Last edited: April 28, 2004

Call for Travel Boycott as Zanzibar Bans Gays

The Observer, April 25, 2004
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By Gemma Bowes, The Observer

A gay rights group is calling for travellers to boycott Zanzibar after the East African island outlawed homosexuality.

The Tanzanian island’s parliament passed a bill earlier this month to jail people in same-sex relationships for up to 25 years. Ministers declared tourism had corrupted traditional values in the largely Muslim state, stating that in Islam homosexuality is prohibited.

Peter Tatchell, spokesperson and campaigner for OutRage!, said: ‘I would hope that both gay and straight travellers will boycott Zanzibar.’

However, the boycott call was described as an ‘irresponsible and knee-jerk’ reaction by a spokesman for specialist travel agent Zanzibar Travel. ‘Has any thought been given to the local economy? It is the local people that would suffer from a reduced number of visitors. Tourism is the second-largest sector of the economy after spice production.’

Tatchell has campaigned for gay rights internationally for decades and encouraged a boycott of Caribbean resort chain Sandals in the 1990s, which only allows mixed-sex couples on its holidays. ‘I think gay people should be extremely careful if they go to countries like Zanzibar, and the safest policy is not to go there at all,’ he said.

More than 70 countries, a third of the world’s total, ban homosexuality, and in some, such as Saudi Arabia, gay sex is punishable by death. Last year, Indonesia made gay sex punishable by imprisonment.

‘Most Caribbean states have very tough anti-gay laws and a very dangerous climate, gay people are routinely beaten and murdered in places like Jamaica,’ said Tatchell.

The Zanzibar Travel spokesman urged people to take the local history, culture and morals of the country into consideration. He said: ‘One needs to be sensitive to the society which is introducing the law, rather than impose our own standards on a very different culture.’ He said the company would not comment on the situation to customers until details of how the law would be enforced and to whom it would apply were made clear.

Another tour operator that offers Zanzibar, Iglu (, said it would only advise travellers on safety based on recommendations from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Association of British Travel Agents, both of which have not commented on the issue.

A spokesman for Stonewall, which campaigns for equal rights for lesbians, gay men and bisexuals, said it would not advise people to avoid the country as it was the individual’s decision, but he expected there to be a boycott.

For more information contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (0870 606 0290;, or visit the International Lesbian and Gay Association site (

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