Singapore announces decriminalization of same-sex relationships

Singapore announced on Sunday that it will decriminalize sex between men by repealing a law that has been in place since colonial times.

During his speech on Sunday 21 August at the annual National Day rally, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he believed it was “the right thing to do now” as most Singaporeans will accept it.

“Private and consensual sexual behavior between adults does not raise any public order problem. There is no justification for prosecuting people for it, or making it a crime,” Lee said. “This will bring the law in line with current social customs. I hope to bring some relief to gay Singaporeans.”

Lee promised that the repeal will be limited and will not shake Singapore’s traditional family and social norms, including the definition of marriage, what is taught to children in schools, what is shown on television and the conduct of the general 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 safeguard the institution of marriage,” Lee said. “We have to amend the Constitution to protect it. And we will. This will help us repeal Section 377A in a controlled and careful manner.”

Singapore announces decriminalization of same-sex relationships
Support for the measure among the Singaporean gay community. Photo: News Network.

Since 2007, when Parliament last debated whether or not to repeal Section 377A, the position has been to keep the law, but not enforce it. However, homosexuals say that the law hangs over their heads, and that it discriminates against them.

Lee said he hopes the government’s move will help reconcile and accommodate 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 together as a nation,” he said. “I hope that the new balance will allow Singapore to remain a tolerant and inclusive society for many years to come.”

Other former British colonies still retain similar laws criminalizing sex between men, including neighboring Malaysia, where a former deputy prime minister was twice jailed for sodomy. He was sentenced in 2000 and again in 2014, in cases critics say were politically motivated.

In 2018, India decriminalized gay sex after its Supreme Court, in a landmark ruling, struck down Section 377 which punished gay sex with up to ten years in prison. Some Asian countries have also moved to legalize same-sex marriage. The first was Taiwan in 2019. Thailand also recently approved plans allowing same-sex unions.

Associated Press/OnCuba.

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