Weeks after announcing its plan to decriminalize gay sex, Singapore is considering legislation against cancel culture to protect citizens expressing their views from online backlash.
While LGBTQ-plus supporters celebrate the move to repeal the colonial-era Section 377A, opponents reportedly fear obstruction of religious freedom, or “reverse discrimination” if they choose to publish dissenting opinions. “We should be encouraging people to be able to express their viewpoints on all sides as long as it’s not offensive and doesn’t descend to hate speech,” Law Minister K Shanmugam told Bloomberg. “If we find the right solutions, yes, that should be something that we could see in legislation in the near future.”
In an apparent compromise, the repeal’s announcement in August came with an assurance that marriage will remain defined as being between a man and a woman. Debates on LGBTQ-plus rights have since intensified online.
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“Religious groups, in particular, feel very put upon because they feel whenever they express their views they are attacked as homophobes,” said Shanmugam, who also serves as minister of Home Affairs. “So there is a line between expressing your view on religion and becoming homophobic or engaging in hate speech against LGBT groups.”
Singapore retained Section 377A after winning its independence from Great Britain in 1965. The law, which sentences those convicted for up to two years, criminalizes sex between men but not between women and other genders.
“The government will repeal Section 377A and decriminalize sex between men. I believe this is the right thing to do and something that Singaporeans will accept,” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said.
Shanmugam said the government is “trying to forge as much of a consensus as possible” on the repeal. As of press time, no official date has been set for its enactment.
While some LGBTQ-plus members lauded the move, others felt it was not enough.
“It’s just a small, little step. But beyond that, if you’re going to have a family or you want marriage and want to be in Singapore and to be treated equally, that’s not going to happen,” Andre Ling, who is married to an Australian man, told Reuters. “By coming to Singapore, we knew that our marriage certificate will be like a piece of toilet paper.”