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Prime Minister of Singapore Announces Repeal of Colonial Era Law Criminalizing Gay Sex




This past week, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that the country will be repealing the colonial- area law that criminalized gay sex.


Section 377A of Singapore’s Penal Code was introduced under the country’s British colonial rule in the 1940’s and made sex between consenting male adults punishable by up to two years in jail. Although British colonial rule ended in 1963 when Singapore became a state of Malaysia, the law remained in effect until recently when it was finally repealed.


Although the law continued to exist after British colonial rule, in February 2022 the Singaporean government ruled that Section 377A would endure but pledged not to enforce it so as to appease LGBTQ activists who continued to rally for changes within the country.


While Prime Minister Loong moved to repeal Section 377A, he stated that same-sex marriage will still not be permitted. He had the following to say in regard to the refusal to permit same- sex marriages:

“Even as we repeal Section 377A, we will uphold and safeguard the institution of marriage. We have to amend the Constitution to protect it. And we will do so. This will help us repeal Section 377A in a controlled and careful way.”


In a televised speech, Prime Minister Loong stated that the country’s long standing conservative attitude towards the queer community has changed in recent years. The address was delivered in Malay, Mandarin and English, a nod to the diverse demographics that exist in Singapore.


He stated that “this will bring the law into line with current social models, and I hope provide some relief to gay Singaporeans.”


The Prime Minister also mentioned in his annual policy address that sex between consenting men should not be criminalized and that the “private sexual behavior between consenting adults does not raise any law and order issue.”


He continued to say that there is no justification to prosecute for it.

"Like every human society, we also have gay people in our midst. They are our fellow Singaporeans. They are our colleagues, our friends, our family members. They too want to live their own lives, participate in our community, and contribute fully to Singapore," he added.


Prime Minister Loong also said that the government needs to find the “right way to reconcile and accommodate both the traditional mores of [our] society, and the aspiration of gay Singaporeans to be respected and accepted.”


Other parts of Asia have also seen tremendous growth over the years as it relates to the issue of same-same sex marriages with Taiwan became the first Asian country in 2019 to legalize same-sex marriages.


While societal attitudes in Singapore remain largely traditional and conservative, LGBTQ activists mention that there has, however, been a large movement towards change and that the annulment of Section 377A is considered a step in the right direction.


Based on a powerful community statement by more than 20 LGBTQ groups, the decriminalization of sex between men has been “long overdue” and that “state-sanctioned discrimination has no place in Singapore.”


Whilst there seems to be a long way to go before same-sex marriages will be made legal in Singapore, activists as well as the LGBTQ community at large will still continue to celebrate this historic milestone.


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