Last edited: April 01, 2004

Singapore Activists Rally Against Antigay Sex Law

The Advocate, April 1, 2004

Gay rights activists in Singapore are urging the government to do away with a decades-old law that criminalizes gay sex, claiming that the law is archaic and unconstitutional. “Here in Singapore, we continue to demand rapid social changes to support economic development: in education, job retraining, immigration,” said Alex Au, founder of gay rights group People Like Us. But the government has been far too slow in allowing changes to the city-state’s sex laws, Au said. The criminal code’s Section 377 bars men from engaging in “any act of gross indecency” with other men, punishable by a maximum two years in jail. This has been interpreted by courts to cover consensual gay sex. In November the government promised to review the law in response to public outrage over the imprisonment of a police officer for engaging in oral sex—also banned under Section 377. The government has, however, dragged its feet over the promised reforms.

At a forum titled “Legislating Sexual Behavior: Should the State Be in Our Bedrooms?” on Monday, Au called on Singapore’s judiciary to declare the antigay sex laws invalid. There have been few prosecutions since the Penal Code was amended in 1938 to include “unnatural offenses,” and Singaporeans are largely tolerant of gays. Several bars, clubs, and saunas in Singapore cater specifically to a gay clientele. Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong said in an interview with Time magazine last July that gay Singaporeans would be safe from prosecution but that they shouldn’t “flaunt your gay rights.”

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