Singapore has announced plans to decriminalize homosexuality but will protect the country’s definition of marriage.
What does that mean?
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong disclosed the plan during the annual National Day Rally yesterday, August 21, 2022. According to the PM, the government will repeal a colonial-era law that criminalized intimacy between men, and under which some have been prosecuted and jailed. The PM, while arguing that the time is right for the anti-same-sex law to be discarded, said he hopes the move will bring some relief to gay Singaporeans. He, however, noted that there’d be some limit to the reform.
While the private sexual acts of Singaporeans will no longer be subjected to legal scrutiny, the government will ensure that the country’s traditional beliefs on marriage are preserved. According to the PM, issues like how marriage is defined, what children are taught in schools, what is shown on TV, and general public conduct will remain controlled. And while the constitutional amendment will allow people to freely perform their sexual acts in private, there will be no constitutional challenge to allowing same-sex marriage. “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,” Lee said.
The PM expressed hope that the move will bring reconciliation and create a middle ground for both the concerns of conservative religious groups and the desires of gay Singaporeans. On the potential reactions that might follow the announcement, the PM called for caution on every side. “All groups should exercise restraint because that is the only way we can move forward as a nation together,” he said, adding that “I hope the new balance will enable Singapore to remain a tolerant and inclusive society for many years to come”.