Singapore to decriminalize sex between men, PM says

Singapore to decriminalize sex between men, PM says
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  • According to the current law, men face up to 2 years in prison for having gay sex
  • The law has not been actively enforced for decades
  • Prime Minister Lee said Singaporean society is ready for this change
  • It reaffirms its support for the traditional definition of marriage

SINGAPORE, Aug 21 (Reuters) – Singapore will decriminalize sex between men but will not change its legal definition of marriage as between a man and a woman, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Sunday.

LGBTQ groups welcomed Lee’s decision to repeal Section 377A of the penal code, a colonial-era law that criminalized sex between men, but expressed concern that excluding same-sex marriage would help perpetuate discrimination.

In his annual national day rally speech, Lee said Singaporean society, particularly young people in the city-state, is more accepting of gays.

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“I believe this is the right thing to do and something that most Singaporeans will now accept,” he said.

It was not clear when exactly 377A would be repealed.

Singapore has become the latest Asian country to move towards ending discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community.

In 2018, the highest court of India a colonial era prohibition on homosexual sex, and Thailand has recently come close to legalizing same-sex unions.

Under Singapore’s Section 377A, under the law, offenders can be jailed for up to two years, but this is not currently being actively enforced. There have been no known convictions for sex between consenting adult men in decades, and the law does not cover sex between women or other sexes.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) groups have faced numerous legal challenges attempting to overturn the law, but none have been successful.

In a joint statement on Sunday, several LGBTQ rights groups said they were “comforted” by Lee’s statement.

“For anyone who has experienced the kinds of violence, rejection and harassment this law enables, repeal allows the process of healing to finally begin. For those who dream of a more equal and inclusive Singapore, repeal means that change is indeed possible,” the statement said.

But the groups also urged the government to ignore calls from religious conservatives to enshrine the definition of marriage in the constitution, saying it would signal that LGBTQ+ citizens are not equal.


In February, Singapore’s highest court ruled that the law did not violate the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights because it was not enforced, and reaffirmed that the law cannot be used to prosecute men for having homosexual sex.

Some religious groups, including Muslims, Catholics and some Protestants, continued to resist any repeal of the law, Lee said.

A union of more than 80 churches expressed strong dismay at the government’s decision on Sunday.

“The cancellation is an extremely regrettable decision that will have a profound impact on the culture that our children and future generations of Singaporeans will experience,” he said.

Singapore is a multi-racial and multi-religious society of 5.5 million people, approximately 16% of whom are Muslim, with larger Buddhist and Christian communities. According to the 2020 census, the predominantly ethnic Chinese population has large Malay and Indian minorities.

Underscoring his government’s continued support for the traditional definition of marriage, Lee said: “We believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman, that children should grow up in such families, that the traditional family should form the basic building block of society. .”

Singapore will “protect the definition of marriage from constitutional challenge in the courts,” he said. “This will help us to repeal Section 377A in a controlled and carefully considered manner.”

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Reporting by Chen Lin Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor and Gareth Jones

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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