Friday, 1 April 2011

Travel, The Law And Homosexuality

When you go to another country, for a short or long stay, it's always important to keep an eye on some of the more eye-catchingly different laws. For instance if, unlike me, you are into your recreational drugs you might act differently depending on whether you were in Amsterdam or in Bangkok.

In that vein I have one very strict rule regarding my own personal travel arrangements: I will not visit a country where homosexuality is illegal. It's partly out of a sense of personal safety and partly out of respect for those still suffering under such an illiberal Government.

So I have very mixed emotions about the following story:

A British man was arrested and beaten in Saudi Arabia by religious police when they discovered he was gay.

Stephen Comiskey, a 36-year-old nurse, was threatened with beheading and thrown in a cell, the Sun reports.

He says he was tricked by religious police who sent him a text message pretending to be a friend. Homosexuality is a capital offence in Saudi Arabia.

After his arrest, he was throttled until he signed a confession in Arabic and had his passport taken away.

He spent six months in the country, unsure whether he would be killed.

Mr Comiskey, who had been working at the King Fahad National Guard Hospital in Riyadh, was allowed to fly home this week after diplomatic talks.

One part of me, of course, feels a great deal of sympathy for him and righteous anger against the Saudi regime (although I tend to ALWAYS feel righteous anger towards the Saudi regime). The other part wonders: WHAT THE HELL WAS HE DOING THERE???

I know, it's awful of me to question his personal decisions but why, oh why, would someone go to a country in which other LGBT people are oppressed and murdered by the state?

What are your thoughts on visiting countries with backward and oppressive regimes (and not just with regards to LGBT rights but human rights in general)? Is it wrong of me to insist on people observing at least a basic moral code in terms of what countries it's "okay" to visit (note, I struggled to even convince myself a trip to California met my standards and Thailand was alright only during the democractic moments of the 00s)?

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I tend to go LGBT blind - with full knowledge of the situation.

For instance Egypt isn't hot on LGBT rights - yet the bedouin family I stayed with clicked on and the man said to me `when you come back make sure you bring a SPECIAL friend with you`.

I tend to now make as many contacts as possible. When I went to Romania in the 90's it was illegal. I wrote to a Gay guy (no email in those days) and we went around the country. I told him that I had another contact in another part of Romania. Did they want to meet?

Six months later they had had a fling and were moving to the USA.