Singapore to Repeal Law Banning Sex Between Men

SINGAPORE, SINGAPORE - JUNE 29: Attendees decked in rainbow accessories can be seen during
Ore Huiying/Getty

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced on Sunday his government would decriminalize sex between men.

The prime minister announced the change in an annual televised policy address to the nation, Channel News Asia reported.

“[T]he Government will repeal Section 377A and decriminalise sex between men,” Lee said. “I believe this is the right thing to do, and something that most Singaporeans will now accept.”

“This will bring the law into line with current social mores, and I hope, provide some relief to gay Singaporeans,” the prime minister added

Lee addressed citizens in Malay, Mandarin, and English.

The law, known as Section 377A, was enacted in 1938 under British rule and criminalized sexual activities between men that could carry a sentence of up to two years.

No one in the southeast Asian city-state has been convicted under the law in decades, Reuters reported. The law also only applied to men and not women.

Section 377A had previously been upheld twice by the Court of Appeals – once in 2014 and another in February, according to Agence France-Presse.

On the advice of his attorney general, Lee acknowledged in his speech that there was a “significant risk” of Section 377A being struck down in court as it may violate the equal protections amendment in the constitution, Channel News Asia reported.

Supporters attend the annual “Pink Dot” event in a public show of support for the LGBT community at Hong Lim Park in Singapore on June 18, 2022. (ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP via Getty Images)

The prime minister then made a commitment to pursue a constitutional amendment that would preserve marriage between a man and a woman, noting that a successful court challenge could legalize same-sex marriage.

“It will limit this change to what I believe most Singaporeans will accept, which is to decriminalise sexual relations between consenting men in private,” Lee said. “But we will also keep what I believe most Singaporeans still want, and that is to retain the basic family structure of marriage between a man and a woman, within which we have and raise our children.”

Lee also said that “most Singaporeans do not want the repeal to trigger a drastic shift in our societal norms across the board,” Agence France-Presse noted.

Religious groups were critical of the decision, including a group of 80 churches that penned a letter to Lee slamming his decision.

“The repeal is an extremely regrettable decision which will have a profound impact on the culture that our children and future generations of Singaporeans will live in,” the letter read via Reuters.

LGBT groups welcomed the decision but expressed in a statement to the Prime Minister not to give in to calls from religious and conservative groups to pursue a constitutional amendment that would enshrine marriage as being between a man and a woman.

People gather to watch the Pink Dot SG rally livestream in a house on June 27, 2020 in Singapore. (Ore Huiying/Getty Images)

Singapore is among a wave of southeast Asian nations that have moved to liberalize their laws toward gay people.

In 2018, India’s Supreme Court decriminalized gay sex, striking down a law that would punish those convicted with up to ten years in prison.

The following year, Taiwan became the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage. Thailand’s government has also recently permitted same-sex unions, the Associated Press reported.

You can follow Ethan Letkeman on Twitter at @EthanLetkeman.


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