Gay sex still illegal in Singapore, oral and anal sex allowed to heterosexuals

1 November, 2007

In the biggest and most significant changes to Singapore’s criminal code in about two decades, the parliament of the city-state has rejected a proposal to legalize sex between homosexual men.

This means that Singapore’s anti-gay law 377A remains, though prosecutions are rare. However, the parliament has repealed laws that restricted oral and anal sex between heterosexuals.

The repeal was a part of a wider reform of sex laws, many dating from the British colonial era half a century ago.

Singapore’s parliament repealed sections of the Penal Code that prohibit “carnal intercourse against the order of nature,” legalizing the practices between consenting heterosexual adults.

Lawmakers rejected a petition which sought to amend laws in which sex between men is deemed an act of “gross indecency” and carries a jail term of two years.

Thousands of Singaporeans signed open letters to the Prime Minister in the run-up to the parliamentary debate to show their support for, or opposition to, the ban on gay sex.

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told lawmakers, “Singapore is basically a conservative society. In Singapore, by family we mean one man, one woman marrying, having children and bringing up children within that framework.”

The Prime Minister said the government did not consider gays to be a minority having minority rights.

In a rare speech to parliament, the Prime Minister said Singapore was a conservative society, and that he wanted to keep it so.

The changes made on October 23, 2007, are among dozens of amendments to the code, which represent the biggest revision of criminal law in Singapore since 1985.

The government had been reviewing its sex laws since at least 2004, when a policeman was jailed for receiving oral sex from a teenage girl. The judge who sentenced the policeman had observed that “certain offences are repulsive in Asian culture.”

Siew Kum Hong, the member of Parliament who introduced the petition, said that, by allowing anal sex between heterosexual couples and not between men, the new laws are “selective and discriminatory.” The petition said it was unconstitutional to criminalize private and consensual sex between men.

Singapore’ legislature, which is dominated by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s ruling People’s Action Party, passed other laws banning paid sex with anyone less than 18 years old, including organizing or participating in so-called child sex tours to other nations.

The bills will now be sent to Singapore’s President S R Nathan to be signed into law.




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