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Singapore goes ‘gay’, repeals 377A: But, Equality Awaits

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Singapore’s PM Lee Hesien Loong announced that Section 377A which criminalised homosexual activity between male adults will be repealed by the government at National Day Rally 2022.

‘ The Government will repeal 377A, and decriminalise sex between men. I believe this is right thing to do, and something most Singaporeans will not accept. This will bring the law into line with the current social mores, and I hope, provide some relief to gay Singaporeans.’

Lee Hesien Loong, Prime Minister, Singapore

Interestingly, the law (Section 377A) technically criminalises sex between men. Interestingly, the colonial-era law never applied on women. So, 377A violated the basic right to equality for men.

The section 377A in the penal reads, 

Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or abets the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years.’

Source: Singapore statutes online

Singapore’s deputy PM Lawrence Wong in an interview with Bloomberg, accepted the conservative nature of the Section 377A. In addition, he said how other Asian countries have repealed around homosexual which were effectively British legacy. In recent years, India, Taiwan, and Thailand has de-criminalised homosexuality.

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Reaction from LGBTQ groups

An Singapore’s LGBTQ activism organisation called ‘Pink Dot’ in a statement said, 

‘The repeal of Section 377A would not have been possible without generations of activists, community groups, and allies. Their advocacy, which often came at great personal cost, not only paved the way for policy and societal change, but kept hope alive for many, We thank them for their unwavering bravery and determination’.

No Changes in the Marriage rules

On the flip side, the government has stayed away from changing the legal definition of marriage. This, in a way, is Singaporean government’s way to appease conservative and religious groups who are protesting against legalisation of homosexual acts. Even, in India, there is no provision for same-sex marriages. Taiwan is the only Asian country to recongise same-sex marriage, and Thailand is also progressing to make it happen.

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Hence, repealing of such laws should be seen as half victory, and there is a long way to go in achieving equal rights.

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  • Pallav Jain is co-founder of Ground Report and an independent journalist and visual storyteller based in Madhya Pradesh. He did his PG Diploma in Radio and TV journalism from IIMC 2015-16.

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