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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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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.

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.

Travel

New Zealand, Britain ease rules on blood donations by gay, bi men

New Zealand and Britain eased the rules on blood donations by gay and bisexual men, and men who have sex with men (MSM), as both countries continue to face supply issues brought about by Covid-19. This development follows the June 2020 move of the American Red Cross to change its restrictions on blood donations.

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Getting rid of a discriminatory practice… albeit somewhat slowly.

New Zealand and Britain eased the rules on blood donations by gay and bisexual men, and men who have sex with men (MSM), as both countries continue to face supply issues brought about by Covid-19. This development follows the June 2020 move of the American Red Cross to change its restrictions on blood donations from gay and bisexual men, and other MSM, also because of supply issues. Australia also said it would follow suit, though the change will not apply until January 31, 2021.

The antiquated, yet still current practice is to ban MSM from donating blood within 12 months of having sex with another man. But starting June 8, the wait time will be cut to three months.

Just to emphasize: In all the countries where changes were introduced, though, it is not a pro-LGBTQIA move; instead, there’s severe shortage of blood donations in due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Particular to New Zealand, the government cut the celibacy period from a year to three months, regardless of whether they had used condoms, the New Zealand Blood Service said on its website.

Meanwhile, in Britain – which previously had a three-month deferral period – a behavior-based policy will now be used. This means that anyone — gay or straight — who has had anal sex with multiple partners or a new partner will not be able to donate blood.

The antiquated restrictions on gay and bi men donating blood was imposed by many countries at the height of the HIV and AIDS pandemic in the 1980s.

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Lifestyle & Culture

Relaxing weekend activities to try

If you want to shake off some stress, here are some safe and relaxing weekend activities you should try.

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Staying at home for an extended period can cause many individuals to start feeling cabin fever or quarantine fatigue. Days can become so dull that many people crave to engage in different activities to serve as an outlet for their frustrations.

If you want to shake off some stress, here are some safe and relaxing weekend activities you should try.

Go Camping

Nowadays, it is no longer advisable to spend your day at the beach, as it can get too crowded for social distancing to be possible. For camping, campgrounds have more control over how many campers they can allow to pitch tents and park RVs. If this is your first time going camping, it would be best to do some research on how to survive a weekend in the great outdoors. Sites like outdoorcommand.com have several tips that you can use to prepare for your upcoming trip. 

Drive Around

If your area does not have restrictions on local travel, you can choose to drive around your town to appreciate your neighborhood a bit more. It can be an excellent way to get to know your locality, including areas you haven’t visited yet. Before you know it, you’ll discover sites that would soon become your favorite spot when everything goes back to normal. You can also choose to head out to the countryside

Take a Hike

Aside from camping, another activity that you can do during the weekend would be hiking. Choose a time when there aren’t too many people exploring the area. This way, you can enjoy the view without having to worry about being too close to others. Surrounding yourself with nature can also help boost the immune system, helping you fight off infections better. 

Pick Up a New Hobby

If your weekdays are filled with work duties, you can set aside your weekends for enjoying a hobby. Know what you are passionate about and give it all your energy once work is over. This way, you can have a work-life balance that allows you to destress. 

Do Yoga

One activity that you can squeeze into your busy days would be yoga. Not only will it help you relax, but it will also improve your overall health and wellness. It can be an excellent way to destress and let go of negative vibes. Make sure to stick to poses that are most suitable for you, and gradually increase the range of motion to improve your flexibility. 

Learn a New Recipe

If you aren’t happy with the food that you’ve eaten over the past few months, it will be best to learn a new recipe during the weekend. You can try to experiment and create your own version of a dish. If you feel confident in your cooking, you can send some to your friends and family. Who knows, you may even start a food business with it. 

Start a New Movie or TV Series

The movie and TV industry is always providing great value in entertaining people. The internet also became a good source of new platforms to watch movies and TV shows with various genres. You can even reminisce about your yesteryears with some old movies and series you used to watch with your friends and family. Hulu and Netflix are some of the reliable platforms that can satisfy your cravings for entertainment.

Engaging in relaxing weekend activities can help you refocus on your goals in life. If you feel suffocated by staying at home, you can choose to go out and explore. However, you should always keep safety in mind. Bring essentials like sanitizers and weak your mask whenever possible.

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Travel

Bhutan parliament decriminalizes homosexuality

Both houses of Bhutan’s parliament approved a bill that legalizes gay sex, amending Sections 213 and 214 of the penal code that criminalized “unnatural sex”, which was widely interpreted as referring to homosexuality.

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Rainbow rises in Bhutan.

Both houses of Bhutan’s parliament approved a bill that legalizes gay sex, amending Sections 213 and 214 of the penal code that criminalized “unnatural sex”, which was widely interpreted as referring to homosexuality. With this development, the Himalayan kingdom becomes the latest Asian nation to take steps to ease restrictions on same-sex relationships.

In total, 63 of the 69 members of both houses of parliament voted in favor of amending the code to scrap the discriminatory provision. There were six members who were absent at the time of voting.

Worth noting: The changes still need to be approved by the King of Bhutan to become a law in the majority-Buddhist nation of 800,000 people.

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Travel

Norway outlaws hate speech against trans people

Norway’s parliament outlawed hate speech against transgender people, a move that expanded the country’s penal code which has already been protecting gay and lesbian people since 1981.

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Pro-LGBTQIA development.

