Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama has condemned homophobia as a "violation of human rights" and said homosexual sex "is okay", as long as it is consensual, AFP reports.

The exiled monk gave his opininon on homosexuality during his latest tour in the United States.

In an interview he said that gay marriage is an "individual business."

"If two people -- a couple -- really feel that way is more practical, more sort of satisfaction, both sides fully agree, then okay," he told during an online talk hosted by Larry King.

The Dalai Lama then added that people should still follow their own religions' rules on sexuality, however.

"But then for a non-believer, that is up to them. So there are different forms of sex -- so long (as it is) safe, okay, and (if both people) fully agree, okay," the Dalai Lama said in English.

"Bully, abuse -- that's totally wrong. That's a violation of human rights," he said.

The Dalai Lama – who fled China in 1959 and has been living in exile in Tibet since – had previously defined homosexuality as "misconduct", from a Buddhist point of view.

From a society point of view, however, "mutually agreeable homosexual relations can be of mutual benefit, enjoyable and harmless," he then clarified.

The Dalai Lama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, has described himself as a progressive feminist.

"Isn't that what you call someone who fights for women's rights?", he said during his International Freedom Award acceptance speech in 2009.

The exiled Buddhist leader's remarks in favour of homosexuality come in an era where many countries – such as Russia, Nigeria, Uganda and some states in the US, are witnessing a harsh crackdown on homosexuals.

While politicians have made controversial homophobic remarks in public, homosexuality and gay propaganda have been made illegal and punishable with several years in jail.

The result is a widespread increase of homophobia and violent attacks on homosexuals who are the target of hate speech, discrimination and corporal punishment.

While gay marriage has been widely accepted in many Western societies, Buddhist nations still do not allow gay unions.