From Jamaica to Morocco, some memorable vacation spots criminalize sexuality. Travelers to LBTQ have a choice between whether to attend or not.

Burj Al Arab is pictured at dusk, Dubai.
( Fraser Hall/The Image Bank Unreleased/Getty Images via CNN Newsource ) By Julia Buckley | CNN
One thing Emma-Janet Nutbrown did when they took a family trip to Jamaica last year was that everyone would donate to an LGBTQ donation once they arrived.
Nutbrown felt uncomfortable with her kids ‘ selection of place. In Jamaica, men who engage in the same kind of physical activity are prohibited from doing so and are subject to a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and heavy work. Both Nutbrown and Simon, Simon’s brother, are queer, whose 40th day the family celebrated on the trip.
” It made Simon uneasy going there, but most people like to travel for the place, not the politics behind it, so we could n’t really hold my parents accountable”, says Nutbrown, founder of Queer Edge, which creates safe spaces for the community in London. ” I wo n’t refuse to travel somewhere with family, but I will raise it. But Simon decided to make everyone contribute to a charity as a birthday present instead of letting us refuse to move.
One of the millions of people worldwide who need extra protection when booking a trip: Will they be safe there, and how are Gay locals treated?
” I’m largely against it]travel to places where sexuality is banned], but I’m logical. It’s not as easy as’ Do n’t go,'” she says. ” If there was a shared consensus across the planet]to boycott destinations ] then it would work, but I think it’s a lot more complex”.
There are 62 countries worldwide that still criminalize ( or de facto criminalize ) homosexuality, according to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association ( ILGA ), which counts UN member states. The Human Dignity Trust has 64 people.
Of these, 12 was likely impose the death penalty for same- sexual action, including tourist favorite the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, whose airline was this week deemed the best in the world, Nigeria, which welcomed the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in May, and Saudi Arabia, which last year claimed that it welcomed LGBTQ travelers.
Many people, even those who are not members of the LGBTQ community, are basically unwilling to travel to places where homosexuality is forbidden. Corey O’Neill, an office administrator from London, is one.
” Safety is at the forefront of anyone’s mind when traveling”, he says. ” Perhaps if you’re not visibly gay, there’s an inherent risk that how you act may be perceived as gay, which entails not just proper sanctions, but police brutality, hate crimes, the general surroundings. I do n’t want to have that in my mind on vacation”.
O’Neill’s stance means that unless laws change, he will never see the pyramids ( Egypt has de- facto criminalized homosexuality with jail- term punishment ), sleep overwater in the Maldives (up to eight years jail- time plus 100 lashes ), take a Kenyan safari ( maximum 14 years imprisonment ), see Red Square ( Russia designates the LGBTQ movement – even displaying a rainbow flag – as ‘ extremist’ with up to 12- year sentences ), or stop over in Qatar (up to 10 years in prison, with” no legal certainty” over a potential death penalty ).
But he’s OK with that. Why would I give money to a nation that does n’t want me to exist? Even if$ 10 went towards a duty that constantly harmed people, that’d be my wealth I gave them”.
This is not just the opinion of Gay people.
Since the state passed laws allowing the beheading of LGBTQ people and the public beating of women for immorality, members and allies of the area are now in their 10th season of boycotting the Dorchester Collection hotels, owned by the Brunei Investment Agency ( part of the Ministry of Finance and Economy ). In 2019, George Clooney wrote of the importance of boycotting.
However, some people believe that turning the entire country against a business is harmful to the local community even more.
” It can cause a very visceral reaction in people, but there are 50 shades of discrimination, and the challenge is where you draw the line”, says Darren Burn, founder of inclusive travel companies Out of Office and TravelGay.
” Would you go somewhere you ca n’t get married, or ca n’t go into the army? The reality is there are loads of places where, even if it’s not illegal to be gay, there are challenges. I totally respect that some people do n’t want to support an economy where ]homosexuality ] is illegal. But the other side is that I want to go, and by going, I’m helping to change mindsets. Every country has gay people. We hear from staff members and locals in destinations, who say,’ Please come.'”
