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What are the friendliest countries for LGBT travelers?

Thanks to legal improvements for trans- and intersex persons, as well as anti-hate crime initiatives, this is the first time that Portugal joined the top countries, managing to jump from 27th place to the top to share the first place with Sweden and Canada.

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Photo by Hendrik Morkel from Unsplash.com

Portugal, Sweden and Canada are the most LGBT-friendly travel countries in the world, according to the SPARTACUS Gay Travel Index 2019.

Thanks to legal improvements for trans- and intersex persons, as well as anti-hate crime initiatives, this is the first time that Portugal joined the top countries, managing to jump from 27th place to the top to share the first place with Sweden and Canada.

Portugal joined the top countries, managing to jump from 27th place to the top to share the first place with Sweden and Canada.
Photo by roya ann miller from Unsplash.com

The top 10 countries in the list (sharing same rankings) are:

1) Canada
1) Portugal
1) Sweden
4) Austria
4) Belgium
4) Denmark
4) Finland
4) Iceland
4) Luxembourg
4) Malta

The SPARTACUS Gay Travel Index is updated annually to inform travelers about the situation of LGBT people in 197 countries and regions.

Canada continues to rank as an LGBT-friendly travel country.
Photo by mwangi gatheca from Unsplash.com

One of this year’s rising stars is India. This is largely thanks to the decriminalization of homosexuality and an improved social climate; the country rose from 104th to 57th place.

In 2018 the criminalization of homosexual acts was abolished in Trinidad and Tobago and Angola as well.

With the legal recognition of same-sex marriage, Austria and Malta were also able to secure a place at the top of the SPARTACUS Gay Travel Index 2019.

However, the situation for LGBT travelers in Brazil, Germany and the US has worsened. According to SPARTACUS Gay Travel Index 2019, in both Brazil and the US, the right-wing conservative governments introduced initiatives to revoke LGBT rights achieved in the past. These actions led to an increase in homophobic and transphobic violence. There has also been an increase in violence against LGBT people in Germany, and inadequate modern legislation to protect transgender and intersex persons, as well as the lack of any action plan against homophobic violence caused Germany to drop from 3rd to 23rd place.

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Countries such as Thailand, Taiwan, Japan and Switzerland are under special observation because situations in these countries are expected to improve in 2019 as a result of the discussions on the introduction of legislation to legalize same-sex marriage. Thailand already moved up 20 places to rank 47 thanks to a campaign against homophobia and the introduction of laws to recognize same-sex civil partnerships. The country already announced introduction of same-sex marriage laws could make it one of the most LGBT-friendly travel destinations in Asia.

In Latin America, the decision by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR/CIDH) to require nearly all Latin American countries to recognize same-sex marriage may have made news, but to date, same-sex marriage is legal only in Argentina, Colombia, Brazil, Uruguay and in some individual states of Mexico.

Some of the most dangerous countries for LGBT travelers in 2019 include Saudi Arabia, Iran, Somalia and the Chechen Republic in Russia.

Thanks to the decriminalization of homosexuality and an improved social climate, India rose from 104th to 57th place.
Photo by Tiago Rosado from Unsplash.com

The SPARTACUS Gay Travel Index is assembled using 14 criteria in three categories: civil rights (e.g. marriage equality); reported LGBT discrimination (e.g. travel restrictions for HIV positive people and the ban on Pride parades or other demonstrations); and threats to individuals by persecution, prison sentences or capital punishment. Evaluated sources include Human Rights Watch, UN ‘s “Free & Equal” campaign, and year-round information on human rights violations against members of the LGBT community.

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Travel

Bhutan moves to decriminalize homosexuality

The tiny Himalayan kingdom’s parliament became the world’s latest to decriminalize homosexuality.

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Photo by Moom22 from Pixabay.com

Rainbow rising in Bhutan, with the tiny Himalayan kingdom’s lower house of parliament, overwhelmingly voting to repeal two sections of the 2004 criminal code which made “unnatural sex” illegal.

While the law was never been used, Finance Minister Namgay Tshering, who submitted the recommendation to repeal sections 213 and 214 of the penal code, said they had become “a stain” on the country’s reputation.

Tshering said he is optimistic that the upper house in the nation of 750,000 people would back the lower house decision.

