GAY relationships are still criminalised in 72 countries around the world, according to a new report.

The countries include 45 where sexual relationships between women are illegal, and eight where gay sex is punishable by death, with dozens more incurring a prison sentence.

The figures have been released in an annual report by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, The Guardian has reported.

The countries most likely to criminalise gay sex or relationships are in southern and east Africa, the Middle East and south Asia, with the western hemisphere having the most tolerant laws.

The countries where gay sex is punishable by the death penalty are Iran, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and parts of Somalia and northern Nigeria.

According to the report, while at least five other countries have the potential for the death penalty under sharia law, it does not appear to have been put into practice for consensual, private acts.

In Egypt, where same-sex relationships are technically legal, gay people are nonetheless pursued and hundreds are reported to be detained on morality grounds.

The report also reflected positive developments in rights worldwide. In countries including Botswana, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Tunisia, advocates have recently won the legal right to form lobby organisations for LGBTI rights.

In Australia, same-sex relationships between women have always been legal. Relations between men have only been legal in all states and territories since 1997, when Tasmania repealed its anti-gay laws.

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