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    Travelers Beware! Countries Where Being LGBTQI+ Is Legally Punishable by Death

    By Eduardo Morales, Ph.D.–

    Before traveling abroad to new and unfamiliar destinations, be sure to do research on the countries you will be visiting to determine what their legal positions are regarding LGBTQI+ community members. Many countries do not legally recognize same-sex marriage. Even worse, approximately 70 countries consider consensual same-sex sexual relations to be a crime—sometimes carrying severe punishment including the death penalty.

    In many cases the laws apply specifically to gay men, but 38 countries have amended their laws to include lesbians in their definitions. Countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Yemen, Brunei, Nigeria, and Mauritania can enforce the death penalty for those who engage in same-sex sexual relations. On May 29, 2023, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni signed a bill, despite widespread criticism, to include the possibility of a death sentence. It is called the Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2023. Although same-sex relationships were already illegal in Uganda, the new law, which passed with the support of 341 out of 389 members of parliament, includes harsher punishments for “promoting” homosexuality and engaging in same-sex relations. Uganda last carried out an execution in 2005.

    On August 1, 2023, the United States assumed the presidency of the United Nations Security Council, presenting an opportunity to bring additional focus to issues that are important to the U.S. and that are essential to the Security Council’s mandate of maintaining international peace and security. U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield is now the new U.N. Security Council’s President. In an interview with Lawrence O’Donnell of MSNBC in July, she indicated that she plans to address the threats impacting LGBTQI+ travelers. Although the U.S. provides funding to Uganda to address HIV/AIDS in that country, she plans to urge the President of Uganda to stop enacting penalties for those who are LGBTQI+. 

    According to the Council for Global Equality, countries in Africa where homosexuality is (or was recently) criminalized include Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Comoros, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Madeira, Malawi, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mayotte, Melilla, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, SADR/Sahrawi Arab Dem. Rep., Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Somaliland, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Tristan da Cunha, Uganda, Western Sahara, and Zambia.

    In the Middle East/North Africa they include Algeria, Iran, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Gaza, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

    In Asia they include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Burma, Indonesia, Kiribati, Malaysia, Maldives, Nauru, North Korea, Pakistan, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Tonga, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, and Uzbekistan.

    In Europe they include the Turkish Republic Northern Cyprus and Chechnya/Southern Province.

    And in the Americas and the Caribbean they include Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago.

    Authorities in Russia, India, and Indonesia also tend to prosecute LGBTQI+ individuals. Late last year, for example, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a bill that expands a ban on supposed LGBTQI+ “propaganda.”

    Interventions and support by the U.S. are limited by the relationships and connections U.S. representatives have with the particular country. And even here in the U.S., approximately 500 bills restricting the rights of LGBTQI+ community members have been introduced in 2023 so far alone. As for Central and South American countries, there is still persecution of LGBTQ+ people despite some counties there legally permitting same-sex marriages. The same holds true for some of the other aforementioned countries.

    Be sure then to do sufficient research on the countries you plan to visit, and also refer to the U.S. Department of State, which has compiled information for LGBTQI individuals who plan to travel abroad:

    Eduardo Morales, Ph.D. is a Professor Emeritus, retired Distinguished Professor, and current adjunct professor at Alliant International University. He is also a licensed psychologist and a founder and current Executive Director of AGUILAS, an award-winning program for Latinx LGBTQ+. Of Puerto Rican decent, he has received numerous distinguished awards and citations, including being named a Fellow of 12 divisions of the American Psychological Association.

    Nuestra Voz
    Published on August 10, 2023