There is no denying that the LGBTQ+ community have made impressive strides towards equality over the last few years. However, despite this, homosexuality is still a punishable offence in more than 70 countries, with 8 nations imposing the death penalty for such activities. Employees must therefore be sufficiently prepared for the legal and social attitudes of any destination they may be travelling to.
LGBTQ+ risk management can be extremely complex due to a wide range of laws, interpretations and cultural attitudes globally. Our expert analysts have composed a travel advice guide to help prepare your vulnerable business travellers, which you can download for free here.
To highlight how LGBTQ+ rights vary around the world, below you’ll find our breakdown of five countries that may surprise you as being LGBTQ+ friendly.
1. South Africa
Homosexuality is illegal in 34 of 54 countries in Africa, and punishable by death in at least 10. However, in South Africa LGBTQ+ people can enjoy the same rights as non LGBTQ+ people. South Africa was the fifth country in the world and the first (and only) country in Africa, to legalise gay marriage. South Africa was also the first constitution in the world to prohibit unfair discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
Nevertheless, travellers should still be cautious when visiting South Africa. Particularly outside major cities LGBTQ+ people continue to face challenges, such as homophobic attacks, correctional rape and high rates of HIV/ AIDS.
As the first country in Latin America to legalise gay marriage in 2010, including full adoption rights, Argentina is extremely progressive when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights. The right to change legal gender has been in place since 2012 and anti-discrimination laws are in full force in Rosario and Buenos Aires. The Argentine government heavily invests in the gay scene in Buenos Aires, which also hosts the international gay business and LGBT tourism conference, Network360, every August.
Despite a number of progressive laws, LGBTQ+ people in Argentina can still experience discrimination, particularly outside of the major cities. Trans people in Argentina have an average life expectancy of 42 years, and face high levels of violence, including from the police. Therefore it may be best to still keep a low profile when travelling to Argentina.
Same sex sexual activity is illegal in at least 20 Asian countries, with many Muslim nations, including Afghanistan, enforcing the death penalty. However LGBTQ+ rights in Taiwan have been regarded as some of the most progressive in Asia. Same sex sexual activity is legal, and although same sex marriage is not yet, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender characteristics was banned statewide in 2004. Similarly, sexual orientation discrimination in employment has also been prohibited since 2007.
Buddhism is one of the key religions in the country and practitioners are extremely tolerant of most things, believing there is a reason for it. Therefore anyone is free to be who they want to be in Taiwan. Taiwan’s capital city, Taipei, has a reputation as Asia’s most liberal city, boasting numerous LGBTQ+ sights and attractions.
LGBTQ+ rights in Israel are the most tolerant in the Middle East. It became the first country in Asia to recognise unregistered cohabitation between same-sex couples in 1988 and discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation became illegal in 1992. Furthermore, same-sex couples have been allowed to jointly adopt since 2009, and LGBTQ+ people are allowed to serve in the military.
Tel Aviv, Israel’s second city is famous for its gay nightlife and hosts an internationally recognised Pride Parade that is funded by the government, earning its title as the ‘Gay Capital’ of the Middle East. Tel Aviv was also the first Israeli city to unveil a memorial in honour of gay and lesbian victims of the Nazi Holocaust. According to LGBTQ+ travelers, it was ranked as the best gay city in 2011 despite reports of some LGBTQ+ violence during the 2000s.
An entry that may or may not surprise you, but with Trump’s ban on transgender military service, his failure to acknowledge Pride Month and the UK Foreign Office (FCO) issuing warnings to gay travellers visiting parts of the US, the ‘Land of the Free’ seems to have seriously regressed in the past year.
More than 30 states have not yet legalised gay marriage, however this is no reason to avoid America all together. The differences between states are profound with many, such as California and New York City, being the most sexually diverse in the world.
In California there are four LGBTQ+ people in the Senate and four in the Assembly. Same sex marriage and gay adoption is legal. Hate crimes and discrimination on the basis of gender identity were made illegal in 2004 and trans people can change their gender on their birth certificates without surgery.
New York City has one of the largest LGBTQ+ populations in the world, as well as one of the most prominent. Gay and lesbian culture is embedded in New York’s basic identity. Furthermore, San Francisco (commonly known as the Gay Capital of the World) has the highest percentage of same sex marriage, and last year Seattle’s first lesbian mayor, former US attorney Jenny Durkan, was elected.
It is worth noting that here we are dealing with a country that is extremely divided on the LGBTQ+ front. We would advise keeping a low profile in rural areas and small towns, as well as much of the South and Midwest, as these areas are known for being intolerant of LGBTQ+ individuals.
A key challenge facing organisations is knowing how many of their employees identify as LGBTQ+, as some may choose to keep it private. This can complicate safety measures for travellers, so it is best to ensure that strong equality and diversity policies are in place across the board. Ensuring the safety of employees is an organisational-wide challenge and it is essential that the wellbeing of each employee is considered fully.
Realistically, the world continues to be an at-times unsafe place for LGBTQ+ travellers; no country will be wholly LGBTQ+ friendly because attitudes vary from a national to a regional and local level. Organisations have a responsibility to research LGBTQ+ attitudes and social climates in all countries that will be visited by their employees.
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