City-state ends colonial-era law . . .
Singapore announced on August 21 that it will decriminalize sex between men by repealing Section 377A of the Penal Code. LGBTQ+ groups have described it as “a win for humanity.” The city-state, however, has no plans to change the legal definition of marriage, which remains a union between a man and a woman. Section 377A was promulgated in 1938 by the British colonial government when Singapore was a colony and stated that sex between men could lead to a jail sentence of up to two years. The last time the government reviewed the Penal Code was in 2007, with no changes to Section 377A.
LGBTQ+ rights in Singapore . . .
Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said youth were becoming more accepting of LGBTQ+ people and that this was the right thing to do. However, religious groups, such as the Assemblies of God Singapore, which has 48 churches, have expressed disappointment in the government’s decision. The National Council of Churches in Singapore issued a statement saying it appreciates the government’s assurance to “uphold and safeguard the institution of marriage.” Earlier this month, the Ministry of Home Affairs also reminded foreign businesses to be more careful when advocating for issues surrounding the LGBTQ+ community as it could be socially divisive.
Progress in Asia . . .
In 2019, Taiwan became the only country in Asia to legally recognize same-sex marriage. Nearly 7,200 same-sex couples in Taiwan were married by the end of 2021, around two per cent of total marriages over the same period. In 2018, India’s Supreme Court struck down the law that punished same-sex sexual intercourse with up to 10 years jail time. Thailand is also moving closer to legalizing marriage equality or civil partnerships for members of the same sex. Nonetheless, Asia is generally less tolerant of LGBTQ+ rights movements than North America, Europe, and Latin America. Canada has been supporting LGBTQ-related initiatives in Asia through its overseas missions and embassies for years, but the region still has a long way to go.