Norway’s parliament outlawed hate speech against transgender people, a move that expanded the country’s penal code which has already been protecting gay and lesbian people since 1981.

The country’s penal code’s amendments specifically outlawed discrimination based on “gender identity or gender expression”, while also changing “homosexual orientation” to “sexual orientation”. This means that bisexual as well as lesbian and gay people will be explicitly protected from discrimination.

Violators – if a judge decides their actions were motivated by someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity (SOGI) – can face a fine or up to a year in jail for private remarks, and a maximum of three years in jail for public comments.

Norway is actually one of the more liberal European countries, allowing trans people to legally change gender without a medical diagnosis since 2016.

As quoted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Norway’s Minister of Justice and Public Security Monica Maeland stated that trans people are “an exposed group when it comes to discrimination, harassment and violence”. As such, “it is imperative that the protection against discrimination offered by the criminal legislation is adapted to the practical situations that arise.”

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Travel

British High Court bans gender transitions for children

Children under the age of 16 are unlikely to give “informed consent” to take puberty blockers to begin their gender transition process, according to the British High Court.

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Children under the age of 16 are unlikely to give “informed consent” to take puberty blockers to begin their gender transition process. This is according to the British High Court via a landmark ruling.

The case decided by the court was filed against the Tavistock Centre, England’s only youth gender identity clinic, and Portman NHS Foundation Trust. A claimant, Keira Bell, was referred to Tavistock as a teenager (16). After three sessions with a psychologist, she was prescribed puberty blockers at 17; and at the age of 20, she had a double mastectomy.

She, however, said she later regretted the decision. As she started to “de-transitioned”, she sued
the government for allowing her to undergo the radical therapy, which she fears may have damaged her ability to have children. In her argument, she said that underage children cannot truly understand what they’re signing up for when they go through the life-changing therapy.

The three judges in the Bell v Tavistock case backed the complainant, ruling that children under the age of 16 wouldn’t be able to properly grasp the consequences of consenting to using puberty blockers.

“It is highly unlikely that a child aged 13 or under would be competent to give consent to the administration of puberty blockers,” the decision states. “It is doubtful that a child aged 14 or 15 could understand and weigh the long-term risks and consequences of the administration of puberty blockers.”

Even for children aged over 16, they argued it may be necessary to involve the courts.

“In respect of young persons aged 16 and over, the legal position is that there is a presumption that they have the ability to consent to medical treatment,” they further wrote. “Given the long-term consequences of the clinical interventions at issue in this case, and given that the treatment is as yet innovative and experimental, we recognize that clinicians may well regard these as cases where the authorization of the court should be sought prior to commencing the clinical treatment.”

In the past, British minors could consent if they were “Gillick competent”, i.e. when a child is considered mature and intelligent enough to give informed consent.

In response to the ruling, the Tavistock Centre said it was “disappointed” and planned to appeal. All the same, all referrals for under-16s have been stopped.

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Lifestyle & Culture

Common whales to see depending on the season

While many people think of whale watching as a seasonal activity reserved for warmer months, interesting and impressive species of whales can be seen in San Diego all year. If you are planning a trip, you should consider which species you would most like to see and book a tour during for when those species are most common.

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While many people think of whale watching as a seasonal activity reserved for warmer months, interesting and impressive species of whales can be seen in San Diego all year. If you are planning a trip, you should consider which species you would most like to see and book a tour during for when those species are most common.

Of course, some species are easier to spot than others. Those looking for the best humpback whale watching San Diego has to offer can find themselves satisfied all year. Blue whales, on the other hand, only migrate through San Diego from April to September.

All Year

Humpback whales are visible in San Diego all year round. Humpbacks are extremely popular with older tourists and children alike for their distinctive appearance. Dolphins are also common throughout the year, and what these brilliant creatures lack in size, they easily make up for in presentation. Dolphin pods love to breach the surface of the water, seemingly for the pure joy of doing flips and rolls for dazzled onlookers.

Summer

Summer is an excellent time for a San Diego whale watching tour. The peak season for blue whales, the largest creatures to have ever lived, is in June, so most times from May until August are good for blue whale sightings. Fin whales, the second largest species of whale, as well as minke whales are also most abundant during summer months. While you may have seen these species on nature documentaries, they have to be seen to be experienced properly. In person, you will be awed by their sheer size and power.

Fall

Humpback whales and rare species dominate fall months in San Diego. Though killer whales travel widely, their migrations take them through San Diego in late fall. Of course, there is plenty of other wildlife in the bay during fall, from seals to seabirds, and some tours have even spotted sharks swimming alongside whale watching vessels.

Winter

The gray whale, a species named for its coloration, is at its peak season in winter. Gray whales love to spout pillars of water into the air, and are highly social animals that often travel together with other cetaceans. February is known as one of the best months for a whale watching tour, as this is when an extremely high volume of gray whales pass through San Diego each year.

Spring

April is generally recognized as the last month for gray whale sightings. While various species can be spotted in early spring, the first blue whale sightings normally begin around May. Dolphin activity tends to ramp up in spring, resulting in awesome photos of playful pods and megapods.

If you are planning a trip to the San Diego area, you can find marine wildlife worth visiting throughout the year. Whether you’re booking a family whale watching tour, or you want to have your wedding reception on a boat San Diego waters have something for you.

Remember that, while no tour at any time of the year can guarantee that you will spot a specific type of whale, you are almost certain to see something interesting or learn something you didn’t know before when you book with a good company.

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