Singapore to repeal colonial-era law banning sex between men

Singapore announced Sunday it will decriminalize sex between men by repealing a colonial-era law while protecting the city-state’s definition of marriage.

During his speech at the annual National Day Rally, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he believed it is the “right thing to do now” as most Singaporeans will now accept it.

“This will bring the law into line with current social models and I hope provide some relief to gay Singaporeans,” the prime minister said during his speech at the annual National Day rally.

It was unclear when exactly the law known as Section 377A would be repealed, but Lee said the government will also amend the constitution to ensure that there can be no constitutional challenge to allow same-sex marriage.

“Even as we repeal Section 377A, we will uphold and safeguard the institution of marriage,” he said. “We have to amend the constitution to protect it. And we will do so. This will help us repeal Section 377A in a controlled and careful way.”

The name of a law in lights, in a crowd at night.
Attendees at a Pink Dot rally held in Singapore’s Hong Lim Park on June 29, 2019, form the characters Repeal 377A in a call to repeal the law that criminalizes sex between men. (Ore Huiyin/Getty Images)

Under Section 337A, offenders can be jailed for up to two years, but the law is not currently actively enforced.

There have been no known convictions for sex between consenting adult males for decades. The law does not include sex between women or other genders.

In February, Singapore’s highest court ruled that since the law was not being enforced, it did not breach constitutional rights, as the plaintiffs had argued, while it reaffirmed that the law could not be used to prosecute men for having gay sex.

On Sunday, several LGBTQ rights groups said in a joint statement they were “relieved” by Lee’s announcement, but they also urged the government not to heed calls from religious conservatives to enshrine the traditional definition of marriage in the constitution, saying this would signal that LGBTQ citizens were not equal.

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