LGBTQ+ pride month, held annually between 1st June and 30th June, involves a host of events, parades and celebratory activities worldwide. But alongside the festivities, travellers should be aware of the potential for increased personal risk.
Pride month is a celebration of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pride, both intended to celebrate support of LGBTQ+ rights and culture while commemorating years of struggle for equal justice. In cities across the world, communities and organisations host parades, parties, concerts and many other events designed to honour the LGBTQ+ community. Despite the majority of events passing without incident, cultural sensitivities, religious condemnation and societal perceptions can lead to backlash toward members of the LGBTQ+ community.
LGBTQ+ travel risks: A global picture
As of May 2023, there are 64 countries where homosexuality is illegal, with nearly half in Africa. While numerous countries have decriminalised consensual same-sex activity in the past three years, including Singapore, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Angola, Botswana, Mozambique and Seychelles, other countries have moved in the opposite direction, with Gabon criminalising homosexuality in 2020 and Uganda and Nigeria tightening existing laws outlawing homosexuality. Some countries still apply severe punishments to those found guilty of homosexuality, including Brunei, Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and some states in Nigeria. The death penalty can still be applied in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Qatar, Somalia and the United Arab Emirates.
Although laws forbidding LGBTQ+ activity are not actively enforced in many countries, the absence of anti-discrimination laws exposes LGBTQ+ individuals to heightened risks. These risks encompass a wide range of discriminatory practices, spanning from being denied equal services to experiencing verbal and physical harassment. In some countries, although anti-discrimination legislation exists, local authorities fail at logging and investigating such crimes or may even act in a discriminatory way. State-sponsored homophobia can also appear in attacks by local authorities, such as entrapment through online dating applications or raids of LGBTQ+ friendly establishments.
Transgender individuals are particularly vulnerable to the lack of legal protections. In many countries, transgender legal status is not recognised and while several require transgender persons to undergo sex reassignment surgery before granting the right to a gender change; discrimination is more common in countries with constricted transgender legislation. Medications such as hormonal treatments, prosthetics and binders can be subject to questioning by local authorities, particularly during airport security checks. Immigration authorities may require transgender persons to identify with the gender listed in their travel documents rather than the gender they personally identify with.
Before deployment, employees and security managers should familiarise themselves with the existing legal frameworks and societal perceptions of LGBTQ+ issues and tailor security measures to the specific risks faced by LGBTQ+ employees in-country.
All travellers can reduce their risk profile during Pride month by:
- Familiarise yourself with the existing laws regarding the recognition of same-sex relations and transgender status before travelling. Online resources, including Equaldex and the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), may help security managers and employees to understand the legal context affecting LGBTQ+ members in their destination.
- Reconsider participating in Pride events in countries where they have historically led to unrest, have been banned, or where your legal status does not allow you to participate.
- Research the legal status and availability of your required medication before travelling, including hormone treatments, Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEp) and Post-exposure Prophylaxis (PEP). Also, ensure you travel with the necessary prescriptions if you suspect the medication may be subject to enhanced screenings.
- Make a judgement call before engaging in public displays of affection or disclosing your sexual orientation to untrusted individuals.
- Maintain a low profile on social media platforms and avoid sharing personal information, especially sensitive details such as your home and workplace locations, particularly if you are in countries with increased surveillance and entrapment risks. To protect your privacy, it is important to exercise discretion and limit the amount of personal information you reveal online.