Danny and I just returned from a citytrip to Singapore. A place where gay sex is illegal. Some friends warned to be careful there. Did and does it stop us?
Some countries don’t like you because you’re different. About 76 countries have a law or several laws which punish homosexual acts. In some countries that law is more theory than reality. Other countries use other laws to persecute LGBTI people. Indonesia uses anti-pornography laws, Egypt laws against gross or public decency. So should you go?
As quite a globe trotter you’ll find me all over said globe. Singapore isn’t my first destination where who and what I am is frowned upon or even illegal. In 2014 I visited Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. As a closeted and innocent child I travelled to Egypt and Tunisia. I also went to Egypt and Jordan in 2010.
Danny set foot in Texas (yes Texas), Antigua and Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis and Egypt.
So this is not a first for us.
Other destinations don’t persecute LGBT’s actively, but being gay, bisexual, transgender, lesbian, queer or just non-heterosexual, non-cisgender and well ‘different’ is a social taboo. That is the case in my more recent destinations of South Korea, Japan, (yes Japan), Romania, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Serbia, Croatia and South Carolina in the United States.
Don’t go? No, do go. Quite a gay, bi and pansexual travellers I know just go to these countries. The ‘anti-gay propaganda law’ in Russia doesn’t stop Belgian out gay figure skater Jorik Hendrickx to go there. Yes, he goes there for work. But still.
Thierry Hanan Scheers from Magnificent Earth goes to Indonesia at least once a year. He travelled to the Maldives as well. It doesn’t stop him.
Sven Boutsen from Touristico Gay travels all over the world. Legislation targeting LGBT’s doesn’t stop him.
There are different ways to know what you can and can’t, what you should and shouldn’t. Destination Pride is an online tool which rates countries, regions and cities based on legality of gay sex, same sex marriage, anti-discrimination laws, gender identity laws and what they call social media sentiment.
Another way to find out a country’s attitude towards LGBT’s is Wikipedia. Google ‘LGBT rights in’ and the country and you’ll find plenty of information.
A third way to inform yourself is to browse the travel advice section of your ministry of Foreign Affairs. Belgium‘s travel advice section can be found here.
Women and PDA
A fourth way to inform yourself is Google. Combine the country’s name with ‘LGBT rights’, ‘gay rights’, ‘women’s rights’, ‘public display of affection’ or ‘PDA’
And obviously a fifth way is your guidebook. They’re really are no excuses not to be informed.
Don’t forget to check possible clothing guidelines. What is ok, what isn’t?
Theory v. reality
Keep in mind that there’s a difference between the letter of the law and practice. I have seen plenty of gay guys in Singapore. Police doesn’t actively persecute gay people. But I noticed discretion.
Foreigners were banned to attend the Pink Dot gay pride festival in Hom Lim Park. Australian Peter Eggenhuizen was photographed kissing his boyfriend and was shamed in the media for this.
Alex Au was fined for blogging about the anti-sodomy law in Singapore. Ivan Heng and Tony Trickett were removed from a ‘power couple’ list for being gay.
I know quite a few gay guys who like to go on holiday to the Emirates, Tunisia, Egypt, India… It’s an affordable, sunny destination. But don’t be naïve.
Who you are can be punishable by law.
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