Society

Visit Faroe Islands advises LGBT visitors to be modest when displaying physical affection in public

Visitfaroeislands.com, the self-proclaimed ultimate guide to the Faroe Islands, is arguably a useful tool for those who choose to pay a visit to the tiny North European nation.

However, some – or perhaps more than just some – might find it slightly bizarre that Visit Faroe Islands, a government-funded organization, feels the need to give advice to LGBT travelers.

The organization acknowledges that discrimination based on sexual orientation was banned in the Faroe Islands in 2006. It also acknowledges that in April, 2016 – on a vote of 19-14 – the Faroe Islands Parliament approved the adoption of Denmark’s same-sex matrimonial laws.

On the other hand, Visit Faroe Islands also recommends – or urges? – LGBT people (as well as straight people, it has to be said) to be modest when displaying physical affection in public. The organization implies that this thumb-rule is more urgent outside of Tórshavn, the capital of the Faroe Islands.

The organization writes on its webpage in this regard: “LGBT people are welcome to enjoy Tórshavns often lively nightlife, although modesty in displaying physical affection is recommended for both LGBT and straight visitors – especially outside of Tórshavn.”

Some observers might also find it problematic that Visit Faroe Islands name-drops bars, which are openly gay-friendly.

Are gay-people better off not visiting other pubs and bars in Tórshavn, one might ask.

Visit Faroe Islands explains with regards to this that “while there are no explicitly designated gay or lesbian bars or nightclubs in the Faroe Islands, the hip and trendy nightclub bar Sirkus Føroyar is openly gay-friendly and sometimes hosts LGBT events.” The organization adds that “its slightly more posh neighbor, Hvonn, is also a popular choice among LGBT people and other trendy locals.”

Prior to 2012, LGBT rights was not a high-profile issue in the Faroe Islands. The first gay pride march in the islands in 2005 provoked much controversy and criticism, but in recent years, Faroe Pride, held annually in Tórshavn on 27 July, has attracted around 10% of the entire Faroese population.

Sonja Jógvansdóttir became the first openly gay person to be elected to the Faroese Parliament after the September 2015 general election. She received 1,020 votes, making her the third-most popular Faroese politician. She was a prominent figure in the fight for the legalization of same-sex marriage.

In June 2015, the former Speaker of the Faroese Parliament Jógvan á Lakjuni wrote a letter to the editor titled “Hvar eru vit á veg?” (“Where are we heading?”). Jógvan á Lakjuni wrote that “we can see how selective [national broadcasting company] Kringvarp Føroya is – i.e., how much space the LGBT and its president get – while others, who try to speak against them, are ridiculed and ignored!

And then there is the Nordic House in Tórshavn, which now just before the Ólavsøka, our Christian national holiday, will have a so-called “dragshow”, where the homo-organization also plays a major role. What is this? Do these people not feel any shame at all, dragging such non-culture into the Nordic House?,” asked Jógvan á Lakjuni back in 2015.

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