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Singapore became the latest Asian country to repeal a colonial-era law that banned sex between men, marking another victory for the LGBTQ+ community in the region, Reuters reported.
In his annual national day rally speech, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Singaporean society, especially young people in the city-state, was becoming more accepting of gay people.
The current law – specifically, Section 377A of the penal code – bans sex between men and imposes penalties of up to two years in prison for those who violate it.
Even so, authorities have not been actively enforcing the law and there have been no known convictions for sex between consenting adult males for decades. The legislation also doesn’t cover sex between women or other genders, only men.
The Southeast Asian city-state is following in the footsteps of its Asian neighbors: In 2018 India’s highest court scrapped a ban on gay sex, while Thailand has recently edged towards legalizing same-sex unions.
Despite this, there are no plans to allow gay people the same rights as heterosexual citizens and the definition of marriage in Singapore is still defined as “between a man and a woman.”
LGBTQ+ groups welcomed Lee’s decision to repeal the law, but also expressed concern that ruling out same-sex marriage would help to perpetuate discrimination.
Meanwhile, an alliance of more than 80 churches expressed strong disappointment over the government’s decision.
“The repeal is an extremely regrettable decision which will have a profound impact on the culture that our children and future generations of Singaporeans will live in,” it said in response to the law change.