Since 2012, the international “gay guide” blog Spartacus has published the Gay Travel Index to rate 202 countries and regions and 50 U.S. states based on safety and acceptance for LGBTQ+ people. Criteria for countries include anti-discrimination legislation, transgender rights, and whether homosexuality is illegal and Pride is banned. For those that are travelling internationally this year, here are the best and worst countries for LGBTQ+ travel.
Last year, Canada was ranked the best country to travel for LGBTQ+ people, while the United States was ranked thirty-first. In future years, Canada will likely score maintain its top spot since it took the important step of banning LGBTQ+ conversion therapy in December 2021. Canada also received high marks for its anti-discrimination legislation – in 1996, federal law was amended to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, with gender identity and gender expression following in 2017.
Malta, Portugal, and Spain are tied for the second best country for LGBTQ+ travel. All three countries received points for their efforts regarding marriage and civil partnerships, adoption, and transgender rights. However, Portugal sets itself apart from Malta and Spain with the maximum number of points for anti-discrimination legislation. Since 2004, the Portuguese constitution has prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and in 2018, Portugal passed a law recognizing the right to self-determination for transgender people.
The countries of Austria, Denmark, Sweden, United Kingdom, and Uruguay are tied for the third best country for LGBTQ+ travel. In all five countries, it is legal for same-sex couples to both get married and adopt children. One aspect that sets the countries apart from each other is their policies for non-binary and intersex people. In Uruguay, individuals can self- identify as a third gender in all documents without any medical or legal documents, as opposed to Austria, where individuals must present a certificate from a panel of doctors.
It’s likely no surprise that Chechnya, a republic of Russia given its own ranking by Spartacus, has been rated the worst place to travel for LGBTQ+ people. Welcome to Chechnya, a groundbreaking documentary that shadowed activists who risked their lives to confront anti-LGBTQ+ violence in the Chechen Republic, premiered in 2020 at the Sundance Film Festival. There are currently no protections for LGBTQ+ individuals in Chechnya, where law enforcement has also tortured, detained, and even killed people based on their perceived sexual orientation.
Saudi Arabia and Somalia are tied for the second worst country to travel for LGBTQ+ people. In both countries, same-sex sexual activity is illegal and can be punished under Sharia law with a maximum penalty of death. In addition, both countries criminalize sex between people of the same sex. For transgender people, both Saudi Arabia and Somalia are also extremely dangerous. For example, in Saudi Arabia, transgender people can be punished for failing to adhere to the dress codes imposed by Sharia law.
Iran is the third worst country to travel for LGBTQ+ people. According to LGBTQ+ human rights nonprofit organization OutRight Action International, all sexual activity outside of marriage, including same-sex relations, is banned under Iran’s penal code. Being gay is also punishable by death. In fact, earlier this year, Amnesty reported that two gay men were sentenced to death for sexual relations between two men. A UN report from last year also found that “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children were subjected to electric shocks and the administration of hormones and strong psychoactive medications.”
Wherever you travel this summer, please be sure to check out the Spartacus Gay Travel Index to keep yourself safe.