Society is changing. There are an increasing number of countries that have adapted their laws to recognize the rights of its homosexual population. There is a multicoloured wave that is sweeping the planet and what was once inexplicably taboo is becoming openly accepted. With the legalization of same sex-marriages last year in Brazil, France, England and Wales the total number of countries where same-sex marriage is legal has risen to 17. If you include countries where it is legal in certain areas, like the U.S., where 18 states and the District of Columbia have adopted a law and in Mexico where 2 states are on board, the population that now lives in an area where same-sex marriages are legal has risen dramatically in a twelve-month span. Tony Pitman, a Melbourne based activist has compiled a list of these countries along with their population estimates. As of January 1st 2014, 700 million people live in a country where same-sex marriages are legal. The current worldwide population is approximately 7 billion; basically 10% of all individuals on the planet now live in a country where same-sex unions are legal.
2013 was a banner year for the legalization of same-sex union movement, but laws are not the only aspect to look at when wondering whether or not a country is gay friendly. There is also general societal acceptance, services and events that must be considered when attempting to rank the top gay-friendly nation. A recent Pew Research Centre survey asked citizens in 39 countries a simple question: whether or not homosexuals should be accepted in society. Although some of the traditionally gay-friendly countries were omitted from the survey, it does provide insight into general views on homosexuality by regions. Europe is by far the most accepting, while the African continent is behind in its views.
While modern trends seem to be pointing toward increased acceptance, there remain certain countries that are still enacting laws to restrict homosexual behaviour, often countries led by conservative religious practices, continue to enforce criminal penalties for homosexual acts.
The list compiled here is based on a variety of factors. The legal aspect and its population’s acceptance of gays played a big role, as did its gay and lesbian scene and events. However, certain emphasis was also placed on the role the country is attempting to play in the worldwide acceptance of gays and lesbians. 10 % of the world’s population living in a country where same-sex marriages are legal is great but it is still just a beginning. Here is the list of the top ten gay friendly countries in the world.
7 South Africa: Same-sex marriage legal since 2006
It was not too long ago that South Africa was getting attention for its discriminating laws. It now makes the list as the most gay-friendly African nation. In a continent that contains many of the most anti-gay countries, South Africa was a pioneer in its legislation with relation to gays and lesbians. Same sex marriage was legalized in 2006. This is a nation whose history is strewed with racism and segregation. There still exists an undertone of this dark past in everyday society in South Africa. This must be understood if you are planning to visit South Africa. In the Pew survey only 32% of the population answered in a positive way. With most African countries maintaining strict laws against homosexuality and having results in the 3-4% range on the survey, South Africa is leaps and bounds ahead of its neighbours. The nation makes the list because of its desire to accept and integrate gays and lesbians into their society more than any other reason.
6 The Philippines: 73% acceptance
The Philippines is a good destination for any gay person looking for an Asian country to visit. 73% of its population, according to the Pew research centre survey, accepts homosexuality. This is obvious when watching the nations most popular talk show host Boy Abunda. He is an openly gay man, who has been a fixture on the Filipino entertainment scene since the mid 90’s. He is an advocate for gay marriage and gay rights within the country. The Philippines would rank higher, but the strict catholic country does not have the extensive legal rights that other countries on the list are privy to. Along with these facts, the white sand beaches and the diverse fauna make the Philippines a desired destination and number 9.
5 Iceland: Same-sex marriage legal since 2010
Iceland has the distinct pleasure of having the country governed by an openly gay individual. Although late in the passing of the same sex legislation there is now a complete set of laws that ensure a peaceful visit. Furthermore the law was enacted without opposition. The population is extremely tolerant with over 10% of the nations total population turning out for the last year’s pride festival. Iceland is one great big geothermic spa. There are hot springs to bath in and natural scenery abounds. The country makes the list as a prime destination for those who are aficionados of nature based travel. If Iceland had a longer prime travel season it would place much higher.
4 Australia: 79% acceptance
Australia is a very exciting and accepting country. 79% of people surveyed were accepting of homosexuals in society. There is a long history of Australia and lesbian and gay rights. Sydney has been named one of the most gay friendly cities in the world. Its annual three week-long Mardi Gras festival is testament to that fact. It is known as one of the top events in the world and is testament to what Australia has to offer to the gay traveller. Australia is also a land of great natural wonders. The country would rank higher if it had a law with regard to same-sex marriage.
3 Argentina/Brazil Tie: First and second countries in Latin America to allow same-sex marriage
The only South American countries on the list are there for different reasons. Argentina was ahead of all of its continental partners in terms of legalization and general acceptance. It has recognized same sex marriages since 2010 and 74% of its population responded favourably to the survey. Furthermore Buenos Aires is an incredible destination for gays and lesbians, which are part of the city’s fabric.
Brazil fared much worst on the survey with only 60% of its population accepting of homosexuals in their society. In 2013 Brazil passed a same-sex marriage law, the second South American country to do so. This coupled with the incredible gay and lesbian scene found in its big cities allowed for this ranking. Rio de Janeiro is the place to be. A 2009 survey conducted by the University of Sao Paulo showed that 14.3% of the cities population is homosexual.
2 Germany: 87% acceptance
The German population is accepting of gays and lesbians. An impressive 87% Germans responded positively to the pew survey. This is obvious by the numerous gay and lesbian festivals throughout the country. Many of which have attained legendary status, every major town in the country has some sort of gay pride event or festival. All of which are very well attended. The only reason it is in the 5th position is its failure to have a same-sex law on its books. Rest assured, however, as a visitor you will have a blast in Germany.
4) Canada: Same-sex marriage legal since 2003
Despite its close proximity to the powerful US, Canada has been a leader in the field of gay rights for a long time. Same-sex marriage has been legal since 2003, as is same sex adoption and a ban on all anti-gay propaganda. 80% of Canadians answered the Pew survey in a positive manner. The summer is a great time to visit Canada, with most large Canadian cities holding gay festivals and parades. Montreal is world renown for its gay village, a definite destination to visit.
3) Belgium: Second country to legalize same-sex marriage
Belgium was the second country to legalize same-sex marriage and has established itself as one of the most progressive European countries. Although not part of the survey, Belgians are seen as pushing the envelope to bring legal rights to gays and lesbians across the European Union. 62% of Belgians polled believe that all the countries in the Union should be made to adopt same-sex marriage laws. Brussels has many gay bars, clubs and shops. Some of the gay parties in Brussels attract gay and lesbians from surrounding nations.
1 Netherlands: First country to legalize same-sex marriage
The Netherlands was the pioneer in the area of gay and lesbian rights. They were the first nation to legalize same-sex marriages and most of the population supports equal rights for gays and lesbians. Although not part of the Pew survey a recent poll conducted in May 2013 showed that over 85% of the Dutch support same sex marriage and adoption. Amsterdam has a wonderful gay scene, but many of the smaller cities also have a gay scene. Amsterdam’s annual Gay Pride week is world famous attracting over 500000 people to the famous Canal district.
1) Spain: 88% acceptance
It was difficult to choose between the top two nations. The nod went to Spain, not only because of its treatment of gays and lesbians but because Spain is the only one of the top three that was in the Pew survey, with results proving they are among the most accepting, as 88% of those polled were in favor of same-sex marriage. The population on the whole is very accepting of homosexuality. Just southwest of Barcelona lies the coastal town of Stiges, known for its picturesque views as well as its men-only (swimsuits optional) beach. A few minutes walk from the beach you can find yourself dining at one of the many gay restaurants or unwinding at one of the many gay bars. As for your stay, the hotels are all gay friendly. It is clear why Spain ranked number 1 on our list!