Just last week, 28-year-olds Julissa Ramírez and Nohemí Medina Martínez, a married couple, were tortured and gruesomely murdered in Ciudad de Juarez, Mexico. The couple’s queer relationship immediately raised a red flag for the online queer community and LGBTQ+ advocacy group, Comunidad de Comité de la Diversidad Sexual de Chihuahua, speculating that their sexual orientation was the reason for their homicide.
Nohemi and Julissa were not tourists, they were traveling back to their place of origin to visit family. Yet as another instance of violence against gay couples, it leads us to reflect on what are the most and least dangerous places for the LGBTQ+ community to visit.
While Chihuahua Attorney General Roberto Fierro denied that this was a hate crime, Ciudad de Juárez’ statistics remain disconcerting. The female couple’s murder marks two of the latest nine feminicides since the start of 2022 alone, essentially translating into a rate of one murder every 45 hours. Making matters worse, locals and the LGBTQ+ communities fear that, like 92% of violent crimes in Mexico, this crime will be swept under the rug and remain unsolved. This makes that location one of the most dangerous that we are considering in this exploration.
Differing ranges of gay acts are punishable by law in 71 countries, according to Equaldex. Travel journalists Lyric Fergusson and Asher found that Niger, Qatar, Tanzania, Barbados and Saint Lucia present the most danger and are thus to be generally avoided by the LGBTQ+ community. Based on their findings, criminalized homosexuality and homophobic sentiment generally appears to be predominant in countries where Sharia law rules and in past colonies of the British Empire.
Indeed, the mere self-identification as a gay individual can be fined with extreme penalties in Nigeria, ranging from 14 years in prison to the death sentence, as is the case in certain states under Sharia law. In Qatar, acts of homosexuality are punishable by three years in prison, flogging and the death penalty, also under Sharia law. However, the country promised to suspend its anti-LGBTQ+ in light of upcoming tourism for the 2022 World Cup. Despite Tanzania’s jaw-dropping natural beauty, including the world-renowned Mount Kilimanjaro and Serengeti National Park, all individuals caught in the act of homosexuality are strictly convicted to a sentence of 30 years to life imprisonment.
Unfortunately for the island-loving queer tourists, Barbados is also surprisingly hostile towards the LGBTQ+ community. Anti-gay laws left over from the British Empire’s era of colonization remain in place today, carrying with them a past homophobia still widespread through their society. Similar to Barbados, colonial-era laws continue to impose 10 years in prison for anyone caught in same-sex relationships in Saint Lucia, though it appears that such punishments are rarely applied for tourists.
On a brighter note, many countries have embraced gay-friendly tourism and have begun pitching the travel industry towards attracting more queer individuals. According to LGBTQ travel expert Ed Salvato, the travel industry is now “capitalizing on new interests and opportunities for people to be themselves all over the place and not just in limited destinations.” Steps towards a more welcoming approach include LGBTQ sensitivity training for staff, promoting gay-oriented events and addressing all potential fears and concerns.
Some of the safest, most liberal destinations for LGBTQ+ tourists include Puerto Rico, Portugal, Sweden, Canada and London. Puerto Rico turned LGBTQ inclusivity into a fundamental pillar of its “Discover Puerto Rico” marketing campaign; featuring gay couples, promoting locally owned LGBTQ businesses and advertising queer events on its website. Another warm and culturally rich location scoring high on queer-friendliness is Portugal. Having legalized gay marriage in 2010 and implemented gay protection laws for several years now, Portugal’s vibrant gay night scenes and its potential candidacy as host of the 2022 Europride renders this city a very appealing destination for the queer community.
For those with a winter wonderland vacation in mind, filled with dreamy Northern Lights, Sweden is the ideal destination. Having legalized gay marriage in 2009, Sweden is a leading example of gay inclusivity both legally and socially, and welcomes all tourists, whatever their sexual orientation may be. If Sweden feels a tad too far however, Canada is also a wonderful option worthy of consideration. Known for its open mind towards gay-friendly legislations, kind locals and delectable maple syrup, feeling at home away from home is almost inevitable there.
Despite the general pattern observed above surrounding British colonies, London is surprisingly forward-thinking when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community. Ticking all the boxes for same-sex marriage, discrimination protections, criminalization of anti-gay violence, same-sex adoption and transgender rights, the land of red telephone booths and royal corgis definitely merits a visit.
“Queer families are just as likely to go where every other family is going. It’s just making sure that queerness will not be an object of ridicule or unnecessary focus,” Salvato added.