Singaporean prime minister Lee Hsien Loong on Wednesday (26 June) said the city’s anti-gay law Section 377A would be around ‘for some time’.
But, he told attendees at a tech conference, it would not prevent the city attracting international talent, according to Today Online.
Section 377A of the city’s criminal code criminalizes gay sex with up to two years in jail.
Authorities rarely enforce the law. But, the majority of Singapore citizens, who are largely religious and conservative, support keeping the law.
‘My personal view is that if I don’t have a problem — this is an uneasy compromise — I’m prepared to live with it until social attitudes change,’ Lee told the BBC in 2017.
‘Welcome in Singapore’
Lee was speaking as a guest of honor at the Smart Nation Summit in Singapore.
An audience member asked how the country’s regulations could be changed to attract top talent—including Section 377A.
‘You know our rules in Singapore’ Lee replied, according to Today Online.
‘Whatever your sexual orientation, you are welcome to come and work in Singapore’ he said.
‘It is the way this society is: We are not like San Francisco, neither are we like some countries in the Middle East. [We are] something in between, it is the way the society is.’
Lee also mentioned Singapore’s upcoming Pink Dot event—the city’s largest LGBT festival. It will take place on Saturday,
This year, Pink Dot organizers are calling on Singaporeans to ‘Stand Against Discrimination’.
‘Lacking of a moral framework’
Local activists called out Lee’s remarks on Thursday.
‘This is the quality of a leader who affirms discrimination and tells people to suck it up’ activist Roy Ngerng wrote on Twitter.
‘Instead of tackling discrimination, [he is] is more concerned about attracting “talent” to grow the economy’.
Lee Hsien Loong’s position is actually a regression on the government’s view on homosexuality, Ngerng told Gay Star News. Singapore’s founder, and also Lee Hsien Loong’s father, Lee Kuan Yew, believed society’s views changes with the times.
Lee Hsien Loong, meanwhile ‘doesn’t even try to explain his views’, Ngerng said. ‘It seems almost as if he’s telling the LGBT people he doesn’t care.’
He also said it was ‘shocking’ the way the prime minister mentioned the Middle East. ‘It’s like: we are bad, but we are not as bad’.
‘Very lacking of a moral framework, if you ask me’ Ngerng wrote.
Local journalist and activist, Kirsten Han, meanwhile slammed the PM for using Pink Dot as an example of freedoms.
It is, in fact, a reaction against discriminatory laws, she said.
.@leehsienloong says #Singapore won’t be repealing anti-gay legislation. He cites @PinkDotSG as evidence LGBT people can live nicely here, even though Pink Dot is a *reaction* to the discrimination/marginalisation of LGBT people. https://t.co/xfxJ51qYkq
— Kirsten Han 韩俐颖 (@kixes) June 27, 2019