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LGBTIQ Community
Updated March 2019

Sexual and Gender Diversity

Studying, traveling, and living abroad provide an excellent opportunity to learn about world cultures. We believe that a rewarding and safe international experience starts with being knowledgeable of how one’s gender expression or sexual orientation will affect interactions in foreign environments. This resource is intended to help UCEAP students make informed decisions when choosing a UCEAP destination.

Finding the Right Program

The LGBTIQ community faces a complex mix of risks anywhere in the world so many factors must be considered before traveling. 
Before selecting a program, talk to your UCEAP Advisor on campus and consider how the location, academic curriculum, and culture align with your interests, lifestyle, and academic and professional goals. Students studying abroad are more likely to have a positive experience when they research their destination and prepare well before going abroad.
Before Applying: Meet with your UCEAP Advisor on campus and research your preferred destinations.


Questions to Consider When Reviewing a UCEAP Destination

  • What is the tolerance level in the host country? 
  • What laws govern the LGBTIQ community?
  • Are there norms and behavioral expectations?
  • What resources and support are available in my host country? In my host institution? With the program Study Center?
  • Are there tolerant establishments?
  • Are there any LGBTIQ newspapers, magazines, or local online resources available?
  • Is it safe for me to be “out” when I am abroad?
  • How open do I want to express my sexuality and gender identity while abroad? 
  • Do I want to be open about my sexuality and/or gender identity with my host family, professors, local friends, or others that I meet?
  • Are topics related to sexual orientation and gender identity openly discussed or more taboo in my host country?
  • Will I be staying with a host family who may or may not be accepting of my gender or sexual identity?
  • Can the program accommodate special housing requests such as single rooms, private baths or certain roommates?

Host Country Laws and Cultural Norms 

Attitudes, tolerance, support, and laws regarding sexual orientation, same-sex sexual contact, and gender expression vary widely around the world. There are also wide ranges when it comes to human rights and anti-discrimination laws. Cultures define and understand sexual orientation and gender identities differently. Some countries are more liberal on these matters than the US, while some may not acknowledge (or will even deny) that homosexuality exists. Even within a nation or city, there may be variations as vast as those between two different countries. Some countries offer many legal protections while other countries criminalize same-sex sexual activity. Research your destination.
The local gender norms in a host city abroad may be different from your understanding of gender norms.
UCEAP urges all participants to obey the laws of the host country, and respect and abide by local cultural norms. Before selecting a country, be well acquainted with host country laws and tolerance levels. Consider how a potential host country defines and views interpersonal relationships and what it views as appropriate behaviors. A Global Attitudes Project survey by the Pew Research Center, The Global Divide on Homosexuality, found many differences around the world as to how homosexuality is viewed by various societies. For example, in countries like the Netherlands, a wide range of gender identities and expressions are visible and accepted, whereas most nations in Africa reject homosexuality. 

Low- to Minimal-Threat Level Destinations 

While not a comprehensive listing, these nations are included based on recognition of same-sex unions and the existence of human rights laws prohibiting discrimination against gay individuals. This resource considers potential risks as they specifically affect members of the LGBTIQ community, and not necessarily the overall threats posed to all students traveling and studying abroad. Attitudes and tolerance toward LGBTIQ persons vary from country to country, just as they vary among US cities and states. 


The threat to travelers is minimal.  No LGBT travelers have reported being the victim of hate crimes. Travelers will likely find larger cities safe and welcoming, and rural areas more conservative with some degree of social discrimination.
Socially, homosexuality is widely accepted, but transgender acceptance lags behind. Buenos Aires and other large cities host established and vibrant homosexual communities.
Level of Risk: Minimal


There are no laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults. 
Level of Risk: Low



Level of Risk: Minimal


The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, and the criminal code provides penalties for crimes motivated by bias, prejudice, or hate based on personal characteristics, including sexual orientation.
Level of Risk: Minimal


There is a low threat of violence in the LGBT community. Same-sex couples are generally accepted in larger cities, but may attract stares in rural and underdeveloped areas.
Level of Risk: Low

Costa Rica

Level of Risk: Minimal

Czech Republic

Prague has a large gay community, centered in the city’s Vinohrady district, with several openly gay venues. In contrast, outside of Prague—particularly in small towns—views are still relatively conservative and open displays of affection between same-sex couples are less common. LGBT travelers should use discretion when traveling in these areas.
Antidiscrimination and hate-crime legislation exists, but does not specifically cover LGBT individuals.
Level of Risk: Minimal


Level of Risk: Minimal 


Level of Risk: Low

French Polynesia - Mo'orea

French Polynesia presents a low-threat environment for LGBT travelers and expatriates as the government and society are relatively tolerant of the LGBT community. Historically, the LGBT community and foreigners have rarely encountered problems. Practice basic risk mitigation strategies.

