Singapore lawmakers keep on books law criminalizing gay sex

Posted on 25 Jan 2007 at 5:35pm
By Gillian Wong Associated Press

Gay rights advocates say they are disappointed, but pledge to continue dialogue in effort to change societal opinion



PM Lee Hsein Loong

SINGAPORE Singapore lawmakers have passed a law decriminalizing oral and anal sex for adult heterosexuals but kept a ban on gay sex, saying the bill was what citizens in the conservative city-state wanted.

Advocates for the decriminalization of gay sex said Wednesday, Oct. 24 they were disappointed with the decision by the country’s parliament, but hoped for more informal dialogue on the issue in the future.

Parliamentarians passed the law Tuesday, Oct. 23 in the most extensive revision of the Penal Code in more than two decades.

The changes include making oral and anal sex between consenting heterosexual adults no longer an offense. But Section 377A, which deals with the same acts between men, will remain in force with a maximum penalty of two years in jail.

“Singapore is basically a conservative society. The family is the basic building block of this society,” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a speech to lawmakers ahead of the vote. “And by family in Singapore we mean one man, one woman marrying, having children and bringing up children within that framework of a stable family unit.”

Lee also warned gay rights activists against forcing the issue, which he said has become an emotional and divisive matter that was best left to evolve gradually.

“The more gay activists push this agenda, the stronger will be the push-back from conservative forces in our society,” Lee said. “The result will be counterproductive because it’s going to lead to less space for the gay community in Singapore.”

The bill was passed after two days of debate that included a discussion of a petition submitted Monday, Oct. 22 by a group of Singaporeans asking to decriminalize gay sex. The petition, signed by 2,341 people in three days, said the government’s proposal to legalize oral and anal sex for heterosexual adults only was unjust.

Stuart Koe, one of the petitioners and chief executive of Hong Kong-based Fridae.com, an Internet-based community of gays and lesbians in Asia, said the group would look for a different way of engaging society on gay rights issues.
“We’re obviously very disappointed that Parliament has decided to retain Section 377A,” Koe said. “But the petitioners feel that the way moving forward probably would not be to continue politicizing or lobbying directly for a repeal, but working with society and within the community to try to foster a greater understanding.”

“Gross indecency” between two men can lead to two years in jail, but is rarely punished in Singapore, which has a thriving gay community.

Other amendments included a ban on necrophilia, tougher penalties for sex with minors under age 14, and penalties for men who rape their wives, in some instances.

A change in an “unlawful assembly” provision will broaden its focus to groups “whose common object is to commit any offense, and not just those relating to public tranquility.” Outdoor gatherings of more than four people now require a police permit a law seen by critics as an attempt to curb political dialogue.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 26, 2007.

Comments

comments

Powered by Facebook Comments