Two maps that inform LGBTI people on their rights and protections across the globe.
Thirty years ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) declassified “homosexuality” as a disease. Despite this liberating moment for the LGBTI community, 69 countries still have laws criminalizing same-sex activity. 69 countries where LGBTI people are forced into the shadows, condemned by society, and attacked by law enforcement.
As a gay man, it’s sobering to realize all the places my rights and safety are left at the border. Fortunately, outright displays of hate have not plagued my travels, but sadly most of my community has not shared this luxury.
The grim reality of traveling is that acceptance is not guaranteed, and many LGBTI people have endured harrowing moments of discrimination and hate crimes while in a new place. LGBTI people consciously consider their actions given a specific environment. Drawing too much attention to their sexuality could be the difference between a relaxing trip and a terrorizing experience.
I am proud of my sexuality, yet there have been moments I’ve dimmed my “gayness” as a safety measure. Most recently in Morocco while traveling across Europe during the summer of 2019.
Morocco is a part of the 69. All the beauty of that country cannot conceal that same-sex activity is still illegal. The government can punish LGBTI people with up to three years in prison and a hefty fine just for their sexual preference.
Though I wasn’t aware of Morocco’s laws while traveling there, I did recognize the country’s Islamic state and knew its conservative culture did not embrace my sexuality. Brisking down the stark white halls of the Ibn Battuta Airport in Tangier, my conscious whispered, “Speak an octave lower, wear plain clothes, and don’t look at any man for too long.”
It’s incredibly disheartening to realize all the parts of myself hidden or reduced during that trip. It was exhausting to constantly analyze my actions in public. What was supposed to be a trip full of “do’s” became “don’ts.” Don’t be too flamboyant. Don’t be too bold. Don’t draw too much attention.
Thankfully, my safety was not threatened, and Morocco was a beautiful trip full of cherished memories. Was this because of my micro-changes? I don’t know. But what I do know is the LGBTI community can avoid traveling with the uncertainty and fear that burdened me in Morocco thanks to ILGA World.
ILGA World – International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association – is an international network of over 1,700 organizations across 160 countries and territories, leading the fight for LGBTI rights and equality.
Part of its advocacy is publishing a map documenting the sexual orientation laws around the world. Possible by data collected in State-Sponsored Homophobia 2020: Global Legislation Overview Update, this map exposes which parts of the world lack proper protection for the community.
ILGA-Europe, the organization’s division specifically focused on Europe and Central Asia, publishes its annual “Europe Rainbow Map and Index,” ranking the legal and policy landscape across 49 counties from 0%, dark red, to 100%, dark green. The higher the percentage, the more legal protection the community has there. The most recent map is from May 2021.
These maps are significantly useful tools for LGBTI people who are concerned about their safety when traveling. An incredible resource for LGBTI people, these maps offer the ability for the community to become educated on their rights and protections across the world.
LGBTI people can avoid places that threaten their safety, like Nigeria and Pakistan, where the death penalty is a possible legal punishment for same-sex activity. These maps offer the opportunity of choice. The extensive index of global legal and social statuses allows someone all the information needed to decide whether they feel comfortable traveling somewhere.
Despite the extra layer of security these maps offer, uncertainty is inevitable. Everyone has their own experiences, and one person’s favorite country could be where another felt the most vulnerable. One place that felt entirely accepting for one could feel horribly isolating to another. All anyone can do is their own research and make the best judgment possible for themselves, and these maps are a perfect place to start.