Burn never planned to enter the travel industry. When he took a vacation to Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt, he was a journalist.
” I was in my early 20s, and I was a bit naïve. It was Sharm – a tourist have n”, he says.
” I was traveling with my ex, and we were n’t allowed to check in. We had to move to a different hotel. I thought, that should n’t happen to anyone, ever”. In 2016, he founded Out of Office, building a contact book of “welcoming suppliers and tour guides”.
‘ Do you need two beds?’
Most inclusive tour operators wo n’t take LGBTQ tourists to Uganda to see the gorillas. ( Andrey Gudkov/iStockphoto/Getty Images via CNN Newsource ) In recent years, destination marketers have become more vociferous in attracting LGBTQ clients. There’s usually a financial reason behind it, says Burn. Travelers from the community “are more likely to have disposable income than they are to have children.” They’re loyal customers and trust word- of- mouth referrals”.
According to Sherwin Banda, president of African Travel Inc., the LGBTQ community has” the largest disposable income of any other niche market.”
” A destination’s reputation as being LGBT- friendly is a primary motivation for us”, he says.
According to a report released by the nonprofit Open for Business in 2021, Caribbean countries that outlaw homosexuality saw a 5.7 % decline in GDP and a$ 423 million to$ 689 million decline in the tourism sector.
In Jamaica, tourism officials have tried to downplay the impact of the island nation’s laws against homosexuality.
In 2022, legislation was repealed in Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Kitts and Nevis. In April 2024, Dominica followed suit after Trinidad and Tobago had already decriminalized same-sex relations in 2018.
According to Burn,” The Caribbean is moving quite quickly,” adding that many Caribbean and African nations ‘ anti-gay laws were enacted during European colonialism.
Banda, who is South African, agrees. He claims that” colonial laws combined with strict religious beliefs have perpetuated a stigma attached to homosexuality in Africa.”
However, he is still comfortable arranging safaris for LGBTQ travelers.
” Once we know travelers are from the community, we take great care to ensure guides, hotels, all the touchpoints throughout the journey are safe for them, but also inclusive”, he says.
” Nobody will say,’ Do you need two beds?’ We make sure that no one our clients encounter in Africa is forced to come out again.
” Tolerance is practiced not preached.”
The reality is that the practice on the ground frequently differs from the law’s letter. As Burn says,” It’s also illegal to drink alcohol in the Maldives, but all resorts have it”. ( He advises not holding hands at the airport, however. )
The first LGBT-founded tour operator in a nation that sentences same-sex activity to three years in prison was founded in 2020 by Bilal El Hammoumy and Rania Chentouf.
” Being members of the community, we felt we would understand better how to approach it”, says El Hammoumy. Morocco is a nation where tolerance is not preached, according to the article.
It was crucial to create a space where the LGBT community could participate in training programs and employment opportunities, despite the fact that we could understand clients ‘ fears.
El Hammoumy says that in Morocco”, the reality is a bit different from the law.”
In the early 20th century, cities such as Tangier were” gay heavens” for creatives escaping conservative Western countries. One of Marrakech’s main sights is the Majorelle Garden, where the ashes of former owner Yves Saint Laurent were scattered by his former partner, Pierre Bergé.
According to El Hammoumy, Moroccan hotels generally accept same-sex couples, but those who work there receive additional training to make sure guests are comfortable. Some guides, he claims, have chosen not to work with them when they explain their clientele.
However, he says that visiting destinations can change mindsets.
” A lot of anti- LGBT feelings come from prejudice and a lack of education, and direct contact can change preconceived ideas about the community, “he says. Burn agrees.
There’s the economic incentive, too. Without economic pressure from the outside world, Banda, who was raised under apartheid, believes that South Africa would not have changed.
