The LGBTIQ community in Singapore is celebrating the repeal of the colonial-era law that outlawed homosexuality. At the same time, lawmakers have sought to limit the possibility of marriage equality becoming a reality.
On Tuesday, the country’s Parliament removed Section 377A, the British colonial-era law that criminalised acts of ‘gross indecency between men, from the statute books after a two-day debate.
The move fulfilled a promise by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in August to decriminalise homosexuality.
The repeal of Section 377A followed more than a decade of legal cases, launched by members of Singapore’s LGBTIQ community that have sought to challenge the constitutionality of the law.
While Section 377A only targeted male same-sex intimacy, activists in Singapore said the culture of shame and homophobia it engendered cast a shadow of oppression over the whole LGBTIQ community.
Téa Braun, Chief Executive of the Human Dignity Trust, commented that the law “was a relic of a tarnished past.”
She said that “After almost 85 years of oppression, this final step of the repeal process liberates gay Singaporean men and sends a wider message across Asia and the world, where millions of people are still criminalised based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Braun asserted that “Countries that maintain these laws will continue to become increasingly isolated.”
In a bid to appease conservatives, however, Parliament also passed a constitutional amendment on Tuesday that further defined marriage as only being possible between a man and a woman. This in an attempt to head off future constitutional challenges to legalise same-sex marriage.
“We are decriminalising sex between men – a longstanding issue, and not just for gay Singaporeans,” said Prime Minister Lee. “At the same time, we are protecting the definition of marriage – as a union between a man and a woman – from Constitutional challenge.”
He added: “Taken together, these are balanced, wise steps forward.”