Level of Risk: Low


Level of Risk: Minimal


Level of Risk: Low


Level of Risk: Minimal


The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, and the government generally enforces these laws, although discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity persists in some parts of society. The Aguda, the National Association of LGBT in Israel, reports cases of discrimination in the private sector. It is the most tolerant Middle Eastern country towards homosexuals. 
Level of Risk: Low


Urban centers are generally tolerant of LGBT individuals. Students may face isolated incidents of discrimination throughout the country, particularly in more conservative, rural areas.
Students may face social discrimination in a variety of situations. Students living with host-families should exercise discretion, as acceptance of LGBT persons may vary from family to family. Talk to the local staff immediately if it becomes necessary to move. While public displays of affection may be common and accepted among heterosexual couples, same-sex couples – even in more liberal cities – may elicit odd glances and occasional comments.
Level of Risk: Low


No law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and there are no penalties associated with such discrimination and no related statistics available.
Traditional Japanese society stigmatizes homosexuality, often discouraging an open expression of identity. Despite some occasional social discomfort, the LGBT community enjoys a high degree of freedom and increasing levels of support from communities and the government.
Level of Risk: Low


Legally, LGBT persons enjoy relatively strong protections in Mexico. Many parts of Mexico offer a vibrant environment for LGBT individuals.
Level of Risk: Low


Level of Risk: Minimal

New Zealand

Level of Risk: Minimal


There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBT events in Norway. Rights for trans people receive less attention and protection.
Level of Risk: Minimal


Level of Risk: Minimal


Level of Risk: Minimal


Level of Risk: Minimal


Existing Taiwanese law poses a low threat to the LGBTIQ community. Social acceptance is mixed, with attitudes generally split between younger, progressive generations and older, more conservative ones. Reported instances of violence against LGBTIQ individuals are rare, and the police response is adequate. 
Level of Risk: Low


No laws criminalize sexual orientation or consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults.
Level of Risk: Low

United Kingdom

The law prohibits discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation, although individuals report sporadic incidents of homophobic violence.
In Scotland, racial, sexual, or other discriminatory motivation can be an “aggravating factor” in crimes. Scottish law also criminalizes behavior that is threatening, hateful, or otherwise offensive at a regulated soccer match and penalizes any threat of serious violence and threats to incite religious hatred through the mail or the Internet.
Level of Risk: Minimal

Exercise Caution. Moderate-threat Level

Exercise caution when traveling or studying in the following locations. Although not comprehensive, this list includes some of the UCEAP locations where (1) the rights of LGBTIQ persons are less definitive or (2) there are restrictions on the freedom of expression and association of LGBTIQ individuals. As in many countries, tolerance levels vary by region; major cities may be more accepting of the LGBTIQ community than rural areas. (Sources include: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices U.S. Department of State.)   


Moderate threat exists as tolerance of the community is mixed in more metropolitan cities and intolerant in more isolated communities. The threat of harm (physical/verbal harassment or discrimination) is lower in larger cities, such as Rio de Janeiro city, where the local population tends to be more accepting of different ways of life. In more conservative areas, such as the heavily religious northeast, LGBT individuals continue to face a risk of violence. The level of violence against the country’s LGBT community continues to rise, and nationals face a higher threat than foreigners of being victims of a violent hate crimes. Maintain a low profile and be especially cautious when visiting rural areas or lower-income districts. Same-sex couples in particular should exercise discretion with public displays of affection.
Level of Risk: Moderate


Urban Chinese tend to be accepting of homosexuality, but in deeply conservative rural areas, homosexuality is neither discussed nor socially accepted. Large generational, educational, and societal gaps persist, with older generations tending to be less accepting toward same-sex relationships. The result is a complex risk environment that has few clear social guidelines but little overt threat of violence or abuse. 
Discrimination against openly gay people in Chinese workplaces is common, and there are no laws protecting LGBT individuals. 
Level of Risk: Moderate

Antidiscrimination laws exist. However, despite legal protections and emerging LGBT community, LGBT individuals face significant societal discrimination.
Level of Risk: Moderate

Dominican Republic

Treatment of LGBT individuals ranges from ambivalent tolerance to staunch homophobia. No specific law protects individuals against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and NGOs report widespread social discrimination in areas of society including health care, education, and the workplace. LGBT individuals often face intimidation and harassment. Transgender individuals are particularly at risk of discrimination. NGOs report that LGBT persons are reluctant to file official charges or complaints due to fear of reprisals or humiliation. 
  Level of Risk: Moderate