Speaking to Reuters, Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at New York-based Human Rights Watch, was quoted as saying: “Taking steps to end the criminalization of same-sex relationships is a welcome and progressive step by Bhutan.”

The bill now needs to be passed by Bhutan parliament’s upper chamber before being sent for royal assent.

If this amendment passes, 69 countries remain worldwide where same-sex relations are illegal.

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Travel

3 Ways Boracay is (still somewhat) LGBTQIA-okay…

Over a year since the announcement of the “closure” of Boracay, how’s this tropical paradise in Malay, Aklan, particularly as far as being LGBTQIA-friendly is concerned?

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When Boracay Island was “closed” for rehab last April 2018, it was – in many ways – already a somewhat gay place – e.g. the extremely profit-oriented (and apparently environmentally not-so-friendly) LaBoracay may have been known as a “party time” for everyone marking Labor Day in Boracay; but it was overwhelmingly LGBTQIA-led and driven…

Now, over a year since the announcement of that “closure”, how’s this tropical paradise in Malay, Aklan, particularly as far as being LGBTQIA-friendly is concerned?

Following a visit, here are three signs that the place remains… somewhat gay-okay…

1. The locals are starting to organize.

There have been attempts in the past to formally organize the local LGBTQIA community; but the more recent efforts have been more well-defined (and shall we say more “formalized” and have been gaining more traction, particularly online). For instance, Malay local Aloha Filipino recently attempted to gather members of the LGBTQIA community to formally organize them (the initial attempt leading to – as expected – the stereotypical LGBT-led and -participated beauty pageant).

Organizing is important, obviously, with the local LGBTQIA community encountering issues very specific to them – e.g. sex work on the island, and the risks that accompany the profession.

But organizing isn’t without challenges, and at times, a challenge comes from the supposed supporter/s of the organizing – e.g. there are supposedly local officials who want this organizing to happen so they can then profile the members; and – if crimes involving LGBTQIA people are committed – then they know where to get the information about these LGBTQIA people. Former Quezon City mayor Herbert Bautista’s ill-conceived profiling of LGBTQIA people comes to mind…

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All the same, though, that the thought of organizing even entered the minds of the locals is a plus already.

2. Gay expression abounds… along the shoreline.

No, I didn’t notice bars openly refusing LGBTQIA community members (particularly trans) from entering their premises this time around. But this may be because there aren’t as many rowdy bars in Boracay anymore – those late night partying still happen for sure, but… they aren’t as rowdy as they used to be even in the truly rowdy bars in the past.

Let me say this, then: When in Boracay, and if/when looking to score, head to the shore. That’s where the “action” happens.

3. Tolerance (though maybe not acceptance) is more “defined”.

There’s a story that’s been making the rounds in Boracay: A trans sex worker allegedly stabbed a Chinese client for shortchanging her (i.e. not paying her the agreed-upon amount). This is – according to a local source of Outrage Magazine – why local officials want to profile the LGBTQIA people here; so that if something like this happens again, then they know where to go to capture a suspect.

Despite this occurrence (or perhaps because of it?), sex work involving (particularly) trans women has been “normalized” on the island now, according to the same source. It is “tolerated”, and “acknowledged” to exist, so “they are just left to do what they do”.

Yes, yes, yes… I know that I’ve focused ONLY on the tolerance of sex work, which is not the same as tolerance of LGBTQIA people at all (!). But bear with me when I specifically mention the above because – in the past – female sex workers were tolerated (I’d say even encouraged by some venues that saw this as a come-on for tourists) while trans sex workers were barred in these same venues.

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Beyond this, though, LGBTQIA faces (particularly gay and trans) are becoming more common in Boracay as a whole – e.g. as vendors/salespeople (akin to Divisoria, if I may say so); as staff of accommodations; and even as government officials (such as our local contact).

The place still has a long, long, LONG way to go to actually openly promote LGBTQIA human rights. But this is Boracay, after all; where every sunset is beautiful not just to end the day, but to mark what surprises still lie ahead/tomorrow. So come visit and expect (if not wait) to be surprised…

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Travel

Kenya’s High Court backs prohibiting same-sex sexual activity

Kenya’s High Court ruled to maintain Sections 162 and 165 of the penal code, relics of the colonial era, which prohibit same-sex sexual activity or “carnal knowledge against the order of nature”, and prescribe a jail sentence of up to 14 years for those found guilty.

