23 August 2022

Queer Singaporeans react to repeal of gay sex ban: “I never thought I’d live to see the day”

The scrapping of the colonial-era section 377A law has prompted celebration — though, it does not open the doors for gay marriage yet, and as one citizen warns, it does not mean that attitudes will shift overnight.

On Sunday night, millions of gay Singaporeans and LGBTQ+ allies were jubilant. Appearing on live television, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that the country will be repealing the highly controversial 377A law, which would effectively legalise homosexuality for the first time since British colonial rule.

The ruling criminalises “any act of gross indecency with another male person”, and carries a sentence of up to two years in jail, although it reportedly has not been enforced for a decade. In his speech, Loong said that the scrapping of the penal law would “provide some relief to gay Singaporeans”, but he added that the government did not intend for  “wholesale changes in our society”, meaning that gay marriage is still off the cards for now. “Even as we repeal 377A, we will uphold and safeguard the institution of marriage. Under the law, only marriages between one man and one woman are recognised in Singapore.”

Speaking exclusively to HUNGER about the news, a Singaporean resident, who is part of the queer community, says: “It’s unexpected. I never thought I’d live to see the day 377A was repealed.” 

“Moving forward, I sincerely hope that in my lifetime (even when I’m 70YO), I can legally marry my long-time partner in Singapore and be given equal rights similar to any man-wife marriage here,” continues the citizen who has requested to be anonymous. However, she also draws attention to the fact that repealing the law does not mean that attitudes will change overnight. “It’s still a sensitive topic especially in traditional workplaces, as we are a multi-racial society in Singapore. Think of it as how Saudi Arabia finally allowed women to drive, but not every Saudi lady started driving due to cultural pressures from the men in their lives.

“Likewise, just because the government has repealed the 377A, it doesn’t mean that all Singaporean gay men will start coming out to their families and work colleagues. However, it is a small step towards progression, and we need to carefully educate, while respecting different religions in Singapore, so as to maintain racial harmony.”

Singapore is a multi-racial and religious society — with the dominant religions being Buddhism, Christianity and Islam. Yesterday (August 22), the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) issued a statement containing religious advice to the country’s Muslim community, which encouraged them to embrace human dignity, respect and peaceful relations.

“These values are crucial as we navigate complex socio-religious issues today,” they said, detailing that they condemn any form of harassment or bullying. “As Muslims, we should treat everyone with full dignity and respect. Everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, must feel safe in our society and institutions. Muslims should uphold the best of character, charity and compassion, in dealing with others, even with whom we disagree.” 

  • Writer Nessa Humayun
  • Banner Image Credit Unsplash

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