SPARTACUS GAY TRAVEL INDEX 2023 | Belgium 17th most gay travel friendly country; Malta on 1, Canada and Switzerland share 2nd

The Spartacus International Gay Guide ranks Belgium on a shared 17th place in its Spartacus Gay Travel Index 2023. This year‘s most gay travel friendly countries are Malta, Canada and Switzerland

The updated Spartacus Gay Travel Index provides an overview of the situation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex (LGBTQIA+) people in 203 different independent countries and notable or notorious regions. 

For 2023, Malta was the solo first place finisher for the first time, followed by runners-up Canada and Switzerland who were awarded equal points. The top spot in the ranking of the United States of America this year is shared by California, New York, the state of Washington and Colorado.

Malta was able to qualify for the top spot on its own for the first time. This Mediterranean island state improved once again in its recognition of gender identity and is this year’s host of EuroPride.

Germany improved its overall ranking by one point thanks to legal improvements for intersex* persons and now ranks ninth in the index along with Iceland, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Flag of Malta.

Switzerland is the big winner

Switzerland made the biggest leap this year, from seven to twelve points and thus to second place, thanks in part to legislation providing for same-sex marriage and a progressive self-determination law. 

The global liberalization process of LGBTQIA+ rights has gained traction again. So-called conversion procedures in particular are legally banned in more and more countries, including Australia, Israel and Vietnam.

Predictable bottom-end

Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, the Russian republic of Chechnya and Afghanistan fell to the bottom of the list.

Indonesia  lost three points, partly due to a new criminal law influenced by fundamentalism, causing this nation to slip from 117th to 159th place. The most dangerous countries for LGBTQIA+ travelers in 2023 also include states such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Somalia, and now Afghanistan, where homosexuals are massively persecuted and killed.

Bleak outlook in the United States

The winner in the post-Trump-era US, which continues to be divided on LGBTQIA+ rights, is once again California: In addition to a fulsome queer infrastructure, the state also offers excellent legal protections for LGBTQIA+ citizens. It scored an 11 out of a possible 13 points. 

However, three other states also received 11 points this year: New York, Washington, and Colorado.

Oklahoma and Tennessee brought up the rear and Florida fell from 23rd to 31st place in the US ranking, partly due to new censorship (‘Don’t Say Gay’) laws.

Flag of the United States.

Gay Travel Index

Spartacus is publishing the Gay Travel Index since 2012. There are still many places in the world where LGBTQIA+ travellers and citizens must fear for their happiness and safety. Due to the sometimes wide differences in the world, it can happen that holidaymakers endanger themselves simply by unwise behaviour. 

“In order to support the safety of gay tourists worldwide, we publish the Gay Travel Index. It serves as a first guideline – you can find more detailed information about your travel destinations on our website and blog”, Spartacus says.

“The index attempts at finding a balance between measuring the rights of the local LGBT community and considering the demands of queer holidaymakers. Our aim is to monitor the safety of queer people in each country and also increase the awareness on grievances. We are convinced that there are holidaymakers who choose countries where the queer community is an accepted and beloved part of society.” 

“But there are also holidaymakers who consciously want to travel to a country in order to enter into a dialogue with the oppressed local queer community. The index is intended to provide either type of holidaymaker with trustworthy and valid information.”

The index has become more and more diverse and queer in the past years. In 2020 we have added new categories to the index to match with a broader diversity of the queer community. 

“Thus, the rights of intersexual* people or to a third gender option on legal documents are indexed, as is the welcome fact that conversion procedures are being banned by more and more countries. A specific new category for queer travellers is that of gay marketing, indicating how and if gay travel is promoted per country. It can also be considered an indicator of acceptance of queer people by the local society.”

Rating system

When creating the index, the focus is on political decisions affecting the queer community, legal changes or acts of violence and prohibitions. Positive developments in the respective countries count as plus points, negative ones as minus points. 

Categories include among others: marriage equality and anti-discrimination laws, sodomy laws, pride parade bans and hate crimes. Political developments such as marriage equality might at first only affect the LGBT community of the respective country. But every step towards equality is a step forward towards social acceptance and has therefore a direct impact on holidaymakers.

The categories have different levels. If a category has three levels, a maximum of three points can be awarded.

The only exception is the death penalty: A country gets one minus point if the death penalty for homosexual acts is anchored in the law but not executed. If the death penalty is still executed, the country gets five minus points. This ensures these countries rank at the bottom of the list.

Gay Travel Index USA

The legal situation for queer people varies greatly in the 50 US states. “In the Gay Travel Index USA we therefore take a close look at the individual states. In doing so, we were able to adapt the categories specifically to the country and guarantee a closer look. We wanted to explicitly highlight the differences between the individual states.”

“In 2020, we removed some categories, for example marriage equality and HIV travel restrictions, because these are federal laws and all states would receive the same score. Instead, we have added new categories tailored to the USA, which emphasize the differences between the states: Hate crime laws, gay and trans panic defense, anti-discrimination legislation and queer infrastructure.”

“This way, we hope to create a detailed overview so that queer travelers know what to expect in each state.”


For 2023, Belgium is ranked a shared 17 and indeed appears on the 17th line of the spreadsheet. In 2022, Belgium was a shared 18th, on the 18th line. In 2020 the kingdom was ranked 15th on the 15th line. In 2019 Belgium ended 4th, on the 5th line. Because it shared that ranking with Austria and A comes before B. 

Is Belgium becoming worse for LGBTQIA+ travellers. No. Other countries are just faring better.

There are 17 categories Spartacus takes into account. Let’s see how Belgium scores versus this year’s champion Malta.

  1. Anti-discrimination legislation: Belgium 2, Malta 2.
  2. Marriage / civil partnership: Belgium 2, Malta 2.
  3. Adoption allowed: Belgium 2, Malta 2.
  4. Transgender rights: Belgium 3, Malta 3.
  5. Intersex / third option: Belgium -1, Malta 2.
  6. Equal age of consent: Belgium 0, Malta 0.
  7. Ban on conversion therapy: Belgium -1, Malta 1.
  8. LGBT marketing: Belgium 1, Malta 2.
  9. Religious influence: Belgium 0, Malta 0.
  10. HIV travel restrictions: Belgium 0, Malta 0.
  11. Anti-gay laws: Belgium 0, Malta 0.
  12. Homosexuality illegal: Belgium 0, Malta 0.
  13. Pride bans: Belgium 0, Malta 0.
  14. Locals hostile: Belgium 0, Malta -1.
  15. Prosecutions: Belgium 0, Malta 0.
  16. Murders: Belgium 0, Malta 0.
  17. Death sentences: Belgium 0, Malta 0.
Flag of Belgium.

What is the index worth?

The index is worth what you want it to be worth. It’s one of the resources you could and honestly should check as a queer person before travelling to a country (you’re not familiar with). 

Other resources include ILGA-Europe, ILGA aka ILGA World and search ‘LGBT rights in …” on Wikipedia. Also check what your Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Diplomatic Service have to say.

Always travel safely, always travel informed. 

Queer Belgium

Queer human rights

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