Singapore decriminalizes gay sex, but limits change

Singapore decriminalizes gay sex, but limits change

Singapore decriminalizes gay sex, but limits change

Singapore announced on Sunday that it will decriminalize sex between men by repealing a colonial-era law while protecting the city-state’s traditional norms and the definition of marriage.

Speaking at the annual National Day Rally, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he believed this is the “right thing to do now” as most Singaporeans will now accept it.

“Private sexual behavior between consenting adults does not raise a matter of law and order. There is no justification for prosecuting people for this, nor for making it a crime,” Lee said. “This will bring the law into line with current social mores and I hope it will provide some relief to gay Singaporeans.”

Lee vowed that the withdrawal will be limited and not shake Singapore’s traditional family and social norms, including how marriage is defined, what children learn in schools, what is shown on television and the general behavior of the public .

He said the government will amend the constitution to ensure there can be no constitutional challenge to allowing same-sex marriage.

“Even if we repeal Section 377A, we will uphold and protect the institution of marriage,” Lee said. “We need to change the constitution to protect it. And we will. This will help us to repeal Section 377A in a controlled and diligent manner.”

Section 377A of the Criminal Code was introduced in the 1930s under British colonial rule. British rule over the island ended in 1963 when Singapore became a state of Malaysia. It gained independence two years later, but retained the Criminal Code, which punishes sex between men with up to two years in prison.

Since 2007, when Parliament last debated repealing Section 377A, his stance has been to keep the law, but not enforce it.

But gay men say the law hangs over them and discriminates against them. Thousands of activists stage an annual rally in the city-state known as the “Pink Dot” in support of the LGBTQ community.

Lee said he hopes the government’s move will help reconcile and accommodate both the concerns of conservative religious groups and the desires of gay Singaporeans to be respected and accepted.

“All groups must exercise restraint because that is the only way we can move forward as a nation,” he said. “I hope the new balance will enable Singapore to remain a tolerant and inclusive society for many years to come.”

One of Lee’s cousins, Li Huanwu, is gay. The son of Lee’s estranged younger brother Lee Hsien Yang, he married his partner in South Africa in 2019. Li Huanwu has attended Pink Dot events with his partner and parents.

Other former British colonies still have similar laws criminalizing sex between men, including neighboring Malaysia, where a former deputy prime minister was jailed twice for sodomy. He was convicted in 2000 and again in 2014.

In 2018, India decriminalized gay sex after the Supreme Court struck down Section 377 in a landmark ruling that punished gay sex with up to 10 years in prison. Some Asian countries have also moved to legalize same-sex marriage, with Taiwan first in 2019. Thailand has also recently approved plans to allow same-sex marriage.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.