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Singapore to legalize gay sex

Catholic Church takes comfort in PM Lee's assurance of safeguarding marriage by not legalizing same-sex unions
Singapore is to decriminalize gay sex but will not allow same-sex marriages

Singapore is to decriminalize gay sex but will not allow same-sex marriages. (Photo: Unsplash)

Published: August 22, 2022 06:23 AM GMT
Updated: August 22, 2022 09:49 AM GMT

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has announced that his country will amend a British colonial-era law to decriminalize gay sex but will not allow same-sex marriages, drawing mixed reactions from religious groups.

In a televised speech on Aug. 21, PM Lee said the government will repeal Section 377A of Singapore’s Penal Code to decriminalize gay sex, noting that attitudes towards it have changed in the past 15 years since the state decided to keep the law that was not strictly enforced.

“The government will repeal Section 377A and decriminalize sex between men. I believe this is the right thing to do, and something that most Singaporeans will now accept,” Lee said.

However, he said that Singapore’s Constitution will be amended to prevent same-sex marriage.

Lee pointed out that the government considers that “most Singaporeans do not want the repeal to trigger a drastic shift in our societal norms across the board.”

He said that the two-pronged move will allow the country to “maintain our current family and social norms.”

"We will uphold and safeguard the institution of marriage"

“By and large, Singapore is a traditional society, with conservative social values,” Lee said. “Hence even as we repeal 377A, we will uphold and safeguard the institution of marriage.”

The legal changes will “keep what I believe most Singaporeans still want, and that is to retain the basic family structure of marriage between a man and a woman,” he added.

Section 377A provisions up to two years in prison for gay sex.

Rights activists and gay rights advocates have termed the criminalization of same-sex outdated and in conflict with Singapore’s modern and tolerant social system.

In a statement, Oogachaga, a Singaporean LGBTQ community organization, welcomed the announcement, saying it was “relieved and hopeful” to learn of the repeal.

The group invited Singaporean families to take this time to understand their LGBTQ family members and become more aware of the many issues faced by the LGBTQ community.

"We must not allow reverse discrimination to take place"

“It can also be a chance to start healing the hurts that have taken place,” it said.

The announcement has triggered mixed responses from religious groups in Singapore.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore issued a statement saying that the Church does not oppose the repeal of Section 377A.

“With regards to the repeal of S377A, we do not seek to criminalize the LGBTQ, for they too are children of God and loved by Him,” the statement said.

“However, we seek the protection of the family and marriage according to natural law; and our rights to teach and practice them unhindered.  We must not allow reverse discrimination to take place against those who believe in marriage as defined between a man and a woman.”

The archdiocese insisted that to ensure that this protection of marriage is not challenged easily, it should be “enshrined and defined in our constitution” before S377A is removed.

"Repealing would spur 'a brand of intolerant and aggressive LGBT activism'"

“Otherwise, we will be taking a slippery road of no return, weakening the fabric of a strong society which is founded on the bedrock of holistic families and marriages,” it added.

The archdiocese said the Church takes comfort that this safeguard will be looked at seriously in parliament as assured by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The Alliance of Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches (ACPCC), a network of churches, Christian organizations, and pastors in Singapore, expressed concerns over the repeal of Section 377A.

The ACPCC said that the section has been "a marker for many social and moral considerations.”

It warned that repealing the law, "without placing an equally weighted proscription in place", would lead to wide-ranging negative social consequences, such as rewriting of the norms of acceptable sexual relationships, the Straits Times reported.

The repealing would spur "a brand of intolerant and aggressive LGBT activism which seeks to impose its ideology upon Singapore society", said the alliance.

It urged the government to put in place other "clear moral markers, not ambiguities, of the values that we want to be promoted, and protected."

Tan Thiam Lye, chairman of Singapore’s Taoist Federation said: "We neither oppose nor support repeal of Section 377A."

Malminderjit Singh, chairman of the Sikh Advisory Board, said repealing Section 377A will be a pragmatic move since the law has not been enforced.

Singh noted that the repealing should be balanced with the strengthening of the concept of marriage and a family unit as being between a man and a woman.

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