A lot of factors come into play when planning a vacation: where to go, where to stay, what to do, where to eat, how to get there, cost, weather, and much more, but human rights and more specifically lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer rights? … That’s a low priority, according to a recent United Kingdom survey.
The rights of the residents who UK travelers encounter at the destination of their choice in question rated low, very low, like a 7 percent low, in a recent survey conducted by YouGov that was commissioned by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance.
This is why the alliance has launched “Paradise or Persecution,” petition campaign to raise awareness for travelers and leaders of Commonwealth countries.
“LGBT people are disproportionately affected by HIV and, in countries where LGBT people are criminalized, they are often driven away from HIV services fearing persecution,” says Karen Johnson, global campaign co-coordinator at the International HIV/AIDS Alliance. “It is important that we raise public awareness of the scale of the problem, not only because it is a moral imperative, also because of the impact that criminalization has on people’s access to HIV services.”
Out of the LGBTQ people the organization reached, 80 percent were criminalized in their countries, she says.
“It will be impossible to end AIDS until all people – regardless of their identity or sexuality – can get access to health services and treatment.”
Tourism is a big part of that, especially when travelers interact with local LGBTQ communities at their vacation destinations.
Inspired by the Open For Business, a coalition of UK and United States businesses banning together for LGBTQ rights globally, the British HIV/AIDS organization, which is a member of the coalition, commissioned the its own survey of UK travelers. The survey quizzed UK travelers on the state of LGBTQ rights at popular destinations that also have severe anti-gay laws.
The alliance’s survey findings countered the coalition’s findings published in September announcing the launch of the coalition. The coalition found that 51 percent of UK and U.S. travelers would be “unlikely” to go on vacation to a country that has anti-gay laws, published September 29, according to the Open For Business news release the same day. However, the alliance found that out of 1,595 UK travelers questioned they valued the cost of visiting a destination (57 percent) and the quality of the hotels and accommodation (42 percent) far above the destination country’s human rights record, especially related to local LGBTQ communities, according to the results published November 6.
Instead of more than half of respondents stating they would in effect boycott an estimated 80 countries around the world that impose anti-LGBT laws, more than half of UK travelers stated they would still vacation in a country that criminalizes homosexuality, according to the alliance’s news release on Friday. Furthermore, the survey found that 96 percent of UK vacationers didn’t know how many countries criminalize homosexuality and 97 percent didn’t know that more than half of the countries were Commonwealths of the UK.
There are 54 Commonwealth countries. Currently 41 of those countries have anti-gay laws on the books and 60 percent of all people living with HIV live in the Commonwealth countries, according to the release.
Among the popular destinations highlighted in the report and used as an example, Barbados has the “harshest anti-gay laws in the Western hemisphere” and 80 percent of Morocco’s population has negative views about LGBTQ people, according to the release.
In Morocco, women and men face jail time for “lewd or unnatural acts,” according to multiple media reports. Human Rights Watch has documented a pattern of courts violating people’s right to a fair trail by relying on confessions to convict defendants and failing to properly investigate whether statements have been coerced or falsified, according to the release.
When Anti-LGBTQ Leaders Become Visitors
However, when the coin was flipped, nearly half (44 percent) also supported a ban on leaders of countries that criminalize LGBTQ people from visiting the UK, a similar ban American’s support. At the same time, 63 percent of Brits believed that same-sex activity was a fundamental human right, and should not to be decided by governments.
The alliance plans to present the petition to Commonwealth leaders at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting on November 27-29 in Malta.
To sign the petition, visit aidsalliance.org/stopthepersecution.