HUMAN rights advocates have welcomed the recent decriminalisation of homosexuality in the tiny Asia-Pacific nation of Palau.

This month, the government of Palau approved a revision of its Penal Code, which included removing all offences relating to consensual same-sex conduct between men.

The amended laws for the island nation of about 20,000 citizens will come into affect in July 2015.

The news comes three years a Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council recommended that Palau repealed its anti-gay laws.

Dr Paula Gerber, president of Asia Pacific LGBTI rights advocacy group Kaleidoscope Australia, said the “wonderful news” from Palau would give much-needed impetus to the process of reform among Australia’s regional neighbours.

“It is especially pleasing to see that recommendations made during the UN Universal Periodic Review process appear to have had an impact,” she said.

“Kaleidoscope Australia regularly submits shadow reports to UN review processes, calling for an end to the criminalisation of homosexuality.

“[We] will continue to work with LGBTI activists in Asia Pacific nations to follow the example recently set by Palau.”

According to Kaleidoscope, there are 79 countries that still treat gay men as criminals. A quarter of them being Australia’s near neighbours — eight are in the Pacific region and 12 in Asia:

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