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Kenya’s High Court ruled to maintain Sections 162 and 165 of the penal code, relics of the colonial era, which prohibit same-sex sexual activity or “carnal knowledge against the order of nature”, and prescribe a jail sentence of up to 14 years for those found guilty.

The key argument centered around the fundamental importance of family, as defined by marriage between people of the opposite sex, and argued that decriminalization of same-sex activity would lead to same-sex marriage.

The case challenging this law was initiated in Nairobi by the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC), the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK), and the Nyanza, Rift Valley and Western Kenya Network (NYARWEK). With other partners, they argued that the laws stand in breach of the assurance of protection from discrimination and the right to human dignity and privacy for all prescribed in the country’s constitution.

But in a ruling that lasted almost two hours and quoted both international case law and national provisions protecting the family, culture and religion, Justice Aburili, Justice Mativo and Justice Mwita stated that the contested provisions do not target a specific group of people, but rather “any person”, and therefore cannot be considered discriminatory. Furthermore, the judges argued that Sections 162 and Sections 165 do not violate the right to dignity or privacy of LGBTIQ individuals. Ultimately the petition to declare these colonial-era laws unconstitutional was dismissed on the grounds that “decriminalizing same-sex sex would contradict the provisions of article 45 sub-article 2”, which defines marriage as between persons of the opposite sex and “would indirectly open the door to same-sex unions” which “would be against values of the constitution”.

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“The continued existence of these long outdated laws gives a green light for harassment and discrimination of LGBTQ people. The ruling issued today is a horrific reminder of this. It establishes once again that LGBTQ people in Kenya are not only second-class citizens, but even criminals, merely for loving whom we love. We are extremely disappointed with the ruling today, but it will not stop us from continuing our struggle for recognition, tolerance, and respect, because #WeAreAllKenyans and #LoveIsHuman,” said Njeri Gateru, NGLHRC’s Executive Director.

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Travel

In first for Asia, Taiwan parliament legalizes same-sex unions

Taiwan became the first place in Asia to legalize marriage equality, as it passed a bill that allows same-sex couples to form “exclusive permanent unions” and another clause that would let them apply for a “marriage registration” with government agencies.

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All photos taken during Taiwan's Pride parade in 2015

Taiwan became the first place in Asia to legalize marriage equality, as it passed a bill – by 66 votes to 27 – that allows same-sex couples to form “exclusive permanent unions” and another clause that would let them apply for a “marriage registration” with government agencies.

In 2017, Taiwan’s top court ruled that not allowing same-sex couples to marry violates the constitution, with judges at that time giving the government until May 24, 2019 to make the changes or see marriage equality enacted automatically.

The law, however, only: 1. allows same-sex marriages between Taiwanese, or 2. with foreigners whose countries recognize same-sex marriage. It also permits adoption of children biologically related to at least one of the same-sex pair.

But while this development is monumental, there are members of Taiwan’s LGBTQIA community – much like in Western countries where marriage equality has also already been legalized – are also lamenting the over-emphasis on same-sex marriage as a seeming “end-all issue”.

In 2015, for instance, during Taiwan’s Pride, some members of Taiwan’s LGBTQIA community lamented the “hijacking” of an LGBTQI event because of the lack of opportunity to highlight “non-mainstream LGBTQI issues.”

LGBTQIA activist 徐豪謙, for instance, noted at that time that “people only talk about the politically correct and popular issue of same-sex marriage, as if we don’t have other issues to face.”

In other parts of Asia, only Vietnam decriminalized gay marriage celebrations in 2015, even if it stopped short of giving full legal recognition for same-sex unions.

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In the Philippines, various government officials – including Pres. Rodrigo Duterte – have expressed support for civil unions, not marriage equality per se. To date, however, even the anti-discrimination bill is failing to gain traction in Congress, and is still stalled after almost 20 years.

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Travel

What you need to know in planning for a getaway

Staying near the action will help you get the most out of the getaway. That might be a campsite or a cabin in the outdoors, a condo on the sea beach, or just a resort in the near vicinity of the city’s must-see points of interest.