In 2018, India's Supreme Court struck down a colonial-era law banning same-sex relations. While a victory for the LGBT community, social acceptance still varies by location. In some cities, attitudes toward the LGBT community are shifting, but most areas of India, especially rural communities, retain longstanding anti-homosexual sentiments. Violent incidents targeting LGBT individuals do not typically involve expatriates or travelers. Hate crimes are largely unreported in rural areas.
Level of Risk: Moderate

Korea, Republic of

LGBT groups keep a very low profile as same-sex relationships are not widely accepted in the country. Concern about stigmatization likely prevents victims from reporting incidents of discrimination and abuse. 
Level of Risk: Moderate


Singapore remains conservative regarding LGBT rights. Social acceptance of homosexuality varies, with most of the population opposed to decriminalizing homosexual behavior. Anti-LGBT laws are rarely enforced, and while there is a grassroots movement to abolish these laws, the government and Parliament currently show no indication of repealing restrictions.
Both Singaporean government and society generally view same-sex relationships as a threat to traditional values and the nuclear family.
Level of Risk: Moderate

Solomon Islands

While most governments in the South Pacific/Oceania region criminalize homosexuality, the vast majority of states and societies tend to ignore the issue. In some areas, transgender individuals are often tolerated but do not always enjoy the same rights and opportunities as the rest of the population. Most islands have a small, but active LGBT community, though as a whole, society is not interested in discussing LGBT rights. The legal penalty is imprisonment.

Even though there are no reports of violence or discrimination against persons on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in Solomon Islands, stigma deters reporting. Social intolerance exists. Exercise caution in expressing affection in public.
Level of Risk: Moderate 

South Africa

South Africa is generally accepting of the LGBT community, but incidents of homo- or transphobia still occur, particularly in traditional rural communities and developing areas. Despite discrimination by some of the population, the South African LGBT community is strong.
Level of Risk: Moderate


Although no laws ban homosexuality, Turkey poses moderate-to-high risk to students. Throughout the country, there is a general air of intolerance, which is most publicly promoted by legal and religious authorities. LGBT individuals may face harassment and violence, and are not protected by anti-discrimination laws.
Level of Risk: Moderate


While there are no explicit laws against LGBT individuals, Vietnam poses a moderate risk level for LGBT travelers. Social acceptance of the LGBT community is mixed. Exercise caution and avoid public displays of affection, especially in smaller towns.
Level of Risk: Moderate


Intolerant, Potentially Hostile Destinations

Students traveling or studying abroad in certain locations face unique, and sometimes significant, safety and security challenges. Ambiguous legislation and legal restrictions banning same-sex relationships may incite persecution ranging from verbal harassment, stalking, intimidation, and even violence. Simply disclosing alternative gender and sexual identities can have dangerous consequences, and some countries threaten to impose fines, long jail sentences, or even the death penalty for those accused of engaging in sexual activity with same-sex partners. In general, LGBTIQ students studying and living in Africa and the Middle East regions face the highest levels of risk.

Sub-Saharan Africa is generally intolerant of the LGBT community. Legal codes in 28 countries include legislation banning same-sex relations and imposing harsh punishments for violators. People convicted of engaging in same-sex relations in Mauritania, Sudan, northern Nigeria, and southern Somalia can face the death penalty. Regionally, social attitudes are generally unaccepting of the LGBT community, even in countries where same-sex relations are or have always been legal. Social acceptance in Cape Verde and South Africa is marginally better than their regional counterparts, and overall tolerance of the LGBT community is increasing in these countries.

Laws and social attitudes in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are generally intolerant of the LGBT community. Homosexual acts are illegal in nearly all countries in the region. In the territories of Iraq and Syria held by the extremist group Islamic State (IS), men found guilty of homosexuality have been brutally tortured and killed. Socially, MENA is widely opposed to the LGBT community. Civic and religious leaders regularly and publicly express anti-LGBT sentiments. The regional exception to anti-LGBT attitudes is Israel, which is largely accepting of the community.

Exercise caution.


