New report by a global rights group says torture, mutilation and murder motivated by sexual orientation are "still common" though legislative progress protecting LGBT rights has been made.

Participant waves a rainbow flag during the annual March against Homophobia and Transphobia in Havana, Cuba. May 13, 2017.
Participant waves a rainbow flag during the annual March against Homophobia and Transphobia in Havana, Cuba. May 13, 2017.

Homophobic violence and abuse are rife, a global rights group said on Monday, but things have turned around somewhat for sexual minorities.

The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) said same-sex sexual activity was a crime in 72 countries, a drop from 92 in 2006 when the global rights group began documenting laws regarding LGBT people.

Gay marriage is now legal in 23 countries, and 43 states have banned hate crimes, including on the basis of race and sexual orientation, according to the ILGA report.

"Hate crimes (against LGBT people) are being really noticed in the world. So protections for people who ... are hurt on the basis of sexual orientation are increasing," co-author of the report Aengus Carroll told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Last year, the United Nations Human Rights Council appointed Vitit Muntarbhorn as its first independent investigator to help protect homosexual and transgender people worldwide from violence and discrimination.

Hate crimes continue

But ILGA said attacks against the LGBT community are still common, most recently in the Russian republic of Chechnya, where over 100 gay men or men suspected of being gay were rounded up and tortured, newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported last month.

"The ongoing case of Chechnya offers us the most recent, horrific example of such abuses," said Renato Sabbadini, ILGA's executive director, in a statement.

"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."

Across eight countries, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Sudan, having gay sex could result in the death penalty.

An uptick in deadly violence against transgender women in El Salvador prompted the United Nations on Friday to call for an investigation into crimes against sexual minorities in the conservative Central American country.

So far this year, seven transgender women have been killed in El Salvador, according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Local LGBT organisations put the death toll at 17 through the first four months of 2017.

Leading transgender activist Karla Avelar said local gang members have demanded money and made threats that forced her to flee her home six times in the past two years.

Avelar, 40, is a finalist for the 2017 Martin Ennals Award, an international prize for human rights activists, but said the gang members have already sought to extort some of the future prize money if she wins.

"I won't wait for them to kill me," said Avelar. "And how am I going to give them something I don't even have?"

In 2011, the UN rights body declared there should be no discrimination or violence against people based on their sexual orientation.

ILGA report co-author Carroll said there was no country where LGBT people, including himself, would feel entirely safe from homophobic attacks if they were with their partner.

"There's nowhere in the world at the moment where I would say that LGBT people would feel super safe. Absolutely none," he said.

In April, a married gay couple in the Netherlands were beaten for walking hand-in-hand, which prompted Dutch men around the world to hold hands as a campaign against homophobic violence.

"Is there a possibility that we could stop having these fights?" said Carroll.

"I would like to see that happen through legislative change across the planet, but it's not going to be easy. We're going to need to fight for quite a long time."

Source: Reuters