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Although the Inca nation flag looks remarkably similar to the gay rainbow flag, Peru, a predominantly Catholic and socially conservative country, could not be considered among the world's most progressive in terms of societal freedoms for gays and lesbians. It remains a male-dominated, macho society where homosexuality is considered deviant. Across Peru, there is still considerable prejudice exhibited toward gays and lesbians who are out, or men -- be they straight or gay -- who are thought to be effeminate. The word maricón is, sadly, a commonly used derogatory term for homosexuals.

In the larger cities, especially Lima and Cusco, there are a number of establishments -- bars, discos, inns, and restaurants -- that are either gay-friendly or predominantly gay. Outside those areas, and in the small towns and villages of rural Peru, openly gay behavior is unlikely to be tolerated by the general population.

There are a number of helpful websites for gay and lesbian travelers to Peru. Gay Peru (www.gayperu.com) includes gay-oriented package tours, news items, and nightclubs and hotels (with versions in both English and Spanish). Purple Roofs (www.purpleroofs.com/southamerica/peru.html) has a decent listing of gay and lesbian lodgings, restaurants, and nightclubs throughout Peru. Gay Lima (http://lima.queercity.info) covers Lima and other parts of Peru, with English-language information on nightclubs and gay-friendly establishments and activities. If you can read Spanish, www.deambiente.com also has detailed listings and articles about gay life in Peru. GlobalGayz (www.globalgayz.com) includes a very interesting article on gay life in Peru. Among other things, it details the former Fujimori government's dismissal of homosexual diplomats and other public servants. The site also covers gay news, with insiders' perspectives on being gay in Peru, and gay lodging listings.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.