If you want to spend your vacation in a particularly tolerant, liberal country, you should travel to Malta this year. The island republic in the Mediterranean is the most gay-friendly travel destination in the world, followed by Canada and Switzerland. This is the result of the Gay Travel Index 2023, which was presented at the ITB in Berlin. Using a points system, the index sorts 202 countries and regions worldwide according to whether they are a recommended or dangerous travel destination for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT).
Germany ranks 9th, along with the UK, Iceland and Spain, up a notch compared to 2020 when the index was last released. Australia, New Zealand, Denmark and Portugal fare better, jointly ranked 4th, along with Uruguay, which is the only Latin American country at the top. Taiwan (13th) qualifies by far as the best Asian country.
At the bottom of the ranking are countries in which homosexuals are severely discriminated against and persecuted. In 15 countries that are wholly or partly Muslim, same-sex people are still threatened with the death penalty.
The list of criteria for the nation ranking includes 17 points, for example anti-discrimination laws, marriage for all, adoption rights, religious influence, persecution, murder rate, death penalty. The controversial "homo-healing" (conversion therapy), which is now legally prohibited in more and more countries, for example in Australia, Israel, Vietnam and since 2020 also in Germany, is also evaluated.
The Gay Travel Index not only serves as an orientation for planned trips for members of the LGBT community, "it is also a tool for heterosexual vacationers to consciously choose a country with high moral standards," says Christian Knuth, at the Spartacus Media group responsible for the Gay Travel Index, told WELT AM SONNTAG.
Conversely, this means making a conscious decision not to vacation in a poorly rated country. These include, for example, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar (both ranked 191), which are popular with tourists, where the death penalty still officially applies, but it is no longer practiced.
"Gay hostility is still a very big problem," says Frederik Schindler about the increased attacks on queer people in Berlin. Here the WELT editor explains who the perpetrators are and how such acts can be contained. The protection and support of queer people is very important to the Axel Springer Group.
According to the Gay Travel Index, the most dangerous countries for homosexuals include Saudi Arabia (which has been massively courting Western travelers since 2019), Iran, Somalia and Afghanistan, where those affected are massively persecuted and executed. These states are collectively at the bottom of the ranking (199th place). The Russian republic of Chechnya also appears there, where homosexuals are also executed.
In the rest of Russia, the death penalty for same-sex sex does not apply, but the country still performs poorly with rank 177: Here "propaganda" for same-sex is already punishable, society and the Russian Orthodox Church are openly homophobic, and assaults are common Agenda.
Other European countries that perform poorly in the Gay Travel Index are Belarus (ranked 141), Poland (133) and Vatican City (121). Other Catholic countries such as Portugal (4th place), Austria (13th) or Ireland (17th) achieve significantly better rankings.
The index also considers some important tourist countries such as Egypt (191st place), Tanzania, Morocco and Jamaica (177th place together) to be difficult travel destinations – here homosexuals not only have to reckon with a hostile mood, but also with prison.
Indonesia has deteriorated significantly, which, among other things, gets three minus points compared to 2020 due to a new, fundamentalist-influenced criminal law and has slipped from place 117 to 159. "Anyone who likes to travel to Bali, after all one of the most popular long-distance destinations, has been visiting a country since this year where sex before marriage is just as punishable as sex with the same sex in general," warns Knuth, vacationers to be aware of.”
The Indonesian province of Aceh on the island of Sumatra is even more miserable (ranked 177th) – a strict form of Islamic Sharia has been in force here since 2004, and homosexuals in the region are sometimes publicly beaten with sticks.
In the international ranking, the USA comes in at the top of the field at number 35. However, the situation varies greatly from state to state. The Gay Travel Index sees a rift running across the country, so an additional state index was created. There, California ranks first, along with Colorado, New York and Washington State.
The worst results came from Tennessee (50th) and Oklahoma (51st). “What began with anti-trans laws and campaigns has culminated in the post-Trump era in harsh censorship,” says Knuth. “Particularly in schools in a growing number of Republican-governed states, it is forbidden to teach or even talk about sexual orientation or gender identity. Travelers should at least know that.”