Lonely Planet, one of the biggest and oldest guidebooks for travellers, has surprised many by picking Uganda as its top world destination for 2012. Burma is its second choice.
Lonely Planet’s story notes Burma’s repression but says:
“We want people to come to Burma. the words of the National League for Democracy (NLD), the opposition party that has urged foreigners to stay away since 1996.
For Uganda it does say that “human rights abuses aren’t uncommon” and “it’s taken nasty dictatorships and a brutal civil war to keep Uganda off the tourist radar” but “stability is returning and it won’t be long before visitors come flocking back.” It fails to mention that for lesbian and gay tourists, the country may be unsafe.
When a gay BBC Radio DJ did a report from the country earlier this year, he ended up being threatened after he disclosed his sexuality to the chief promoter of the Anti-Homosexuality (‘Kill gays’) bill. Ugandan lesbian activist Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, recent winner of one of the world’s top human rights prizes, says she has to constantly move because of threats.
Speaking to swissinfo.ch about receiving the award, she said:
Harassment occurs almost on a daily basis, verbal attacks in public or more sinister repression. The simple suspicion of being a homosexual has serious consequences: being evicted from your home or losing your job is quite common; many homosexuals commit suicide.
After the publisher’s website was flooded with criticism of their choice of Uganda, an Editor explained in the comments:
We chose Uganda for the experiences that it can offer to travelers, separate from its current political situation. To be very clear: we are aware of, and condemn, Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill. We hope that travellers do not judge the country in general, and most of its people, by the sentiments of its government. Many destinations across the world have political and human rights issues and travel often can raise awareness of these issues.
Unlike Burma, the publishers don’t seem to have asked if the locals suffering human rights abuses want tourists or not. It’s also unclear whether or not they would support the call by some for the publisher to rescind their choice of Uganda as a top tourist destination and apologise.
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