Official advice for New Zealanders living and travelling overseas

LGBTQIA+ travellers

Laws and attitudes around sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics vary across the world and can be very different from those in New Zealand. This may mean that you could face certain barriers and risks when travelling outside of New Zealand. Before you travel, research the laws, social customs and safety recommendations that may affect you in your destination.

Before you go

Be aware of the law
While you are overseas, you are subject to all local laws, regulations and penalties in your destination. Local laws may differ from those in New Zealand. In many countries, consensual same-sex sexual activity, public gathering, or dissemination of pro-LGBTQIA+ material (among other things relating to sexual orientation, gender identity, expression, and sex characteristics) may be illegal and severe penalties may apply. This could include being fined, deportation, imprisonment, and in a small number of countries, the death penalty. Being a New Zealand citizen does not lead to any special treatment, and the New Zealand Government and its officials cannot intervene in the justice system and law courts of other countries. Therefore, it is extremely important you research what the local laws are in your destination, including the different regions within the same country (as legislation may differ from one region to another), and make an informed decision about whether you feel safe travelling to that country.

Be aware that some countries may use laws related to “vagrancy”, “public nuisance”, “public indecency” or “public morals” to criminalize LGBTQIA+ people and relations.

Be aware of local customs and social attitudes
It is recommended that you also research the local customs, as laws and social attitudes do not always align. Although same-sex relationships may be legal in some destinations, levels of tolerance and acceptance within society can vary. In some countries, different cities or regions (for example rural areas) may be more conservative and you may be more likely to experience discrimination in these areas. Research the local customs of both the country and the area of the country you will be visiting.

Be cautious about public displays of affection in countries with conservative attitudes.

Be aware that in some destinations you may be denied access to services and rights as a couple, for example hotel bookings, visitation rights or legal rights such as next-of-kin rights. Healthcare institutions may not recognise your relationship status.

While the New Zealand Government recognizes the ’X’ gender identifier, it cannot guarantee your entry or transit through other countries. You may face difficulties or delays if you travel on a passport showing ‘X’ in the sex field, or present as a different gender to the gender stated on your passport, especially when crossing international borders. You may be asked to label your gender as either 'male' or 'female' when travelling. You may want to check with the nearest Embassy or High Commission of the countries you want to visit or transit through to ask about any entry requirements.

Personal safety
In some countries, people may verbally abuse, assault, or discriminate against members of LGBTQIA+ communities. Below are some tips on how to mitigate the risks to your personal safety while travelling abroad: 

·  If you receive unwanted attention or remarks about your sexuality or gender identity, it is usually best to ignore them and move to a safe place. Depending on the country or area you are in, you may then want to report it to the authorities.

·  Be wary of new friendships, especially those you make online or through dating apps, as criminals may target LGBTQIA+ people. If you do intend to meet other LGBTQIA+ people while abroad, find out about the local situation and take sensible precautions if you meet someone. In countries where attitudes to LGBTQIA+ communities are hostile, organised groups and police have been known to carry out entrapment campaigns.

·  Speak to other LGBTQIA+ travellers before you go. They may be able to inform you about the safest places for LGBTQIA+ social activities.

·  Consider researching local LGBTQIA+ support organisations in your destinations.

·  Be conscious of your online presence and carefully consider the information you have shared online before you go. Depending on your destination, this information may affect your safety or have legal implications. Assume that your social media accounts can be viewed by local authorities, and that police can easily track your location and the websites you visit through your phone.

· If the local authorities are hostile towards LGBTQIA+ people, you may be more vulnerable to crime.

·  If you are a New Zealand citizen requiring emergency consular assistance, call the 24/7 Consular emergency line: 0800 30 10 30 or +64 99 20 20 20. Consular advisors will protect your privacy and not make generalisations, assumptions or pass judgement.

Final tips

- Check out the latest travel advice for your destinations.

- Research guidebooks and online forums that cover issues for LGBTQIA+ travellers in detail.

-Talk to your travel agent or tour operator.

- Register on SafeTravel and leave a detailed itinerary with someone at home. Plan to keep in regular contact. 

Useful links

·  International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA)

·  Equaldex - Collaborative LGBT knowledge base

·  Global Anti-LGBTQ+ Laws (Human Rights Watch)

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