Singapore repeals law criminalizing homosexuality
Singapore's parliament on Tuesday revoked a law criminalizing sex between men, but at the same time amended the Constitution to ban same-sex marriage.
“Section 377A” of the Singapore Penal Code dates back to the era of British colonization and has long been criticized as discriminatory and stigmatizing the LGBTQ+ community.
The law which provided for a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment was no longer enforced in the Southeast Asian city-state.
This decision by the Singaporean Parliament follows several attempts to change the law. In February, a panel of judges had ruled that the law kept a symbolic role but could no longer be applied effectively.
Roy Tan, a doctor who was among the plaintiffs who challenged the law in court, hailed “the birth of a new chapter in the history of Singapore’s LGBT community.”
“With the revocation of this law, we can gradually dismantle all barriers to visibility and progress for queer citizens since there is no longer a reason for discriminatory treatment,” he said.
“I'm glad we finally got there,” observed Justin, a member of the LGBTQ+ community who only wanted to give his first name. With this “archaic law” disappearing, “it's one less reason to hide who I am,” he told AFP.
“But this is just a first step in eliminating the social and religious prejudices that plague our community due to outdated beliefs and media censorship” in the country, he noted.
Singapore is a major commercial and financial hub with state-of-the-art architecture but retains conservative social norms.
It does, however, have a visible LBGTQ+ community, which has mobilized regularly, including “Pink Dot” rallies to defend his rights.
No equality in marriage
Singapore's parliament also amended the local constitution on Tuesday to clarify that a marriage can only be between one man and one woman, preventing same-sex couples from achieving marriage equality.
Justice Minister K. Shanmugam said at the end of parliamentary proceedings on Tuesday that revoking the law was “the right thing to do, because consensual sex between men are a crime”.
He had also noted the day before that this legislation was “a daily reminder” to homosexuals that “whenever they engage in sexual acts in secret, in the privacy of their bedroom, they are nevertheless criminals”.
Social and Family Affairs Minister Masagos Zulkifli, whose administration proposed the constitutional amendment blocking same-sex unions, stressed that the traditional definition of family must remain the bedrock of society.
“There are no plans to change this definition to include same-sex marriages,” he said on Tuesday.
He warned that any solemnization of a union between persons of the same sex “was against the law”.
However, it is possible that Parliament will modify the definition of marriage in the future, has he agreed.
Homosexuality remains banned in 69 countries, including 11 where it is punishable by death, according to a n report of the Ilga (international association of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people) of 2020.