There are nearly 70 countries around the world that still persecute LGBT+ individuals for who they love. Now, Tinder is taking steps to protect LGBTQ+ users from discrimination abroad with a new feature dedicated to safe travel.
Even as more and more countries are making strides towards LGBTQ+ equality around the world, sadly, there are still a significant number of places that persecute people for their sexual orientation or gender identity.
According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association (ILGA) in fact, there are 69 U.N. member states where same-sex sexual activity is criminalised, and two countries where criminalisation is de facto. That means, of course, that LGBTQ+ travellers are also at risk for expressing same-sex attraction in those regions.
Tinder is one company that is putting this difficult truth at the forefront of conversation, by taking steps to ensure the safety of their users when travelling abroad. This week, the dating app announced that it would be rolling out a new feature issuing LGBTQ+ users with an alert when they entered a country with discriminatory laws.
In a blog post announcing the new feature, called Traveller Alert, Tinder highlighted that there are still nearly 70 countries across the world which persecute LGBTQ+ people for who they love.
“It’s no secret that we believe everyone has the right to live how they want to live and love who they want to love. ‘And while there are still efforts to protect our freedoms from LGBTQ discrimination, it’s important to remember that there are still nearly 70 countries around the world that have laws effectively criminalising LGBTQ status.
The post goes on to detail that when LGBTQ+ users open the app in a country hostile towards homosexuality, a notification will appear warning them of the sexual orientation laws in their current location, and the risks they may face for expressing it openly.
“Starting today, we’re rolling out a Traveller Alert that will appear when Tinder is opened in one of these locations to ensure that our users are aware of the potential dangers the LGBTQ community faces - so that they can take extra caution and do not unknowingly place themselves in danger for simply being themselves,” the post continues.
LGBTQ+ users will then have the option to keep their Tinder profile hidden or make it public. What the app won’t do, however, is allow LGBTQ+ users to automatically appear on Tinder when they open the app in these areas. Even if they do choose to make their profile visible to others, their sexual orientation or gender identity won’t be public information until they’ve left the country.
“Based on your geographical area, it appears you’re in a place where the LGBTQ community may be penalised,” Tinder’s traveller alert reads. “We want you to have fun, but your safety is our #1 priority. Please proceed with caution and take extra care when making new matches and meeting with people you do not know.”
What might be a temporary limitation on meeting potential matches is grounded in a very real threat of persecution from law enforcement agency workers going undercover on the app, laws criminalising same-sex sexual activity, and other Tinder users hostile to LGBTQ+ individuals, as ILGA, who provided Tinder with data to create the new feature, highlighted in a statement.
“We work hard to change practices, laws and attitudes that put LGBTQ people at risk - including the use of dating apps to target our community - but in the meantime, the safety of our communities also depends on supporting their digital safety,” explained André du Plessis, executive director of ILGA World.
Tinder’s new feature calls attention to the pressing need for other digital platforms to prioritise the safety of LGBTQ+ users. Homophobia might be a longstanding social issue, but even as society slowly becomes more progressive with equal marriage and positive representation, it doesn’t mean we can’t step up and put measures in place to protect the LGBTQ+ community from harm. Hopefully others will quickly follow suit and show their commitment to user safety.