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Singapore to decriminalise sex between men – but PM also vows to safeguard institution of marriage

The prime minister of Singapore has announced that homosexual relations between men will no longer be criminalized in the country. This comes at a time when society seems to be more open to gay people.

Lee Hsien Loong declared that the government would repeal Section 377A, a colonial-era law which criminalizes sex between men, of the penal code.

Section 377A allows offenders to be held for up two years. However, it is not currently being enforced.

For decades, there have not been any convictions for sex among consenting adult males. The law also does not allow for sex between females or other genders.

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Mr Lee stated that Singapore is an old society with conservative values. He also pledged to “uphold” and protect the institution of marriage between a man or woman. Only those marriages are recognized in the city state.

Multiple legal challenges have been brought against the controversial Singapore law by lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGBT) groups. However, none of them have succeeded.

Mr Lee explained the reasons for the repeal by pointing out that there was a real chance of judges interpreting the law against their will in future challenges. It would be foolish to ignore this risk and not do anything.

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He said that attitudes toward gay people in society have “shifted significantly” and that it was time to reconsider whether having sex with men in private should be considered a crime.

He stated that “we need to find the best way to reconcile both the traditional values of our society and the aspiration for gay Singaporeans to feel respected and accepted.”

Image: In 2017, thousands gathered in a park to celebrate the Pink Dot gay pride festival in Singapore. Pic by AP

“I believe that (repeal), is the right thing to happen, and something most Singaporeans will accept. According to the Straits Times, he stated that this will align the law with social norms and provide relief for gay Singaporeans.

The prime minister gave his annual speech at the national day rally. He stated that Section 377A was first introduced by the British colonial government in the 1930s, when attitudes were very different.

He stated that homosexuality has been better understood over time and has led to greater acceptance for gay people.

He continued, “Many countries have similar laws and they’ve been repealed by others.”

Image In 2019, a rally was held to repeal Section 377A of Singapore

According to the South China Morning Post, 61% of people felt that gay sex was always wrong according to polls.

However, the number dropped to 5 in 10 when the question was asked to the same respondents in 2019, to over 4,000 people.

According to the paper, another poll revealed that Singaporeans are more likely to oppose 377A than they were in 2018. This was a change of 12% from 2018 to 20%.

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