” Travel does something no other industry can do, “he says”. Africa is heavily reliant on tourism revenue. When partners are willing to actively welcome our guests, we can work together to promote inclusivity. If we stay away, we lose that opportunity to use our voice.”
Travel can “bring change with it.”
Morocco used to be a” gay heaven” for those escaping repressive Western society, but today, same- sex relationships are illegal. ( Thomas Barwick/Digital Vision/Getty Images via CNN Newsource ) Related Articles
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Does that imply that every nation should receive travel funds to influence opinion? Not in their opinion, none of whom would refer a client to Saudi Arabia.
Another issue is posed by Uganda, whose 2023 Anti-Homosexuality Act legalized the discrimination against the LGBTQ community in a myriad ways and even carries the death penalty.
” As a company, you need to stand for something, and Uganda advocates for brutal violent acts against gay people. We cannot in good conscience send people there,” says Banda.
Michael Kajubi has a different perspective. In 2013 he founded McBern Tours, curating Uganda tours, after being fired from his previous job because of” suspicions” that he was gay.
He says,” I had to start a business to employ myself and people like me who could n’t get jobs because of who I am. The majority of McBern employees are LGBTQ, and all profits benefit the McBern Foundation, which helps elderly Ugandans and underprivileged youths.
Kajubi, who left Uganda four years ago as a result of his activism, claims that he is still comfortable sending LGBTQ people there as long as they “respect the laws- do n’t wave their rainbow flag all over the place.”
All the hotels that McBern uses, even for straight guests, have been thoroughly checked for LGBTQ-friendly policies, says Kajubi. He thinks that people should continue to travel to these locations but be cautious about where their money is going. To be certain that you are not funding inequality, he advises looking for tour companies that are IGLTA-affiliated.
Boycotting leaves the local community stranded, he argues. Companies that have stopped working with McBern because of Uganda’s anti- gay legislation” have a valid point, but supporting local companies can bring change. You’re paying salaries for people who would n’t otherwise be employed.
” If people do n’t come we ca n’t support]Foundation ] beneficiaries with healthcare, tuition and basic needs”.
Discrimination is prevalent everywhere.
One of Marrakech’s main sights, the Majorelle Garden, has a queer history, despite homosexuality being illegal in Morocco. ( Moritz Wolf/imageBROKER/Shutterstock via CNN Newsource ) Of course, discrimination is n’t confined to countries where homosexuality is illegal.
For starters, over 500 anti- LGBTQ laws were introduced in US state legislatures last year alone. The US State Department issued a global alert in May regarding potential attacks on LGBTQ+ people and events.
In 2014, Matthieu Jost founded MisterB&amp, B, an LGBTQ travel community with 1.3 million members, after an Airbnb host in Barcelona made it clear that he and his partner were unwelcome. Previously, a French hotel had refused him and his then- boyfriend a double bed.
” This kind of discrimination is all over the place, even in 2024″, says Jost, who wo n’t even hold hands with his partner in Paris. Banda wo n’t do that in Los Angeles, either.
Traveling to a country where homosexuality is forbidden for Jost means adhering to local laws. MisterB&amp, B users are not allowed to book travel in a country with the death penalty for same- sex behavior. In a destination where it’s illegal, users are flagged before booking.
” We warn travelers they need to be cautious. Ask for separate beds, do n’t show personal gestures, let family know where they’re traveling and have the embassy contact”, he says.
” You must play the game and follow the laws and religion of these countries” is the saying. Burn adds that a specialist appointment is necessary because his staff have discovered that the majority of mainstream tour operators have no knowledge of them after having mystery-shopped them.
For O’Neill, and many like him, it’s not enough.
” I am aware that there are restrictions on where I can travel; I’m unlikely to visit the pyramids or go on safari. However, queer people are supported in so many beautiful locations around the world. That vacation seems much more pleasant to me.
The- CNN- Wire
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