it a hard place to be if you're queer.
Egypt is heavily dependent on tourism, with the sector being one of the nation's leading sources of income. In fact, it is generally considered to be crucial to the country's economy. When it was at its peak in 2010, tourism employed about 12% of Egypt's workforce and provided $12.5 billion in revenue. Unfortunately, despite this need for tourism, this locale is not particularly friendly towards LGBTQ+ travelers. According to a 2013 survey by the Pew Research Center, 95% of Egyptians believe that homosexuality should not be accepted by society. This prevailing opinion means that public morality laws are sometimes used against the queer community.
Malaysia is another country where LGBTQ+ rights have not advanced as far as one would hope. Currently, homosexuality, under the umbrella of sodomy laws, is still illegal in the country with a penalty of up to 20 years of imprisonment. There is also no recognition of gender identity or same-sex unions, adoption is restricted, and there are no existing discrimination protections. As a result of Islam being the official state religion of Malaysia, social attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community are negative. Even Human Rights Watch specifically states that discrimination against LGBT people is pervasive in Malaysia.
6. United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates is a country in Asia that is a federation of seven emirates, ruled by a monarchy. Included in its borders is the capital Abu Dhabi, and popular tourist spot Dubai. Though the system of emirates and leadership may be complex it has had no effect on the international appeal of Dubai. This spot is extravagant and well-regarded for its shopping destinations. Unfortunately, the country lags behind in LGBTQ+ rights. As all sexual relations outside of heterosexual marriage are illegal, it is easy for queer people to be punished severely, including visiting tourists.
Yemen may be a tourism center in the Middle East that houses several World Heritage Sites, but it is definitely not a good place for queer visitors to congregate. Islamic Sharia Law is applied here, a form of religious law that severely bans same-sex sexual activity. In fact, punishment can range from lashes and prison sentences all the way up to death and execution. It's common in this area for LGBTQ+ persons to prosecuted by the government in addition to facing broader backlash from the population in general.
Iran is a tourist hotspot, with over 8 million international visitors arriving in 2019 alone. The array of activities on offer in the country is diverse, ranging from hiking and skiing to even beach holidays by the sea coasts. Still, while the Iranian government has made strong efforts to attract more and more tourists, similar strides have not been made in the realm of LGBTQ+ rights. Same-sex relations of any kind are illegal and can be punished through imprisonment, lashing, or execution. Oddly, gender identity changes are allowed, but this is primarily meant for homosexual individuals to do to avoid legal and social persecution.
3. Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is the second biggest tourist destination in the Middle East. Over 16 million visited in 2017, with visitors coming in for religious pilgrimages and leisure tourism. On the topic of LGBTQ+ rights, the country is considered to have one of the worst records of queer rights in the entire world. Male and female homosexuality is illegal with social conventions and laws heavily influenced by super-conservative Muslims. Being gay or transgender is widely seen as immoral and related acts, like crossdressing, can be punished with fines, public whippings, beatings, vigilante attacks, chemical castrations, prison time, torture, and capital punishment.
Somalia is a site that hasn't been on the tourist radar for a pretty long time. This is because of the violent civil war that has raged in the country since the early 1990s. More recently the Tourism Ministry has been reestablished and there has been a small renaissance in outside visitors with newly constructed beachside resorts and hotels. But LGBTQ+ visitors should steer clear of this area if at all possible. Same-sex sexual activity is punishable by death and the broader public doesn't hold particularly positive views towards it either. In fact, the US Department of State's 2010 Human Rights Report found that sexual orientation was considered a taboo topic, with no public discussion of the issue in the country whatsoever.
Chechnya has the dubious honor of being the absolute lowest ranking entry on the SPARTACUS Gay Travel Index. In particular, it is rated so low because of its rate of prosecution, murders and death sentences, as well as because of the hostility of locals and the many anti-gay laws in the country. Its track record of LGBTQ+ rights is so bad that human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are openly concerned. There are zero protections for LGBTQ+ citizens and the government actively encourages the killing of suspected homosexuals. If you're queer, don't go here.