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Should travelers boycott anti-gay and anti-trans countries?

LGBTI Travel Show debate will ask experts and visitors: Should you refuse to visit homophobic and transphobic countries for business and leisure?
Paul Dillane: Amnesty International LGBTI expert is joining panel debating whether it is best to go to homophobic countries or boycott them.

Should you boycott homophobic and transphobic countries on your holidays? Would you refuse to travel to them for business?

That’s the question facing a panel of experts and the audience on Sunday (19 January) in a debate on ‘The ethics of LGBTI travel’ at the Gay Star Beach Party and LGBTI Travel Show.

While the weekend is focused on fun, we wanted to tackle serious issues too – so here are some of the debate panelists thoughts to prompt you to come, join in and speak up.

Gay human rights activist Peter Tatchell told us: ‘We should judge this issue in terms of all human rights, not just LGBT rights.

‘Our holiday destination choices should avoid countries that persecute gay people – or anyone else. It is wrong to reward oppressive and homophobic regimes by spending our pink pounds there.

‘Israel is a country with a good LGBT rights record but it is a country founded on forcing out Palestinian people from their homes and land. I’ve been offered expenses-paid trips to Israel by the tourism authorities and pride organizers but I’ve refused to go.’

But DJ, writer and editor Stewart takes the opposite view.

He said: ‘Countries with a record of poor LGBTI rights are rarely, if ever, ashamed of such a status. In fact, they tend to be swaggeringly bullish, wearing their homophobia like badge of honor. Yes, Uganda, Russia and Iran, I’m talking to you.

‘Boycotting rarely amounts to much more than highlighting the luxury of personal choice stemming from an individual’s ethics. These apparently principled snubs have zero impact (unless you have a very high profile).

‘They don’t want you there, you don’t want to be there – nothing is achieved.’

Paul Dillane, a human rights researcher and activist responsible for Amnesty International UK’s involvement in refugee litigation, is also joining the panel.

He believes people should go but not ignore what’s happening.

Dillane said: ‘We very much welcome the support and solidarity expressed by people with those around the world who face the daily threat of human rights abuses. We would always encourage tourists to travel with their eyes wide open to the day-to-day reality of people who live in the countries they are visiting.’

LGBTI education expert Elly Barnes, who topped the Independent on Sunday’s Pink List in 2012, has some ideas on how to make a difference.

‘We can make the trips we take into a force for good by joining with our activist friends globally to enforce positive change within government and to enlighten opinion through the education system,’ she suggested.

And making a difference is the way ahead, Who thinks.

He added: ‘If you rock up to an unwelcoming regime you can affect a queer micro ripple, on ground level, with the indigenous citizens, dispelling ignorance simply by being decent, friendly and quietly proud of your sexuality.

‘Or if you wanna be bold, raise merry hell by refusing to compromise, loudly campaign for the local LGBTI community and dramatically challenge homophobia where you find it – possibly in a highly memorable outfit.

‘This tactic may get you murdered or incarcerated, but at least that has impact – and is likely to be remembered.

‘Nobody will remember or care that you went to Gran Canaria instead of Dubai.’

The debate will also ask whether boycotting Sochi would do any good or just give the Russian anti-gay haters what they want.

The debate will be at 2.45pm on Sunday (19 January) as the serious part of the Gay Star Beach Party and LGBTI Travel Show, running from noon to 5pm at Heaven, Charing Cross, London.

You can join in, for free, by downloading your ticket here.

There will be another debate, ‘Global LGBTI activism: Are we doing good or harm?’ at the show on Saturday (18 January).

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