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A getaway can be the ideal opportunity for any individual to unwind far from the hustles and bustles of the hectic city life. However, it requires some doing while planning for the getaway and one needs to be meticulous while doing so.

In the following paragraphs, we mention some essential tips that will aid you to plan for the getaway in the best possible way.

1. Pick an interesting destination

In case you adore the water, it will be sensible for you to spend some time basking on the sea beach, going for a picnic near the lake in your locality, or kayaking down the river. Maybe you prefer exploring the streets in your city or wandering through the wilderness. Although the getaway might not take you far away from your abode, it will be a sensible idea to follow your interests which will provide you with a memorable time out there. In case you want to organize a getaway cruise for you as well as your companions, it will be imperative to make a decision on the size of the ship which you’d like to go on. You’ll come across lots of articles on the Internet which will provide you with genuine and authentic info. Feel free to browse them and take your time for research till you find a cruise which is reasonably affordable as well as comfy too.

2. Take into consideration your accommodation

Staying near the action will help you get the most out of the getaway. That might be a campsite or a cabin in the outdoors, a condo on the sea beach, or just a resort in the near vicinity of the city’s must-see points of interest. Whatever accommodation you pick, loitering nearby will allow you to enjoy your time to the fullest.

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3. Venture out with a partner

Traveling solo has its own advantages, but a getaway at the weekend can be enjoyed much better while you are with a partner. A good company will allow you to share your feelings and he or she can likewise come of help to you in case you are in need.

4. Pack light

In case you are going for a two or three-day trip, there is no need for you to pack many items whatsoever. Simply take one casual outfit for the day and another one for the evening and perhaps an additional set of apparel will do just fine. Look for any transitional piece such as jeans which can be combined with a casual T-shirt while you’re venturing out at the daytime and a trendy jacket for the evening. In case you are planning to do lots of walking, make it a point to take with you a pair of sneakers as well. There is no need to carry any extra items like shampoo, lotion, or conditioner given that you’ll find them in the hotel where you will be staying.

5. Pack some snacks

It hardly matters whether you are driving, flying, biking, or hiking, it would be a sensible idea to bring some mouth-watering snacks along with you. Eating these treats every couple of hours will boost your energy and will likewise motivate you to have a nice time along with your companions. It will likewise help you save your cash by keeping you away from expensive and unhealthy airplane or gas station foods.

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One of the best ways to plan for your weekend will be to design the outline of the trip on your laptop or PC. You may likewise discuss with your friends and family members regarding some essential aspects like the ones mentioned above. Preparing yourself in advance will save you from lots of unexpected problems afterward.

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Brunei halts death penalty for gay sex after massive outcry

Brunei backtracked on enforcing laws introduced last month that would have made sex between men (along with adultery) punishable by stoning to death.

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Photo by vyngor from Pixabay.com

Brunei – a small Southeast Asian country – backtracked on enforcing laws introduced last month that would have made sex between men (along with adultery) punishable by stoning to death.

Last month, Brunei rolled out a strict new interpretation of Islamic laws, or Sharia (first introduced in 2014, giving it a dual legal system with both Sharia and Common Law). The first phase covered crimes punishable by prison sentences and fines; and – on April 3 – the second phase covered crimes punishable by amputation and stoning. For the latter, offenses such as rape, adultery, sodomy, robbery and insult or defamation of the Prophet Muhammad carry the maximum penalty of death; lesbian sex carries a different penalty of 40 strokes of the cane and/or a maximum of 10 years in jail; theft merits amputation; and those who “persuade, tell or encourage” Muslim children under the age of 18 “to accept the teachings of religions other than Islam” are liable to a fine or jail.

But Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah extended a moratorium on the death penalty to cover the new legislation; with the reconsideration following global outcry over the laws. In a speech, the sultan said he was aware there had been “many questions and misperceptions” regarding the implementation of the legislation, called Syariah Penal Code Order (SPCO). “As evident for more than two decades, we have practiced a de facto moratorium on the execution of death penalty for cases under the common law. This will also be applied to cases under the SPCO which provides a wider scope for remission.”

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Death penalty is legal in Brunei, albeit no executions have been carried out in the country since 1957.

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