Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Wednesday 14 May 2003

Anti-gay discrimination still rife in almost six dozen countries, says Amnesty International

According to Amnesty International, more than 70 countries have laws prohibiting same sex relations which violate the fundamental human right to freedom from discrimination enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Amnesty is drawing attention to the habitual anti-gay policies in Egypt on the second anniversary (on 10th May) of the 2001 arrest of more than 60 men in Cairo, the majority of whom were on the Queen Boat, a night club moored on the Nile. The men were subsequently prosecuted for "habitual debauchery" and "crimes against religion" in a mass trial - the largest ever in Egypt's history for such offences - and were sentenced to up to five years in prison.

Over the past few weeks The Sunday Telegraph has been running articles in its 'Travel' section urging Britons to start visiting various Arab countries again, as hotels and other tourist-dependent parts of the economies of a number (Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt, to name but three) have suffered in the run-up to the military action against Iraq, and as a result of the fears of some travellers that some popular holiday destinations in the Moslem world have become less welcoming of Western tourists. The articles have tried to re-assure travellers that there is a warm welcome for visitors. I readily accept that this is, in general, completely accurate - I have lived in or visited a significant number of Arab, and some other Moslem, countries.

However, it is a fact that this welcome does not extend (at least in more recent years) to visitors who are homosexual, in some of these countries, notably Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco. Frankly, whilst I know and like many of the affected countries, I will think very carefully before visiting any of them for tourism in the foreseeable future - the same could be said, incidentally, for Malaysia (whose current Prime Minister has very homophobic views). There are many countries available for me to visit, with well-developed tourist infrastructures, where one's sexuality is not an issue.

Countries such as Egypt will have to get used to the fact that people like me, with high disposable incomes, are able to visit more or less any part of the world we choose to go to, one or more times a year. Many of us (gay people, that is) will I suspect choose to avoid those countries which see fit to discriminate on the basis of sexuality - it's all a matter of market forces. Why should I contribute to countries which behave in such a manner?

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