Travel Ethics and the Uganda Travel Boycott

Creative Commons License photo credit: Peace Corps

Earlier this week, the Ugandan Parliament decided to postpone a vote on legislation that would make being gay or lesbian a capital offense. In other words, if enacted, the legislation would have made being gay punishable by death.

This isn’t the first time the have tried to pass this contemptible legislation, but each time the vote was postponed due to international criticism. Under current law in Uganda, it is illegal to be gay, but this new measure would mandate hanging for anyone found to be gay. While the capital offense portion of the bill has been removed, other punitive aspects remain, including jail time for anyone aiding and abetting a gay person (like renting an apartment to them or giving them a job) as well as anyone who knows that someone is gay (like a parent or friend).

I’ve been in countries where, yes, technically it was illegal to be gay. But the laws were not enforced and were frankly antiquated remnants of another era. That I can live with, even if I don’t like it. What I can never forgive is this move by Uganda to not only criminalize, but kill gay and lesbian men and women.

It’s not as if this is just a random, crazy bill that was introduced and forgotten about, it has support. There have been rallies in favor of it and, sadly, lynchings have begun to occur. In an unusual move, the potential government action has created public support for genocide.

Regardless of whether or not this legislation passes, the international image of Uganda has suffered terribly. A boycott on everything Ugandan, including travel, has been organized and I am participating. But it begs the question, what is the appropriate course of action in this circumstance? Is it right to avoid an entire country because of the actions of its leaders? Personally, I know that I cannot support a country that is trying as hard as it can to wantonly kill individuals because of the way they were born, but others may feel differently.

What do you think? What is the right thing to do in this situation?

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By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer. Also follow Matt on Twitter, Facebook and

10 Responses

  1. Michael Hodson

    though I find the actions beyond contempt, I’m not a believer in travel boycotts. Uganda, Sudan, Burma, Cuba. I just don’t subscribe to that point of view. Personally, I think the more interaction that countries have with the outside world, whether TV news, internet, or tourists, the better off that country is in the long run. I don’t see a travel boycott as anything that would ever change a government’s actions — but that educating the people of the country from the inside just might. Just my opinion, obviously.

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      Yeah, I can see that side of things too, really. Personally, this just seems so far beyond other actions (except for possibly Burma) that for me I can’t imagine a different reaction than to boycott it. But I understand and respect your point of view.

      Reply
  2. Maureen @ Vaco Vitae

    I’m not a fan of jumping on the bandwagon of every issue that comes down the pike, preferring generally to keep my own counsel and improve the world by living my life according to my values and priorities.

    However, this is too over the top to ignore. Boycotting seems to be the only moral choice here. Until the more enlightened among us let the world know by our actions that this kind of intolerance is simply not acceptable, I’m afraid it will continue.

    Reply
  3. Erik Smith

    To think that it takes the condemnation of the international community to postpone the vote makes me sad.

    I almost can not believe this is going on in the 21st Century. This is the stuff of the Dark Ages.

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      And it still may yet pass, maybe without the death penalty but with the other punishments. It is truly almost impossible to comprehend.

      Reply
  4. Gray

    I would definitely boycott any country that made it punishable by death to be gay or lesbian. That is just insane. Why would I want to spend my tourist dollars on a country that represents a point of view I am vehemently against? That would be like making a donation to a hated political party and would make me just as crazy as them.

    Reply
  5. Liv

    This is a very real issue. I have a friend living in Uganda and she noticed a rally in the town she lives in a few weeks ago. She is heterosexual but believes in equal rights for eveyone. Thinking it was a protest rally against the government’s plans, she was delighted. But in fact, she was horrified to realise that it was actually a support rally. When she mentioned it to a Ugandan colleague and expressed her horror, he told her not to let anyone else know how she felt or she would probably be killed.

    It is a shame because Uganda is a beautiful country and although I understand the political reasons (and am fully aware of the sometime safety reasons) to boycott the place, the Ugandan people will always suffer more than the politicians as a result.

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      It is without question a difficult issue. Thank you for sharing the information from your friend, it’s always important to know firsthand what is really going on. I just hope that things will change, but who knows.

      Reply
  6. Rev Tim

    Sadly, I support the boycott of travel and all other monetary ties the civilized world has with Uganda. While I believe visiting and learning of each other is the way toward peace, the immediacy the situation requires urgent and unified action. When the Ugandan government sees itself further isolated and deprived of opportunities afforded civilized nations, perhaps they will stop this insane direction. Education of the Ugandan people is critical and will take generations. Right now my contempt of the hateful and sinful actions toward the homosexuals that live there requires me to review all travel, investments, and political support that involves Uganda.

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      I agree completely, although it pains me to say so.

      Reply

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