Almost 400 global religious leaders and representatives, including anti-apartheid campaigner Desmond Tutu and former Irish president Mary McAleese, have called for countries to overturn bans on same-sex relations and end LGBT+ conversion therapy.

Sixty-nine United Nations member states still outlaw gay sex, according to the 2020 State-Sponsored Homophobia report released by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA World).

Only Brazil, Ecuador, Malta and Germany have instituted forms of nationwide bans on conversion therapy, which aims to alter a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.

Organised by the Ozanne Foundation charity, the declaration has been signed by faith leaders from 35 countries, including representatives of the world's main religions, and Ms McAleese who is regarded as a prominent member of the Roman Catholic Church.

The announcement, which marks the launch of the Global Interfaith Commission on LGBT+ Lives, will be made today at a virtual conference of global faith representatives funded by Britain's foreign ministry (FCDO).

Ms McAleese said the joint statement represented "a small step towards countering (homophobia)".

"But it's a necessary step to remind the faith systems of the world and people of faith that they have an obligation to their fellow citizens who are also entitled to the full dignity of their humanity and their full equal human rights," she said.

The declaration also acknowledges "with profound regret" that religious teachings through the centuries have "caused and continue to cause deep pain and offence to those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex".

To date, the declaration has been signed by religious leaders including Christians, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims.

"I think the Muslim community is ready for this conversation," said Imam Muhsin Hendricks, who founded the Masjidul Ghurbaah Mosque in Cape Town, South Africa, one of the world's few LGBT-inclusive mosques.

"I'm currently training with six imams from different parts of Africa and the openness to look at this issue (is incredible)," he said.

"I'm really amazed and excited because ten years ago this kind of training with imams was not possible. So I do think the community is ready."