There are a lot of places on our beautiful planet, where not so beautiful things happen on a daily basis. Seventy-two nations across the world actively discriminate against LGBT people by making homosexuality illegal, allowing gay people to be jailed and even sentenced to death just for being gay. Before you make travel plans, make sure you understand the risks of visiting these 10 countries.
Anti-gay sentiment is incredibly pervasive in this central African country with 97% of Nigerians saying homosexuality should be rejected by society. Nigeria has long had laws that criminalize gay sex, but President Goodluck Jonathan signed a law criminalizing same-sex unions and LGBT organizations in 2014 which has led to violent backlash, harassment, unemployment, and homelessness of LBGT Nigerians. In some states, gay people are actually executed for their sexual orientation.
Violence is common among LGBT people living in Mauritania, a West African nation that allows for gay men to be stoned to death and lesbian women to be jailed for their sexual orientation. LGBT people in Mauritania face violence daily and police may join in or turn a blind eye.
Pakistan’s legal system often wobbles between secular statutes and sharia law. While secular law in Pakistan allows for a 2-year prison sentence for any gay sex acts, the secular system is often supplanted by sharia law and tribal customs. In fact, a serial killer was recently celebrated by the media for killing three gay men after he had sex with them.
4. Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia does not recognize LGBT rights and it’s one of several countries where you can be executed for revealing that you’re gay.
A Saudi Arabian newspaper has even reported that prosecutors in the country are pushing for the enforcement of the death penalty for homosexuality because social media is leading to a rise in “abnormal behavior” and people becoming “increasingly bold” about their “abnormalities.”
In one case, a Saudi Arabian doctor was arrested for flying a rainbow flag at his home even though he was not aware the flag represents LGBT pride. He says he bought it online because his child liked the colors.
Sudan is one of the strictest nations in the world in its ban on homosexuality. Gay sex involving men or women is illegal and punishable by death in Sudan, but even being out in the West African nation can come with serious and potentially dangerous consequences.
Being gay in Sudan often means being ostracized, losing your job prospects, and the risk of being murdered by family members in an “honor killing.” In Sudanese culture, homosexuality is considered a “phenomenon,” a sin, and a psychological aberration.
While Afghanistan’s penal code does not outlaw homosexuality, it does allow recourse through sharia law, which prohibits all types of same-sex activity. Under sharia law in Afghanistan, gay sex can be punished with the death penalty, although there are no known death penalties enacted since the Taliban’s rule ended in 2001.
Until recently, consensual sex between men was also punished by the death penalty. While Iranian authorities usually turn a blind eye to the gay culture in Iran, LGBT people face ostracization, constant surveillance, and the risk of honor killings by other Iranians under sharia law.
According to Hossein Alizadeh of the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission, “the number one threat to gays and lesbians in Iran is the family” due to the risk of beatings, sexual assault, and honor killings by family. Still, the threat from criminal punishment exists in Iran under sharia law. In 2016, the Iranian regime executed a 19-year-old gay teenager after he was convicted of “forced male-to-male anal intercourse.”
Yemen’s Shari-ah legal system makes homosexuality illegal with punishments that range from beatings to death, making Yemen one of just 7 countries to apply the death penalty for consensual gay sex.
The government blocks all gay websites with an official position that there are no gay people in Yemen. Alaa Jarban, one of the first openly gay men in Yemen, has described the daily harassment, threats, and discrimination he has faced since coming out.
Conditions aren’t great for anyone in Somalia these days, but LGBT people face imprisonment, harassment, execution, and more under Somalia’s penal code. In addition to the country’s anti-gay law that allows for a 3-year prison sentence, the terror group Al-Shabaab exerts control over many parts of the country under its interpretation of sharia law.
The death penalty is used against people found guilty of consensual gay sex. In 2016, a young Somali women’s rights activist was sentenced to death for being a lesbian, although she managed to flee her country.
Cross Azerbeijan off your travel list. The post-Soviet state of Azerbeijan topped ILGA’s Rainbow Europe list of worst countries to be gay in Europe in its annual review based on gross human rights violations and discrimination.
While the country was forced to abolish its law criminalizing homosexuality in 2001, the picture is still bleak with harassment, discrimination, and threats a part of daily life for LGBT Azeris.