The good and bad

These are the safest and the most dangerous countries for LGBTQ visitors in 2020

Men celebrating midsummer in Sweden
Celebrating midsummer in Sweden (Photo: Stefan Berg/

A new ranking has been compiled of the best and worst countries for gay and trans visitors. Travel bloggers Asher & Lyric compiled their ‘Danger Index’ of 150 countries, with help from student researcher Stefanie Maraizu. 

The index represents the 150 countries that receive the greatest number of visitors from other countries. 

Asher & Lyric looked at whether countries offered same-sex marriage, whether gay sex was illegal, had specific propaganda or morality laws, and other legislation. They also looked at whether countries were ranked as “good places to live” in general. 

They allocated a score based on these different factors and then assembled the list into an index based on the scores. 

The country that comes out as the safest is Sweden in Europe. The top 20 is as follows:

1. Sweden

2. Canada

3. Norway

4. Portugal

5. Belgium

6. United Kingdom

7. Finland

8. France

9. Iceland

10. Spain

11. Malta

12. New Zealand

13. Netherlands

14. Denmark

15. South Africa

16. Ireland

17. Australia

18. Uruguay

19. Colombia

20. Austria

Christina Guggenberger, of Stockholm LGBT, told Gay Cities, “In Sweden, homosexuality was decriminalized 75 years ago. It’s often said we’ve been gay since 1944! Couple that with 10 years of equal marriage and many other forward-thinking laws that protect minorities and ways of life, it’s easy to see that Swedes are open-minded and people-first.” 

It might surprise some that the US only comes out at 24th on the index. In a statement, the authors said, “One reason for that is, of course, that there is a great deal of variation in gay rights depending on the state you’re in. 

“There are also no constitutional or broad protections for LGBTQ+ rights under federal law in the U.S. Also, in some states, LGBTQ+ youth do not have access to helpful information, with these so-called ‘no-promo homo’ laws counting in the “propaganda/morality” category. The U.S. might have come far, but it has a long way to go in terms of LGBTQ+ rights, especially for young transgender people.”

Related: 5 places to avoid when planning a vacation (and some great alternatives)

At the other end of the scale, the following countries were deemed the most dangerous or riskiest for LGBTQ visitors. Nigeria was considered the most dangerous. The country threatens those found guilty of having gay sex with 14 years in prison.

1. Nigeria

2. Qatar

3. Yemen

4. Saudi Arabia

5. Tanzania

6. Iran

7. Sudan

8. Barbados

9. Malaysia

10. Malawi

11. Zambia

12. Saint Lucia

13. Uganda

14. Pakistan

15. West Bank and Gaza

16. Kenya

17. Maldives

18. Jamaica

19. Ethiopia

20. Egypt

Nigeria is the biggest country in Africa by population and has the largest economy on the continent. This is boosted in part by tourism, including safaris. 

Saudi Arabia has until now not generated much revenue through tourism, but it announced in September that it was easing its tourism visa restrictions. Since that time, it has welcomed 50,000 tourists in the first couple of months. Homosexual activity is strictly prohibited in the country. 

“Knowing the fact the just two years ago women were not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, I would caution the LGBTQ community,” Stefanie Maraizu tells Gay Cities. “Saudi Arabia is moving forward to make things better, but for now, as the study suggests, remains a dangerous place to visit for the LGBTQ+ community.”

Malaysia recently made news when it sentenced five men to six-month prison sentences and caning for gay sex. It also fined two Vietnamese tourists for the same offenses, proving that visitors are not immune to prosecution. 

Of the countries rated among the most dangerous, Barbados and Jamaica earn a significant cut of their GDP through tourism – even if many visitors are unaware of how unwelcoming they are to those who are openly LGBTQ. 

Maraizu believes these Caribbeanean nations are sensitive to how they are perceived abroad and value their tourism revenue greatly. “That’s why there have been movements and campaigns recently in these places to increase awareness on this issue,” she says, expressing the hope things soon change for the better. 

You can read the full list of 150 countries here.

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