The President of the United States Barack Obama, should use an upcoming trip to Africa to speak out against the “suffering” of many LGBT people in African countries, Amnesty International has said.

Obama’s trip features stops in Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania.

Amnesty today published a new report titled “Making Love a Crime: Criminalisation of same-sex conduct in sub-Saharan Africa,” which warns that governments are increasingly criminalising same-sex relationships by seeking to impose new laws and draconian penalties.

“His silence would be seen as indifference to their suffering,” said Adotei Akwei, Amnesty International USA’s Africa specialist, in a statement accompanying the report.

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.

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.