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Fewer Countries Criminalize Same-Sex Relations, Report Finds, But Homophobic Abuse Still Common

A Pakistani police officer speaks to a suspect in connection with the murders of three homosexual men, at a police station in Lahore in 2014.

The number of countries criminalizing same-sex relations has decreased over the past decade, but attacks against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community are still common in many countries, a global rights group says.

In a report released on May 15, the Geneva-based International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association (ILGA) said same-sex sexual activity remains a crime in 72 countries -- a decrease from 92 in 2006.

Meanwhile, enactment of legislation that protects LGBT people from discrimination and violence has "significantly expanded," said co-author of the report Aengus Carroll, who cautioned that “the real test facing states is meaningful implementation of those laws."

The report also warned that "persecution and deep stigmatization" of LGBT people persist in many countries.

In 25 of them, there are "active barriers" to the formation, establishment, or registration of sexual orientation-related NGOs, ILGA said, and "22 states have 'morality' or 'promotion' laws that actively target public promotion or expression of same-sex and trans realities."

"With the ongoing rise in the use of digital devices, deployment of these laws becomes all the more sinister," ILGA Executive Director Renato Sabbadini said.

The case of the southern Russian region of Chechnya "offers us the most recent, horrific example of such abuses, as survivors have expressed fears that the social media accounts of men perceived to be gay or bisexual are being hacked and used to identify and contact others who have not yet been arrested," he added.

The comments come amid mounting international pressure over the alleged detention, torture, and killing of gay men in Chechnya, first reported on April 1 by the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta.

Gay marriage is now legal in 23 countries, while 28 others guarantee some civil partnership recognition, according to ILGA.

There are eight countries, including Iran, where the death penalty exists as a punishment for same-sex relations.

In a further five states, including Pakistan and Afghanistan, the death penalty is possible but never implemented.

And in 14 other countries, the maximum penalty can vary from 14 years to a life sentence in prison.

With reporting by the Thomson Reuters Foundation