I recently watched a horrifying yet compelling documentary, Hunted: The War Against Gays in Russia (available on HBO). It chronicles the rising tide of assaults on LGBTQ people by both fellow Russians and the government.
While I would love to see Russia, I do not think I could travel there at this time in good conscience. I do not want my money to go to a regime that openly discriminates and scape goats a minority population of its own citizens. As consumers (which includes tourism), we vote with our dollars (or Euros, or Pounds or…) whether intentional or not.
After finishing the film, I did a bit of research (read: google) on which countries I should avoid. The Huffington Post has an interesting article that looks worldwide. It, rightfully, points out that the USA is not necessarily the gold standard on human rights.
As a side note, this reminded me that travel in the USA isn’t always safe either. I used to help lead a trip of high schoolers to Mexico. I remember parents’ concern about safety. Sure, there is some risk. But there is also risk every day here in the US. The Canadian government has a travel warning for those that are thinking of visiting the US:
The possession of firearms and the frequency of violent crime are generally more prevalent than in Canada. Within large metropolitan areas, violent crime more commonly occurs in economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods, particularly from dusk to dawn. Verify official neighbourhood crime statistics before planning an outing.
Robbery and assault can also occur in wealthy residential or commercial districts. Exercise caution, particularly at night. Violent crimes, particularly assault, are often connected to alcohol and drug consumption. Remain alert and discreet while in entertainment areas.
Canadians have been the victims of crime such as break-ins, assaults and pickpocketing in the Miami area, sometimes during daylight hours. Theft occurs in the North Miami Beach area, at South Beach and at airports, particularly from trunks of parked cars. Be alert, as criminals use a variety of techniques to steal personal belongings.
Passport theft is on the rise. Ensure that your travel documents are secure at all times.
Travelers from other countries easily could conclude the need to boycott travel to the USA for myriad reasons; our military intervention in other countries, our prison industrial complex, laws that are unequal for women and other minority groups, state lead genocide against native populations, etc.
There are many countries, or even states, I would like to visit but have questionable human rights, environmental practices, etc. I do not have an answer to how to work through this. What about you, of wise reader? Do the practices of the government play in to where you decide to travel?