LGBT Around the World: Not Everyone is Tolerant
With the gay rights movement making huge progress in recent years — including a U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states — it’s easy to forget that there are places in this world that have significant culture, religious, or, even legal, intolerance for homosexuality.
There are locations around the world where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people can be arrested, incarcerated, or even sentenced to death. In other countries, such as India and Jamaica, homosexuality isn’t illegal, but gay people can be subject to bias and violence by intolerant people.
Organizations of all shapes and sizes, including humanitarian aid organizations, in countries that are embracing the LGBT movement need to keep their employees informed as to cultures and laws in intolerant countries. Treating employees fairly means giving people assignments they are qualified for and can do best at, but unfortunately that also means employees need to understand the bias and laws that exist in those countries. This is an element of the duty of care that employers must demonstrate to protect the health and wellbeing of employees and ignoring it could result in an organization being liable if a discriminatory action occurs.
Therefore, it’s important for companies to establish safety precautions for LGBT employees who will be traveling to different countries as part of their work.
Learn the Laws
One resource your LGBT employees should become familiar with is the International lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex association (www.ilga.org), which is a worldwide federation of 1,100 organizations working for LGBT rights, with organizations from more than 100 countries.
The ILGA’s website home page features a map highlighting countries that are intolerant to the LGBT community. It also has a drop-down menu where users can chose a certain type of relationship —for example, male-male or female-female — and learn which countries are bias against the relationship, along with information about potential punishments.
There are places where same-sex relationships are legal, but open displays of that relationship are not tolerated.
Some of the most dangerous countries for the LGBT community include Saudi Arabia, which does not recognize homosexual rights. Being gay and/or transgender are considered immoral in Saudi Arabia, and there are laws punishing homosexuality and cross dressing. Potential penalties include fines, corporal punishment, flogging and even death.
In Iran, homosexuality is subject to imprisonment, corporal punishment or death. Gay men reportedly are punished more often than lesbians. Iran claims it does not execute people for being gay, and that the gay people who have been executed were punished for other crimes.
Being transgender in Iran is legal if a person has undergone a sex change operation. In fact, the country performs more sex-change operations than any other country.
Yemen’s Shari’ah laws declare homosexuality illegal, with LGBT individuals subject to discrimination and arrest. The country’s 1994 penal code declares married men can be stoned to death for having homosexual intercourse, while unmarried men can be whipped or sentenced to a year in prison. Women who engage in lesbian sex can be sentenced to seven years in prison. The government also blocks gay and lesbian websites.
Much of Africa remains dangerous for LGBT individuals, especially Sudan, where individuals who break the country’s sodomy law three times are subject to the death penalty, while first and second offenders can be flogged or imprisoned. Under Uganda’s “Anti-Homosexual Act” of 2014, homosexuals can be sentence to life imprisonment.
LGBT employees should do some research at the U.S. State Department’s Country Specific Information (www.travel.state.gov) website before traveling. Each page informs people as to what paperwork they need to enter a country. The State Department also suggests that LGBT travelers carry custody papers for children traveling with them. Employees who have undergone gender reassignment need to review I.D. requirements for each country.
Just like with any other risk type, the organization should have a plan in case an employee encounters a difficult situation while traveling. Consider how you should react if an employee was the victim of a hate crime, or if employees received hostile treatment in a country.
As part of the plan, your organization should set up a company contact for LGBT travelers to call if they run into trouble. LGTB travelers also should be aware of resources, such as travel-risk management firms, which can be contacted in an emergency.
Each nation’s U.S. Embassy has an American Citizens Services. Travelers should have the contact information for U.S. Embassies when traveling. The State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program allows all travelers to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. The program provides free information about the country employees are traveling to, and helps the embassy contact them in case of an emergency. It also helps families and friends get in touch if there’s a problem.
Employees can also find lots of helpful information for their business travels from Clements Worldwide’s Risk Assessment Country Guides, which will help educate people about some of the biggest risks of traveling internationally. .