Singapore’s gay sex law to be repealed: PM Lee, LGBT groups ‘relieved’

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong speaks last night during his annual National Day Rally speech. Photo: Prime Minister’s Office/YouTube
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong speaks last night during his annual National Day Rally speech. Photo: Prime Minister’s Office/YouTube

LGBT groups cautiously rejoiced in victory to last night’s announcement that gay sex will no longer be a crime in Singapore.

After a long, tedious journey, opponents of Singapore’s problematic gay sex law said in a joint statement that while repeal was “long overdue,” it was still a “significant milestone.”

“As organisations supporting equality and inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community in Singapore, we are relieved by the government’s intention to repeal Section 377A, which criminalises sex between men,” said the statement signed by 22 organizations including Pink Dot SG, Oogachaga and Ready4Repeal.

It came just after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced last night in his National Day Rally speech that Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalizes sex between men, would be stricken from the books.

“I believe this is the right thing to do, and something that most Singaporeans will now accept,” Lee said. “This will bring the law into line with current social mores, and I hope provide some relief to gay Singaporeans.” 

Lee took pains to reassure social conservatives that existing, pro-heterosexual policies would not be affected.

It has been over 80 years since the law was enacted in 1938, though it was not actively enforced. Still, the courts have dismissed challenges to repeal the law on the basis that it was unenforceable.

Lee said the decision came after noticing the generational shift in attitudes toward the LGBT community who are now “better accepted” in the city-state.

While repealing the law is a major symbolic victory, it does not spell the end of systematic discrimination.

The future of Singapore’s gay sex law: Will we see its end?

LGBT advocates noted repeal was the “first step” toward obtaining equality for the community, saying they would now turn their efforts to tackling discrimination at home and in schools, workplaces, housing, and health care.

It also signifies a “process of healing” for those bullied and harassed, is “proof and encouragement” for friends and families that their efforts as LGBT allies paid off, and gives hope for change into a more inclusive society, they added.

“A society without Section 377A is a society that is more progressive, not just for LGBTQ+ people, but for everyone. No one is free until everyone is free. This is a win for humanity,” the joint statement said.

But Lee last night also announced that there will be amendments to the constitution to prevent heterosexual marriages from being challenged in courts. He said the government has no intention of allowing same-sex marriage, or change policies relating to public housing, education, adoption, advertising and film classification.

The laws will maintain the society’s “prevailing norms and values.”

In response, the LGBT organizations said this was “disappointing” as introducing more legislation would treat the LGBT community as “unequal citizens.”

They pressed the government not to listen to religious naysayers as it would cause more headaches and return to bite them in the future. 

“We urge the government not to heed recent calls from religious conservatives to enshrine the definition of marriage into the Constitution. Such a decision will undermine the secular character of our Constitution, codify further discrimination into supreme law, and tie the hands of future Parliaments,” the statement wrote.

Notorious naysayers, Jason Wong and Mohamed Khair, who organized a private townhall last month protesting against the repeal, last night said they were “deeply disappointed” with the decision and hope that “comprehensive safeguards” protecting the “children and freedom of conscience against LGBTQ+ extremism” will be implemented.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore also agreed last night that while the LGBT community are also “children of God,” they are afraid that the repeal would hinder their preachings and practices as well as discrimination against those who believe in heterosexual marriages.

RELATED – Singapore’s anti-LGBT summit organizers pack manifesto with culture war cliches

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