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Singapore government’s stance on laws against gay sex unchanged, even after India removes archaic ban

Photo: Pink Dot SG / Facebook

The efforts to repeal an ancient law against gay sex in Singapore has never waned, but the issue was raised into the national spotlight once again following India’s historic Supreme Court ruling that decriminalizes homosexuality.

Yesterday, the country decriminalized part of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that outlaws consensual gay sex. The 157-year-old law prohibited consensual “carnal intercourse against the order of nature”, a rule that was enacted during the nation’s British colonial days. The Washington Post reported that a panel of five judges issued a unanimous judgment to strike down the provision.

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.

The difference between India and Singapore, however, is that the latter is still adamant about keeping the legislation, signaling that the government is not yet ready to stand alongside the growing number of people standing in solidarity with the country’s LGBTQ community.

Speaking to the media earlier today, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam insists that a majority of Singaporeans are opposed to the removal of the controversial ruling, Channel NewsAsia reported.

“This issue relates to social mores, values — so can you impose viewpoints on a majority when it so closely relates to a social value system?” he said, echoing Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s sentiments that Singapore society is “not that liberal on these matters”.

He reminded reporters that the LGBTQ community is free to express themselves in Singapore, and nobody gets convicted for being gay.

Even so, the LGBTQ community views the existence of section 377A as one that also allows for discrimination, intolerance, and bigotry against them. 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.

Back in 2014, the Singapore Supreme Court upheld the country’s ban on same-sex relations between consenting adult men after a legal challenge mounted on the constitutionality of the law failed. Nonetheless, the push for equality and acceptance for the LGBTQ community in Singapore has been going strong — most visibly through annual gay pride rally Pink Dot, which celebrated its 10th anniversary here back in July.