In most corners of the world, we’ve come a long way in terms of LGBT and queer acceptance.
But there are still at least 68 countries that have national laws criminalizing same-sex relations between consenting adults.
Since it’s pride month and we’re all about you being authentically and unapologetically YOU, we wanted to write a post about the places in the world that are less tolerant, and how to deal if you visit them. Knowledge is power, and we always want you to travel safely, with our without our help.
While we’re not specifically an LGBT tour company, we always welcome our lesbian, trans and (femme-aligned) non-binary sisters to join us on our tours. Group travel is a great way to explore the world while staying in a safe bubble and our community is awesome.
We’re in the midst of a global movement that has increased respect for LGBT travelers — but the laws haven’t always followed suit. We do visit some of these places on our women-only Damesly tours.
In places like Morocco, for example, most people are tolerant, but the laws still say you can go to jail for “indecent acts.”
Here are the countries that you need to be particularly aware of if you’re traveling with your partner:
Countries with The Harshest Anti-LGBT Laws
Islamic nations almost always have the harshest rules. In a select few countries, the death penalty can be applied for homosexual acts.
These countries include: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Nigeria and Mauritania.
This is helpful map of what laws exist, where.
LGBT Travel in the Carribean
It’s surprising that some of the places that seem most laid back in this world are actually the most intolerant.
Jamaica, often seen as a hedonist paradise, is notoriously unforgiving of same-sex relations, and punishment for those caught in “indecent acts” can include jail time and 10 years of forced labor.
In 2008, a tourist in the Cayman Islands
was arrested and detained for kissing his partner in public.
In Dominica, a couple aboard a gay cruise were arrested for what the police labelled indecent relations, and other organized LGBT cruises deliberately avoid places like Barbados and Grenada for fear of discrimination.
Queer Travel in Africa and the Middle East
Africa and the Middle East can be similarly intolerant; often based in deep-seated religious beliefs, and it is difficult to argue against charges based on rights.
In places like Morocco, we’ve been told that a person would need to have definitive proof of indecent acts (photos, videos) to show to the police to justify charges being brought against another person. Does it happen? Of course. Is it common? No.
The last time it seems, based on Google, that a person was arrested in Morocco for being gay was back in 2015.
There’s also a double standard between tourists and locals, in places like Egypt and Morocco, but in other parts of the world too. While local people and even the police are more keen to turn a blind eye to gay tourists, locals can be severely punished for outward displays of queerness (great band name).
Helpful Tips for Queer Travelers
99% of the time, you’re not going to have any problems exploring the world, however you identify. But, do your research.
If you’re traveling to a place that you know is intolerant, be mindful of any and all PDA. Be mindful of how much alcohol you consume if you’re going out, where you’re going out, who you’re with, how you’re dancing, how late you’re staying out, etc. Take social cues from people around you as to what’s cool and what’s not, especially people who live there.
In general, in the places we travel like Jordan, Morocco, and Egypt:
Wearing a rainbow bracelet? Totally cool.
Kissing another member of the same sex, with tongue, in the middle of a public square? Not advisable.
Be you, but be mindful. Don’t be afraid, be aware.
What to do if the worst happens
Always have the address and phone number of your nearest United States embassy handy.
In the extremely unlikely event that you are arrested, they will be your first call.
If you’re on one of our tours, of course we are going to do everything we can to get you out of this situation. However, if it escalates past our control, you’ll need to start the process with your embassy, which will then inform the Secretary of State, and so forth.
But that’s really really really unlikely. To better inform yourself, here are a list of LGBT travel blogs and resources.
These resources can help you plan a fun, safe, and enjoyable trip (or come with us!)
Map of Countries that Criminalize LGBT People
Gay Rights Around the World
To dig more into this subject, check out some of our favorite queer travel blogs, including Globetrotter Girls and 2 Moms Travel.
You might also want to see the travel guides over at Once Upon a Journey.
Happy travels, and happy pride!