Thanks to a recent public interest judgement by the Punjab and Haryana High Court, state governments in India might consider giving jail inmates the right to have occasional sex with their spouses.

The court was hearing a plea by a married couple convicted of murder, who wanted to be allowed the right to have a child. Since the couple is on death row, the court rejected their plea. The judge, however, ordered the formation of a state-level committee to work out provisions for conjugal visits in jails.

Conjugal visits refer to a limited period of time during which prisoners are allowed to receive their spouses or partners and spend some private time with them. Supporters of the concept believe that it is important for prisoners to maintain contact with the outside world and preserve conjugal and familial bonds. Opponents believe people who are serving time for committing crimes should not enjoy the right to sex.

From the perspective of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, allowing prisoners to have sex with legal spouses for the purpose of procreation is not much to ask for at a time when India is debating the rights of homosexuals and transgenders.

The discussion on conjugal visits in jail may be just a few years old in India, but around the world, several countries have been allowing prisoners the right to have sex for several years. Countries with more liberal laws also allow conjugal visits for same-sex couples.

Here is a brief look at the practices in prisons across the world.

Nations that allow conjugal visits

Canada: Prisoners are allowed visits not just by spouses or partners but also other family members, including children, parents, grandparents and siblings. These "private family visits" can last for up to 72 hours and can occur once every two months.

Saudi Arabia: Both male and female prisoners have the right to be visited by a spouse. The Islamic country, in fact, goes a step further – while monogamous men and women in jail are allowed one conjugal visit a month, bigamous men are allowed two separate visits a month.

Denmark: Not only are conjugal visits allowed, one of Denmark’s prisons even provides apartments for couples so that inmates who have been in jail for more than eight years can occasionally spend private time with their partners.

Germany: Prisoners can apply for conjugal visits and if approved, couples are allowed private time after a thorough strip search.

Spain: Three-hour visits are allowed in private rooms, and prison authorities also provide condoms and showering facilities for couples.

Nations that allow conjugal visits for homosexuals too

Brazil: Conjugal visits in Brazilian prisons are limited only to men – women are rarely allowed that right. But when it comes to men, the country allows same-sex couples to enjoy private time.

Israel: The country gave homosexual prisoners the right to conjugal visits fairly recently, in July 2013.

Mexico: While most of Mexico has long allowed spouses, partners and even families to visit jail inmates, prisons in Mexico City gave gay prisoners the right to sex in 2007.

Belgium: Male and female prisoners are allowed same-sex conjugal visits for two hours a month.

Meanwhile, countries like the United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand and the United States federal prisons don’t allow conjugal visits at all.