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Here are the worst & safest countries for LGBTQ+ travel in 2021

April 09, 2021
topic:LGBT Rights
tags:#LGBTQI rights, #travel, #COVID-19 coronavirus, #trans rights
located:Nigeria, Jamaica, USA, Canada
by:Yair Oded
As certain countries begin to recover from the onslaught of COVID-19 and open up their borders, international tourism gradually picks up again. And while many nations have adopted protections for the LGBTQ+ community over the last several years, some destinations remain risky for queer travellers.

The travel website Asher & Lyric conducted a research on ‘The Worst (& Safest) Countries For LGBTQ+ Travel in 2021’ and subsequently published an LGBTQ+ Danger Index, which gives a detailed breakdown of which destinations queer folks should visit or avoid on their travels. 

The research

While many people tend to look at legalisation of same-sex marriage as the primary indicator of how queer-friendly a country may be, the reality is far more complex, and as the research shows—multiple other factors should be taken into consideration when contemplating a vacation spot. 

Collaborating with academic researcher Eliot Assoudeh PhD, Asher & Lyric examined nine different ranking factors in their study, including legalisation of same-sex marriage, worker protection, protections against discrimination, criminalisation of hate-based violence, adoption recognition, illegality of same-sex relationships, propaganda and morality laws, as well as findings from Gallup's 2019 poll that examined queer people’s quality of life across the world. 

In their 2021 study, Asher & Lyric have also examined transgender legal identity laws, which were not included in the original research in 2019.

“We have seen LGBTQ+ people dear to our hearts be discriminated against and our deepest desire for writing this article was to bring awareness to these issues and hopefully catalyze change,” said Asher & Lyric following the publication of the original research. 

Canada ranked safest, Nigeria most dangerous

The country ranked as the safest destination for queer tourists in the updated study was Canada, followed by the Netherlands and Sweden, Malta, Portugal, Belgium, the UK, Spain, Uruguay, Norway, France, and Iceland. 

The US ranked 20 in the list - a slight improvement from its 24th position back in 2019, but nonetheless a relatively low score among other western countries, which can be attributed some states’ failure to offer protections from discrimination or allow a change of gender and prohibitions on ‘homosexual advocacy’ in schools. 

At the very bottom of the list was Nigeria, which was deemed most dangerous. Above Nigeria, the most risky tourist destinations for queer people were Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Malawi, Oman, Jamaica, Myanmar, Qatar, UAE, Yemen, Zambia and Tanzania.

In many cases, the picture isn’t so black-and-white. “Certain cities, tourist areas or resorts can sometimes be LGBTQ+ friendly even when the laws of the country as a whole are very anti-LGBTQ+,” said Asher & Lyric. The same is true, however, of holiday spots where anti-LGBTQ sentiments aren’t palpable on the surface yet are ingrained into law or are prevalent in the general attitude of the culture. 

“We honestly had no idea that there are still countries that have the death penalty for same-sex relationships,” Asher & Lyric said. “That shocked us so much, and I think most people in Western countries would be shocked as well. We also were surprised by the laws and attitudes still present in many popular Caribbean vacation spots such as Jamaica.”  

In Jamaica, ‘buggery’ (anal intercourse) can land one in prison for 10 years with an added sentence of ‘hard labour’, whereas ‘homosexual indecent behaviour’ is punishable by up to 7 years in jail with or without hard work. In the Maldives, another popular holiday spot, homosexual intercourse, ‘indecent’ acts with a person of the same sex or same-sex marriage can result in up to 8 years in prison or 100 lashes. 

This is where an index like the one composed by Asher & Lyric comes in handy. On its website, you can also find a page with tips written by several queer travelling experts who share their experiences.  

The LGBTQ+ Danger Index has already generated discussions on the issue among media outlets and in countries mentioned in the research. “We've already seen the research being shared on local news sites around the world which is causing a positive stir,” said Asher & Lyric, “For example, in the Caribbean, many of the islands that were included in the study are discussing changing the ‘buggery laws' because of how much it's hurting their tourism dollars.”

The attitude toward the queer community is dynamic and subject to change according to a whole slew of factors, including political, cultural, religious or economic fluctuations in a society. So before planning your next trip, be sure to do your research and consult up-to-date expert sources about how queer-friendly the holiday spot you had in mind is. 

An early version of this article was published on Screen Shot Media in December 2019.

Image: Rachel Jiang

Article written by:
yair oded profile
Yair Oded
Managing Editor, Author
Nigeria Jamaica USA Canada
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In their 2021 study, Asher & Lyric have examined transgender legal identity laws, which were not included in the original research in 2019.
© Drew Angerer
Embed from Getty Images
The country ranked as the safest destination for queer tourists in the updated study was Canada.
© AFP Contributor
Embed from Getty Images
In Jamaica, ‘buggery’ (anal intercourse) can land one in prison for 10 years with an added sentence of ‘hard labour’.
© AFP / Stringer
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