Welcome to the light, Singapore ! The state located in the neighborhood of Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Australia and the likes, is repealing a medieval law that banned gay sex, effectively making it legal to be homosexual in there. About freaking time.
The decision, announced on national TV by Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister, comes after years and years of fierce debate. LGBTQ+ activists in Singapore have hailed the move as “a win for humanity”.
In recent years an increasing number of people have called for the colonial-era 377A law to be abolished.
On Sunday night, Lee Hsien Loong said they would abolish the law as he believed “this is the right thing to do”. He noted that scrapping 377A would “provide some relief to gay Singaporeans”. No shit, Sherlock!
“We finally did it, and we’re ecstatic that this discriminatory, antiquated law is finally going to be off the books. There’s a sense that maybe it took a little too long, but it had to happen, you know. Today we are very, very happy,” gay activist Johnson Ong says.
A coalition of LGBT+ rights groups called it a “hard-won victory and a triumph of love over fear”, adding it was the first step towards full equality.
Meanwhile Protect Singapore, a conservative group, said they were “deeply disappointed” that the repeal was going ahead without assurance of “comprehensive safeguards”. Bitch, which safeguards?
Ironically, Singapore inherited the hateful law 377A from the British Empire when they used to be their colony in the 19th century. They retained it after their independence in 1965.
Though the law technically criminalised sex between men, it was effectively seen as a ban on homosexuality.
As it wasn’t actively enforced in recent years, a thriving and increasingly visible LGBT+ scene has developed in Singapore, including gay nightclubs.
LGBT+ activists have long called for 377A to be scrapped, saying the law perpetuated social stigma against gay people and was going against Singapore’s constitution which forbids discrimination.
Protests and political gatherings are strictly regulated in Singapore, but every year LGBT+ activists hold the island’s biggest civil society rally – known as Pink Dot – which draws tens of thousands of participants.
377A was also at odds with Singapore’s image of an open, diverse global financial hub and multinational companies based in the state have said it hinders their efforts to attract talents.
Remnants of the British Empire
Singapore is not the only former British Empire colony with a version of 377 – unfortunately the law continues to exist in many parts of Asia, Africa and Oceania.
It was introduced by the colonial British government in India in the 19th Century, and forbade “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal”. (“lol” or “smh”, you pick)
It soon spread outside of India as the British used the Indian Penal Code as the basis for criminal law codes in other territories they controlled. Several former British colonies such as Malaysia, Myanmar and Kenya, still have some version of 377.
Singapore is the latest place in Asia to start respecting LGBTQ+ rights, after India, Taiwan and Thailand.
In 2018, India’s Supreme Court abolished 377 in a historic verdict, prompting hopes among activists that other former colonies would eventually follow suit.
In recent years, other parts of Asia have also moved even further with the legalisation of gay marriage.
Taiwan became the first place to do so in 2019 and in June 2022, so did Thailand with an approved draft legislation allowing same-sex unions.
Congratulations to the Singaporean gays !