All travellers face risks overseas. Risks can be higher for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people in some destinations. It's your responsibility to get the facts first and take steps to reduce your risks.
Before you go
Choose a destination where you'll feel safe and comfortable being who you are. Think carefully about whether you're comfortable visiting a destination where you may face discrimination or harassment.
- Read the travel advice for the destinations you plan to visit. Subscribe for updates.
- Understand the laws and customs of where you're going. Stay within the law, even if you strongly disagree with it.
- Understand the overlapping risks you could face.
- Know how to reduce your risk. Be prepared for any issues you might face.
- Leave a detailed itinerary with someone at home. Plan to keep in regular contact.
Be aware of the local laws and customs
You're subject to all local laws and penalties in your destination. Some may appear harsh by Australian standards. Behaviour that's legal in Australia could be illegal in more conservative destinations.
Watch for laws that
- criminalise same-sex activities and relationships
- criminalise people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Be aware that authorities may apply local laws inconsistently. Some destinations may use laws related to "vagrancy", "public nuisance", or "public morals" to criminalise LGBTI people. Authorities may actively or passively discriminate against LGBTI people. Laws may also differ between regions in the same country.
Punishment for breaking the law can be severe. You could be fined, arrested, jailed or sentenced to corporal punishment. In a small number of countries, you could be given the death penalty. The Australian Government is limited on how and when it can help if you're arrested or jailed overseas. See the Consular Services Charter.
Same-sex relationships and activities are illegal in some destinations. In others, they may be legal but attract severe discrimination.
Some prohibit same-sex relationships and activities between men but stay silent on women.
You may not have access to certain services and rights as a couple. For example, healthcare institutions may not recognise your relationship status. They may deny you visitation or even legal rights, such as next-of-kin rights. Your hotel bookings could also be refused when you arrive.
Trans, non-binary or intersex travellers
Local laws are often silent on trans or intersex people. However, destinations that criminalise same sex relations may use the same laws to outlaw gender identities.
Some countries or regions have laws targeting "cross-dressing" or people who dress or "pose" as a person of another gender.
You may have trouble at international borders if the name and photo in your passport are different from how you present. Update your passport with your current name, photo and gender identity, if possible, before you travel.
Non-binary and intersex people aren't recognised in some destinations. You could face entry restrictions if you have a passport with an 'X' gender marker. You may still be asked to provide binary sex information even if your passport has an 'X' gender marker. Contact the nearest embassy, high commission or consulate of your destination before you arrive at the border to confirm if authorities will accept passports with 'X' gender markers.
Violence and discrimination toward LGBTI travellers
If people in your destination consider your behaviour offensive, you could find yourself in trouble. In conservative destinations, people could target you for being LGBTI. You could be assaulted. You could also be the victim of verbal abuse or discrimination.
Authorities may ignore crimes targeting LBGTI people. In some cases, authorities may themselves discriminate. They could fine, deport or extort you. Reporting a crime against you could even get you arrested or jailed.
Different aspects of your identity can expose you to overlapping forms of discrimination and increase the risks you might face. This is sometimes referred to as intersectionality. Aspects of your identity can include your:
- sexual orientation
- mental health.
How to reduce the risks
- Research the laws where you're going. Understand what the local law says you can and can't do while there. Follow the local laws even if you disagree with them. The Human Dignity Trust provides information on countries that criminalise LGBTI people. Human Rights Watch also have a guide on global anti-LGBTI laws.
- Know what the legal protections are for LGBTI people in your destinations. Be aware that some protections may not be followed or enforced.
- Learn about the local social and cultural attitudes towards LGBTI people. Research guidebooks and online forums that cover issues for LGBTI travellers in detail before you travel.
- Consider avoiding public displays of affection. Even a small gesture could incite discrimination or violence.
- Consider your clothing in the context of the culture you are visiting. You may need to dress more conservatively. Our country-specific travel advisories will usually note where conservative dress standards apply.
Be social safely
Find out about the safest places for social activities, including partying. Speak to other LGBTI travellers before you go.
Be wary of new friendships, especially those you make online or through dating apps. Criminals sometimes target LGBTI people to exploit or harm them, knowing it may be difficult for you to report the crime.
In destinations where LGBTI people are persecuted, authorities may monitor LGBTI-themed websites and apps. They may create fake online profiles to entrap LGBTI people.
Consider your cyber security before leaving Australia, including your social media content. Be mindful of any public-facing online content that could disclose your sexuality or gender identity. This content may affect your safety or have legal implications in your destination.
- Learn how to stay safe and take care of your health. See our general advice before you go.
- What you need to do if getting married overseas.
- What to do if you're sexually assaulted overseas.
- Understand how and when consular services can help.
- Learn about sexual orientation laws and the Trans Legal Mapping Report (ILGA)
- See the map of countries that criminalise LGBTI people (Human Dignity Trust)
- See Global Anti-LGBTQ+ Laws (Human Rights Watch)
- Read about travel and your sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics (Government of Canada)
- See safety and health advice for LGBTI travellers (UK Government)