India’s removal of laws against gay sex sparks renewed petitions for and against repealing Section 377A

Photo: Pink Dot / Facebook

If India has already abolished a 157-year-old law outlawing consensual sex between gay men, it’s about time that Singapore does the same for its own too. The highly divisive issue about doing away with Section 377A of the Penal Code has been propelled into national discussion once again, with renewed calls for reform.

As of writing, a petition calling for the review of the Singapore Penal Code has gathered over 16,000 signatures. Authored by Singaporean filmmaker Glen Goei and Eugene Thuraisingam LLP practice trainee Johannes Hadi, the petition is also being lead by prominent local figures such as former Nominated Member of Parliament Calvin Cheng, founder of property market site 99.co Darius Cheung and actress Janice Koh. Organizations such as Pink Dot SG, The Bear Project, Action for AIDS, Oogachaga and many more LGBTQ networks have put their weight behind it.

The petition itself urges the Singapore government to include Section 377A in its first major review of the Penal Code in more than a decade.

“The proposed changes to the Penal Code are expected to be tabled in Parliament in November this year. Unfortunately, an executive decision by the government was taken to exclude Section 377A from the scope of the review,” noted the petition’s authors.

The petition and its supporting signatures will be sent to the Penal Code Review Committee as well as local Members of Parliament by Sept 24.

‘Please Keep Penal Code 377A in Singapore’

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s an opposing petition that calls for the retention of Section 377A in Singapore.

“By repealing the section 377A penal code, it would begin to normalize homosexual behaviors as a societal norm and lead to greater push for other LGBT rights in our conservative society as we have seen played out in other western societies today,” wrote the petition’s author, a user who goes by the name Paul P.

“We do not think the vocal minority should impose their values and practice on the silent majority who are still largely conservative.”

The petition has so far gathered over 83,000 signatures, a far greater volume than the petition that wants the law abolished. It also hosts a bevy of… colorful comments.

Change.org screengrab
Change.org screengrab
Change.org screengrab
Change.org screengrab
Change.org screengrab
Change.org screengrab
Change.org screengrab
Change.org screengrab
Change.org screengrab
Change.org screengrab

Section 377A

The Singapore government’s stance on Section 377A unchanged, even after India removed it.

Last week, India decriminalized part of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that outlaws consensual gay sex. The archaic law prohibited consensual “carnal intercourse against the order of nature”, a rule that was enacted during the nation’s British colonial days.

Singapore, on the other hand, still upholds section 377A of its own Penal Code, which criminalizes acts of “gross indecency” between two men. Similar to India, the law dates back to British colonial rule, and while sex between men remains a criminal act here, the statute is not being actively enforced.

Even so, the LGBTQ community views the existence of section 377A as one that basically labels them as unconvicted criminals. This on top of the fact that a number of examples from the past couple of years indicate that the government refuses LGBTQ voices and culture to permeate the mainstream in Singapore. Relationships between same-sex couples are also not officially recognized in the city-state, while there are no laws that protect LGBT Singaporeans from discrimination in the workplace, housing or other areas.

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