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Travel destinations with surprisingly bad LGBT rights

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For many people, the excitement of deciding your next travel destination can begin with the spin of a globe, but for the LGBT community, a much more careful approach needs to be taken.

Gay and trans people are all too aware that, sadly, there are several parts of the world where they risk feeling unwelcome, unaccepted or even unsafe. But there are also some seemingly forward thinking destinations where the lack of LGBT visibility and rights comes as something of a shock.

Of course, people should check travel advice before they jet off anywhere but here, to mark LGBT History Month, we’ve picked out some international locations you might not expect to still have a fair way to go when it comes to equality.

Australia

Australia’s one of those proper bucket list destinations for soaking up the sun and all the tourist delights on offer. It’s also seen by many as a pretty progressive nation – up until it comes to LGBT rights.

In every state (except the Australian Capital Territory) transgender people have to undergo reassignment surgery before they can officially change their birth certificate – something that’s costly, invasive and not seen by all trans people as fundamental or essential to defining who they are. Also, if a trans person decides to marry prior to transitioning they can’t legally change their documented sex – ridiculously, they’d have to get divorced first.

Oh and of course, marriage is illegal for same-sex couples across the whole country, with the PM’s plans to hold a national vote on the topic last year blocked by opposition MPs.

Italy

Italy has been described in the past as being a “cultural superpower”, where just saying the country’s name can conjure up vivid and impressive imagery of its culture – sipping cappuccinos in coffee shops, dining al fresco in beautiful settings, enjoying fine wines and, of course, pizza.

The side of its culture you probably don’t think so much about is the streets filled with activists carrying #WakeUpItaly banners protesting for traditional Italian attitudes towards family.

Derogatory comments were made by Guido Barilla, the owner of the huge pasta company, who said he’d never use a homosexual family in one of his adverts. More bizarrely came the comments from openly gay men Dolce and Gabbana who opposed gay adoption and insulted children born through IVF, calling them ‘synthetic’.

Alongside these views are big blanks in the law, with there being absolutely no hate speech and hate crime laws in force at all – a proposal for a homophobic hate-crime law has been sitting on the dusty court shelf since 2009.

Latvia

For an alternative, cheap and considerably less ‘touristy’ city break, some people might consider catching a short flight to Latvia’s capital city Riga. It’s got Baroque buildings, picturesque parks and in more recent times has even tried to market itself towards the LGBT traveller with bars and clubs described as ‘gay friendly’.

However, what bursts this bubble is learning that the country doesn’t recognise same-sex marriage, nor any form of same-sex partnership at all. In fact, back in 2006, the country defied the EU and changed the wording of the constitution to specify that marriage was between a man and woman to make sure same-sex marriage couldn’t be made legal.

And according to one survey, just 42% of Latvians surveyed agreed that LGBT people should have the same rights as straight people – way below the European average of 71%.

Jamaica

This sunny Caribbean island is synonymous with the phrase ‘One Love’ – it’s talked about, sung about and is basically an expression of unity hoping for peace and respect for all.

But that sits kinda contradictory with the nation’s laws on homosexuality, especially towards gay men. Sodomy is illegal in Jamaica with the possible sentence of either maximum 10 years in prison or hard labour. Even holding hands with someone of the same sex can result in arrest.

And violence against the LGBT community is so high in the country, it’s earned the undesirable title of ‘the most homophobic place on earth’ by some campaign groups.

But when then-US President Barack Obama visited a university in Kingston in 2015, he made it pretty clear that he thinks young people have what it takes to create a more progressive nation in the future.

He said: “You’re more eager for progress that comes not by holding down any segment of society, but by holding up the rights of every human being, regardless of what we look like, or how we pray, or who we love. You care less about the world as it has been, and more about the world as it should be and can be.”

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