Some apps are aiming to make traveling and dating safer for the LGBTQ community.
Grindr, a dating app for gay, bisexual, trans and queer people, said Friday it would commit $100,000 to LGBTQ organizations in countries including Iraq, Turkey, Tunisia and others to advance safety among daters in places where it is illegal or life-threatening to have same-sex relations.
The Grindr for Equality Grants will be in the amount of $5,000 and $10,000 to support human rights groups including Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality and IraQueer, Iraq’s first LGBTQ organization, among others. Organizations working to advance and advocate for health, safety and empowerment for same-sex individuals can submit a proposal no later than Oct. 31 to be considered for the grant.
Grindr currently has a number of safety features to help users navigate same-sex dating in unsafe areas. It sends out safety messages to users in potentially dangerous countries and allows users to turn off their location settings.
The dating app Tinder has also done its part to promote safety for LGBTQ users. The location-based dating app recently launched its “Traveler Alert” feature, which will appear automatically whenever the app is opened in nearly 70 countries around the world that have laws effectively criminalizing those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer.
The alert was conceived to inform and protect users of potential risks or dangers LGBTQ individuals may face while abroad, so they are aware of their surroundings, and can take extra caution.
The traveler alert will automatically switch on as soon as a user lands in an area considered to pose a potential threat using the location tracker, and is also available for those using Tinder’s Passport feature (which lets users swipe in other locations).
LGBTQ singles will no longer automatically show up on Tinder when they open the app in a dangerous area, and once the alert is activated, they can choose to remain hidden or opt into making their profile public so they can meet new people. If they do wish to have their profile appear public, their sexual orientation or gender identity will not be displayed until they leave the area.
Homosexual acts are illegal in 71 countries, according to Equaldex, a crowsourced website that tracks legal protections for LGBTQ people. But the punishment varies depending on the country. In some, only homosexual activities between men is against the law. In other countries, homosexuality is considered criminal, but is not enforced by punishment.
The punishment for LGBTQ dating could be as severe as the death penalty in countries including Saudi Arabia and Iran, while other disciplinary actions vary by country. Brunei in Southeast Asia faced backlash in April for enacting an Islamic law that made gay sex punishable by beating or stoning to death.
At the time, people, including celebrities Ellen DeGeneres and George Clooney called upon tourists and companies to boycott hotels owned by Brunei’s sultan and prime minister, Hassanal Bolkiah. In May, the country announced it would not impose the death penalty on individuals convicted of having gay sex, after facing international condemnation.
An alarming number of LGBTQ individuals have faced violence and assault on dating apps. In 2016, Royshawn Scarlett, a gay man from Florida who was 21 at the time, thought he was meeting his match who said his name was John on the app Hi5, instead three armed men held him at gun point while they robbed him. People have even created fake profiles to deceive LGBTQ people to meet up before attacking them in some instances. Cops in Cairo have gone undercover on dating apps posing as a gay match then they brutally beat up innocent gay men when they meet in person.
In the U.S., incidents of sexual violence have dropped 63% since 1993, however, the UK’s Office for National Statistics reported an increase in sexual assaults since 2012, further proving the need for safety among travelers when using dating apps abroad.
Tinder worked with the International Lesbian, Gal, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA World), an advocacy group for the LGBTQ community, to flag dangerous locations for Traveler Alert. Other dating apps have launched tools to help ensure safety among users. Scruff, a gay dating app, also alerts users about potential perils of dating for LGBTQ individuals in some countries.