Travel with Pride: security considerations for organisations

Raquel Recuero
Senior Regional Security Coordinator

During Pride 2022, it is important that organisations continue to discuss best practice for LGBT travel security, and commit to ensuring their moral, and often legal, duty of care for their globally mobile employees.

Pride Month is observed worldwide in June to celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and aims to raise awareness, achieve equal opportunity and outlaw discriminatory laws and practices.

2022 has witnessed the resumption of mass events in most countries following the relaxation of COVID-19 curbs and restrictions on large gatherings. Pride parades are expected to be held in many urban centres across the globe. While these are usually celebratory events, pride events may be related to increased security risks in locations where societal and cultural attitudes towards the LGBT community remain intolerant.

Although progressive steps have been taken in some corners of the world, historically, homophobic groups and individuals have used Pride parades and celebrations to target and attack members of the LGBT community and allies. While some countries held pride parades for the first time in 2022, demonstrating an increased societal openness towards LGBT, elsewhere in 2021, the Tbilisi Pride in Georgia was cancelled amid violent protests against the event. The organisation also reported that far-right protesters wounded at least 20 activists and journalists who covered the event. In Poland, LGBT activists have reported that extreme-right groups have previously followed participants of Pride parades to their homes to gather their addresses to target them for future harassment. In Florida, local authorities enhanced the security presence at the Pride on the Block event after an online user threatened to carry out a mass shooting at the event.

In numerous countries, including Lebanon and Singapore, Pride celebrations aim to decriminalise homosexuality. As of June 2022, same-sex relations between men are still considered a crime in 69 countries. In some cases, the participation in Pride events is limited exclusively to citizens, and foreigners may be subject to prosecution should they take part in these events.

Organisations should provide appropriate risk assessment and mitigation advice for LGBT travellers

If employees are comfortable disclosing their sexual orientation and gender identity, these assessments should be bespoke and look at the specific risk profile of the individual traveller. This should include an assessment of the location and purpose of travel, as well as the prevailing legal, cultural, logistical and security risks they are likely to face.

However, many employees may not feel comfortable disclosing their sexual orientation and it is, therefore, important that organisations have accessible LGBT travel risk mitigation advice. This can include having LGBT travel resources available to everyone within the company, or offering access to a platform like Healix’s LGBT e-learning modules. This ensure that all members of your workforce can discreetly access information to keep themselves safe.

All travellers can reduce their risk profile during Pride month by:

  • Discuss all concerns with your employer. Organisations have a duty of care towards their employees sent on overseas deployments. If you feel comfortable doing so, have an open and honest discussion with your line manager or HR, raising any concerns you might have.
  • Do not participate in Pride events if local authorities have banned them or if your legal status in the country prohibits you from taking part in the event.
  • Familiarise yourself with potential counter-protesting activity and bypass areas where clashes may take place.
  • Be aware that gatherings often occur spontaneously and deteriorate at short notice. If you encounter a crowd of protesters, it is best to vacate the area immediately and return to secure office buildings or accommodation until the situation is contained.
  • If you are caught in the middle of a riot or unrest, move out of the crowd at right angles and find the nearest building to seek refuge. Avoid drawing attention to yourself by keeping your head down and avoiding confrontation.
  • Maintain a low profile on social media in countries where security forces may implement surveillance or baiting techniques to directly track and target LGBT communities. Keep drinks safe and in view when out at a bar or restaurant and remain alert to those around you exhibiting suspicious or threatening behaviour.

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