Singapore will not prosecute citizens under its colonial-era law against consensual same-sex sexual relations, a local government official has claimed.
During an interview on BBC’s “Hardtalk” on June 29, 2022, Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said, “People engaging in gay sex will not be prosecuted, even though there is this old piece of law which makes gay sex among males an offense.”
Section 377A of Singapore’s penal code criminalizes acts of “gross indecency” between men, or the procurement or attempted procurement thereof, with a penalty of up to two years imprisonment.
“The attorney general has confirmed that position and the Supreme Court has said that the government’s position is legal for us,” he added.
Explaining why the controversial law remains, Shanmugam said that a “significant proportion of our population, the middle ground as it were, don’t want that law repealed.”
“Attitudes are shifting somewhat, but still, governments cannot, Singapore government cannot ignore those views. So, we have arrived at this sort of messy compromise the last 15 years, and we have taken this path because these issues are difficult,” he said. “They are not easily settled. And we have made clear that LGBTQ-plus individuals are entitled to live peacefully without being attacked or threatened. We have in fact laws that protect the community.”
In February, Singapore’s Court of Appeal upheld a lower court decision that dismissed three challenges against the controversial law. While the judgment stipulated that the existing law cannot be implemented, it did not declare it unconstitutional.
“The retention of Section 377A served to accommodate the views of the more conservative segments of society, while the caveat that Section 377A would not be proactively enforced served to accommodate the interests of homosexual individuals and to allow them to live their lives in as full a space as is presently possible,” said Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon of the decision.
According to Shanmugam, such a “compromise” is necessary because “you’ve got to take into account where your main ground is.”
Shanmugam also referenced Justice Clarence Thomas, one of the justices instrumental in overturning the landmark 1973 ruling Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed constitutional protection of abortion rights in the U.S.
The official highlighted the conservative justice’s position that the U.S. Supreme Court must reconsider its rulings in the Obergefell and Lawrence cases, which extended marriage equality to same-sex couples and the right to private, consensual sex.
Featured Image via Richard Jesus