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Singapore to decriminalize sex between men, PM says

Singapore to decriminalize sex between men, PM says
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  • Under existing law, men face up to 2 years in jail for gay sex
  • The law has not been actively enforced for decades.
  • Prime Minister Lee says Singaporean society is ready for this change
  • Reaffirms support for the traditional definition of marriage

SINGAPORE, Aug 21 (Reuters) – Singapore will decriminalize sex between men but has no plans to change the legal definition of marriage between a man and a woman, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Sunday.

LGBTQ groups welcomed Lee’s decision to repeal Section 377A of the penal code, a colonial-era law that criminalizes sexual relations between men, but also expressed concern that scrapping same-sex marriage would help to perpetuate discrimination.

In his annual national day rally speech, Lee said that Singaporean society, especially young people in the city-state, were increasingly accepting of gay people.

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“I think this is the right thing to do and something that most Singaporeans will accept now,” he said.

It was unclear when exactly Section 377A would be repealed.

Singapore becomes the latest Asian country to move towards ending discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community.

In 2018, India’s highest court threw out a colonial era ban on gay sex, while Thailand has recently moved closer to legalizing same-sex unions.

Under Singapore’s Section 377A, offenders can be jailed for up to two years under the law, but it is not currently 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 genders.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) groups have filed multiple legal challenges to try to repeal the law, but none have been successful.

On Sunday, several LGBTQ rights groups said in a joint statement that they were “relieved” by Lee’s announcement.

“For everyone who has experienced the kinds of bullying, rejection and harassment allowed by this law, the repeal finally allows us to begin the healing process. For those who yearn for a more equal and inclusive Singapore, the repeal means that change is possible.” they said in the statement.

But the groups also urged the government not to heed calls by religious conservatives to enshrine the definition of marriage in the constitution, saying this would indicate that LGBTQ+ citizens are not equal.

ENDURANCE

In February, Singapore’s high court ruled that since the law was not being enforced, it did not violate constitutional rights, as the plaintiffs had argued, and reaffirmed that the law could not be used to prosecute men for having same-sex sexual relations. .

Some religious groups, including Muslims, Catholics and some Protestants, continued to resist any repeal of the law, Lee said.

An alliance of more than 80 churches expressed strong disappointment on Sunday at the government’s decision.

“The repeal is an extremely unfortunate decision that will have a profound impact on the culture in which our children and future generations of Singaporeans will live,” he said.

Singapore is a multi-racial and multi-religious society of 5.5 million, around 16% of whom are Muslim, with larger Buddhist and Christian communities. It has a predominantly ethnic Chinese population with significant Malay and Indian minorities, according to the 2020 census.

Emphasizing his government’s continued support for the traditional definition of marriage, Lee said: “We believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman, that children should be raised within those families, that the traditional family should form the component foundation of society”. . . “

Singapore will “protect the definition of marriage from being constitutionally challenged in court,” he said. “This will help us repeal Section 377A in a controlled and carefully considered manner.”

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Reporting by Chen Lin, editing by Kanupriya Kapoor and Gareth Jones

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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