Singapore Repeals Law Against Gay Sex

Singapore Repeals Law Against Gay Sex

by Kenna McCafferty

Singapore repealed its law criminalizing sex between men, which effectively banned gay sex since 1938. While the law has not been enforced since 2007, its removal from law marks a breakthrough for LGBTQ+ rights on the island.

Singaporean activists who have campaigned for this reform for years released a statement celebrating the repeal as “a significant milestone and statement that state-sanctioned discrimination has no place in Singapore.”

The decision was announced over the weekend by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, owing to the major societal shifts Singapore has undergone. “Private sexual behavior between consenting adults does not raise any law and order issue. There is no justification to prosecute people for it nor to make it a crime,” he shared outside the courthouse.

Sex between men was first outlawed under law 377a in Singapore under British colonialism, another testament to the global campaign of oppression and repression wrought by the British empire. Under the rule, gay men faced upwards of two years in prison for “any act of gross indecency with another male person,” forcing gay people to lives of secrecy and social segregation.

The same law was recently abolished in India’s Supreme Court, followed by Taiwan in 2019 and a draft legislation in Thailand allowing same-sex unions the same year.

When Singapore obtained independence in 1965, the British-imperialist law remained intact, but the government instituted a policy to not actively enforce it in 2007. In the absence of penal enforcement, LGBTQ+ island members enjoyed freer lives, and Singapore’s gay rights movement emerged. Since then, the law has been a target for activist groups as a signpost of the stigma and discrimination which still runs through Singapore’s conservative socio-political landscape.

The win marks a shift towards greater acceptance across the identities of Singaporean citizens, though there is still a long way to go.

Photo by Roslan Rahman/Getty