May 19, 2023

Progress and Challenges: LGBTQIA+ Travel Policies in Muslim-Majority Countries

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in its efforts to attract tourists, appears to be targeting LGBTQIA+ travelers. KSA, as the largest nation in the Islamic world, apparently has made changes to its travel policies to allow all individuals, whatever sexual orientation, to visit the country. These new reforms also include the admission of unmarried couples. The website of Saudi Tourism Authority has clearly stated that gay visitors are welcome, although the exact timing of implementation of these reforms is still unknown.

LGBTQIA+ travelers are seen as a lucrative market. While Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and so on aim to expand their tourism sector, albeit with certain restrictions. It remains uncertain how LGBTQIA+ travelers will be treated and whether their rights will be respected.  

Indeed, while these claims to welcome LGBTQIA+ tourists, those countries still criminalise same-gender sexual activity and still consider it as an offense, highlighted Human Rights Watch. There are concerns about the level of their comfort and safety in the country. Some individuals who have visited Saudi Arabia have reported feeling the need to hide their identity and delete any LGBTQIA+-related content from their phones.

Although the situation for local LGBTQIA+ individuals in these countries remains challenging, the acceptance and acknowledgment of the presence of LGBTQIA+ people by some Islamic nations signify a significant step forward.

This indicates that all countries will eventually recognise the realities and needs of LGBTQIA+ persons. Until this goal is achieved, it is hoped that further oppression of the LGBTQIA+ communities can be avoided.

Thus, the potential for change in the country's stance on LGBTQIA+ rights and tourism is discussed, with the hope that increased tourism could lead to the development of anti-discrimination laws.