Human rights organisation Amnesty International has published a new report titled “Making Love a Crime: Criminalisation of same-sex conduct in sub-Saharan Africa.”

Governments are increasingly criminalising same-sex relationships by seeking to impose new laws and draconian penalties, it warns.

The report states the situation is reaching “dangerous levels” in some parts of the continent.

Amnesty said US religious groups “actively fund and promote homophobia in Africa”, while many of the laws were inherited from the colonial era.

In the last five years, South Sudan and Burundi have introduced new laws criminalising same-sex relations.

Homosexuality remains illegal in 39 countries in sub-Saharan African.

The parliaments of Uganda, Liberia and Nigeria have draft laws before them, seeking to increase penalties.

“These poisonous laws must be repealed and the human rights of all Africans upheld,” Amnesty said.

“In some African countries political leaders target sexual orientation issues to distract attention from their overall human rights records, often marked by rampant discrimination and violence against women, corruption and lack of media freedoms,” it added.

In South Africa, at least seven people, five of them lesbians, were murdered between June and November 2012 in what appears to have been targeted violence related to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

South Africa is the only African country that recognises gay rights and allows same-sex marriage.

Amnesty also cited how gay citizens arrested in Cameroon have reported abuse by the police, including forced anal exams.

Earlier this month, UK Prime Minister David Cameron said he would be raising the decision of Nigeria’s Parliament to pass new anti-gay legislation in future discussions with the country’s leaders.