More than 10,000 LGBTI and allies in Singapore have signed an online petition urging a review of Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalizes gay sex.
It comes as a government committee recommended ‘sweeping’ reviews of Singapore’s Penal Code. The panel included 169 suggested amendments to protect vulnerable members of society.
Significantly, it did not include Section 377A, which bans male homosexual sex with a penalty of up to two years in prison.
It traces its roots back to Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which India’s Supreme Court dismantled last week.
Since then, Singaporeans have launched into fierce debate on their own anti-gay laws.
The petition argues that repealing Section 377A would ‘normalize homosexual behaviors’. It would ‘lead to a greater push for other LGBT rights in our conservative society’, according to the petition.
‘Perfect candidate for repeal’
The committee suggested an end to immunity for rape within marriage and new offenses for child abuse.
Pink Dot, organizers of Singapore’s largest LGBTI event, said it was ‘dismayed’ by the committee’s decision to ignore Section 377A.
‘Section 377A would have been the perfect candidate for such a review and and repeal’, said a statement released Sunday.
‘It is a colonial relic of Victorian values that was left behind by the British from before Singapore’s independence’.
Pink Dot urged people to sign the ‘Ready for Repeal’ petition. Organizers will submit the signatures to the review committee later this month.
‘If you share our vision of a more inclusive, more equal Singapore, please sign this petition and speak out’, the petition page urges. ‘The time for change is NOW.’
High-profile businessman Ho Kwon Ping, who is chairman of Banyan Tree Hotels, supported the petition.
Calls for decriminalizing gay sex are growing in the republic.
Pink Dot explicitly called on the government to repeal the law during its event in July. This was the first time in the ten-year history of Pink Dot that it had made this direct request.
‘Society has got to decide’
On Friday (7 September), Singapore’s home affairs and law minister said it was up to Singapore’s society to decide whether to keep or repeal Section 377A.
‘If you look at the issue, it is a deeply split society’, Kasiviswanathan Shanmugam, Minister for Law and Home Affairs, said. ‘The majority are opposed to any change to Section 377A. They are opposed to removing it’.
Shanmugam told reporters a ‘growing minority’ opposed the law but the government remained ‘in the middle’.
‘Can you impose viewpoints on a majority when (the issue is) so closely related to social value systems?’ he asked.
‘I think society has got to decide which direction it wants to go. And the laws will have to keep pace with changes in society and how society sees these issues,’ Shanmugam said.