Sex between men will be decriminalized in Singapore at a time when society is increasingly accepting of gay people, the country’s prime minister has said.
Lee Hsien Loong announced that the government would repeal Section 377A of the penal code, a colonial-era law that criminalizes sex between men.
Under Section 377A, offenders can be imprisoned for up to two years, but it is currently not actively enforced.
There have been no known convictions for sex between consenting adult men for decades and the law does not include sex between women or other sexes.
Mr. Lee said Singapore is a traditional society with conservative social values, and he also pledged to “support and safeguard the institution of marriage” between a man and a woman, saying that only such marriages are recognized in the city-state.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) groups in Singapore have filed multiple lawsuits to try to have the controversial law struck down, but none have been successful.
Explaining the reasons for the repeal, Lee noted that there was a real risk of judges ruling against the law in future challenges, and that it would be unwise to ignore that and do nothing.
Society’s attitudes towards gay men had also “changed dramatically” and it was time to rethink whether sex between men in private should be a criminal offence, he added.
“We need to find the right way to reconcile and accommodate both the traditional mores of our society and the yearning of gay Singaporeans to be respected and accepted,” he said.
“I think (repeal) is the right thing to do, and something most Singaporeans will now accept. It will bring the law into line with current social mores, and hopefully bring some relief to gay people. Singaporeans,” he said. said by the Straits Times.
Delivering his annual speech at the National Day rally, the Prime Minister said Section 377A was originally introduced in the 1930s by the British colonial government when attitudes were different.
He said that over time, homosexuality has become better understood, leading to greater acceptance of gay people.
Many countries with similar laws have also repealed them, including several countries in Asia, he said.
The South China Morning Post reported that according to previous polls, six out of 10 people in 2013 believed gay sex was still bad.
But the figure fell to five out of 10 when the same question was asked in 2019 to more than 4,000 respondents.
Another poll found that the proportion of Singaporeans who oppose 377A has risen from 12% in 2018 to 20% today, according to the newspaper.