According to the US Department of State’s Human Rights Report​, Barbados’ law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual activity between adults and does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in employment, housing, education, or healthcare. A recent study of attitudes toward gay men and lesbians among local university students found that stigma against LGBT persons continues to exist. 
Level of Risk: High


LGBT individuals should exercise extreme caution in expressing affection in public. Although Botswana does not explicitly criminalize homosexuality, same-sex sexual activity is prohibited by criminal law. It appears that the law has not been used to prosecute LGBT individuals; nor do police generally target same-sex individuals. The US Embassy is also unaware of any reports of violence against persons based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Nonetheless, societal stigmatization is common.
 Level of Risk: High


Sub-Saharan Africa is generally intolerant of the LGBT community. Same-sex relations are illegal in Ghana. Political leaders and the general public tend to disapprove of homosexuality. Participating in consensual same-sex sexual activity is a misdemeanor in Ghana. Although the US Embassy is not aware of any recent arrests or prosecutions for such activity, they remain illegal under some interpretations of the country laws. Exercise caution.
 Level of Risk: High


Although homosexuality is not illegal in Jordan, societal discrimination against LGBT persons is prevalent. Homophobic sentiments in Jordan are pervasive and LGBT activism is limited.
Level of Risk: High


Homosexuality is illegal. Social pressure forces most LGBT individuals to conceal their orientation, though an advocacy group works unofficially to help serve the needs of the LGBT community.  
LGBT issues are not discussed publicly, and there is no recognition of transgenderism. Both men and women convicted of homosexuality are subject to a fine or imprisonment for up to three years. There have been relatively few incidents of enforcement over the past five years. Anecdotal evidence suggests that individuals arrested have been locals, and most have been given short sentences.
The culture tends to be more accepting of male homosexuality in private, but female homosexuality is uncommon and unacknowledged. Both male and female homosexuals face exclusion and harassment. Most LGBT individuals conceal their sexual orientation and engage in heterosexual marriages. 
Level of Risk: High


For the LGBT community, Russia is one of the most socially intolerant countries in Eurasia, and public opposition to gay rights is increasing.  The sentiment appears slightly less intolerant in larger urban areas; however, most societies in the region are unaccepting of the LGBT community. Governments in the region continue to maintain laws meant to repress the free expression of the LGBT community. In Russia and all the Commonwealth of Independent States, intolerance is widespread, even in countries that have decriminalized homosexual behavior and signed UN human rights petitions against discrimination.
Level of Risk: High


Consensual same-sex activity is a criminal offense punishable by fine and/or imprisonment for one to five years. LGBT persons often face arrest, widespread discrimination, social intolerance, and acts of violence. Senegalese NGOs work actively on LGBT rights issues, but because of social stigmas and laws against homosexuality, they maintain an exceedingly low profile. The media rarely reports acts of hatred or violence against LGBT persons.
Level of Risk: High 


Risk Mitigation Strategies

Below are strategies and recommendations for reducing the risk of becoming a victim of a hate crime, of police harassment, or of being discriminated against by the local population. Advice below is organized by the overall level of risk for a country.

Level of Risk: High

There are explicit or implicit legal restrictions limiting the expression and rights of the LGBT community, or there are no legal prohibitions, but government and social treatment is extremely poor. Typical punishments include heavy fines or imprisonment, though enforcement may be inconsistent. Society is either unaccepting of or violently opposed to the LGBT community. Public display of affection or explicit acknowledgement of sexuality is likely to generate tension and possible violence against individuals.

  • Be careful of cultural bias when assessing acceptance. In Africa, do not assume to understand mannerisms, unless you are familiar with the culture; for example, hand-holding between men is common and meant as a gesture of friendship, not sexual attraction. Other behaviors that may appear to be romantically intimate may in fact be purely platonic.
  • Avoid all LGBT Pride events and festivals. 
  • If caught in a potentially violent situation, immediately seek shelter in upscale hotels or large public buildings, such as libraries, theaters, hospitals, or museums.
  • Be very cautious if engaging others in conversations about sexuality or LGBT issues. Only do so with well-vetted acquaintances in safe locations. 
  • Do not engage in behaviors that may draw unwanted attention. 
  • Do not visit local LGBT bars or clubs.

Level of Risk:  Moderate

Laws or ordinances banning individuals’ expression and rights either do not exist or are not enforced. However, there are few or no laws protecting individuals from discrimination. Crimes specifically targeting LGBT individuals are not generally seen as hate crimes. Social attitudes are mixed, with some public anti-LGBT statements from prominent social or government figures. Public display of affection or explicit acknowledgement of sexuality may generate tension and possible violence against LGBT individuals.

  • Exercise caution during LGBT Pride events and festivals.
  • If caught in a potentially violent situation, immediately seek shelter in upscale hotels or large public buildings, such as libraries, theaters, hospitals, or museums. 
  • Evaluate the city and surrounding neighborhood for prevailing social attitudes before deciding on what public behavior is appropriate. This is particularly true for travel in countries with mixed tolerance. 
  • Be cautious if engaging others in conversations about sexuality or LGBT issues.
  • Avoid public displays of affection. 
  • Be cautious if visiting local LGBT bars or clubs.
  • Be cautious if engaging in behaviors that may draw unwanted attention.