Singapore legalises homosexuality, restricts same sex marriage

Singapore's annual LGBT rally Pink Dot draws in thousands of supporters

On screen, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong declared that the country would repeal the controversial 377A law – effectively legalising homosexuality.

Many cheered, and some waved rainbow flags. However, Mr Lee followed up with another announcement saying that since most Singaporeans do not want a “drastic shift”, his government would also “protect” the definition of marriage as one between a man and a woman – effectively ruling out the possibility of marriage equality for now.

And so, even as some Singaporeans celebrate a landmark decision, a new front line has already emerged in the battle for LGBT rights.

Officials told local media they would amend the constitution so that parliament alone has the power to redefine marriage.

This puts any decision on gay marriage firmly in the hands of the government, not the courts.

Mr Lee argued in his speech that this was necessary as gay marriage is fundamentally a political issue, not a legal one.

But legal experts say it shuts off a path to recognising same-sex unions as it makes it more arduous to mount constitutional challenges. In some countries, such as the US, gay marriage had become a reality through landmark court decisions.

“One reason must be that the government needed to achieve a balance between competing interests,” Singapore constitutional law expert Suang Wijaya said.

“They want to be seen as giving something to the LGBT community, but also not give a defeat to the conservatives. They don’t want it be a ‘I win and you lose’ situation as it would result in division.”

The announcement has sparked criticism from both sides of the divide – while some in the LGBT community feel let down, conservative sections of society feel the amendment is not enough.

Recent surveys have shown there is significant opposition to gay marriage – one study found nearly half of Singapore says it’s “wrong” – but that percentage is also declining.

That change in attitude is still significant, especially for older members of the LGBT community, who see Sunday’s announcement as a bittersweet moment.

For them, it was something worth cherishing.

Just a few decades ago, LGBT rights was still a taboo topic in tightly-controlled Singapore. Police would raid underground gay clubs and gatherings, and still today TV shows and movies considered to be “promoting homosexuality” can be banned.

“It’s a very emotional moment. Hopefully this is the beginning of a journey. We have not felt very protected for a long time,” says 44-year-old content manager Jeremy Gopalan.

But for others, Sunday’s announcement amounted to a pyrrhic victory. They say the constitutional amendment on marriage will ultimately hinder progress for LGBT rights.

On Sunday night, groups of gay Singaporeans and their friends gathered across the Island to watch history unfold on national TV.

On screen, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong declared that the country would repeal the controversial 377A law – effectively legalising homosexuality.

Many cheered, and some waved rainbow flags. However, Mr Lee followed up with another announcement saying that since most Singaporeans do not want a “drastic shift”, his government would also “protect” the definition of marriage as one between a man and a woman – effectively ruling out the possibility of marriage equality for now.

And so, even as some Singaporeans celebrate a landmark decision, a new front line has already emerged in the battle for LGBT rights.

Officials told local media they would amend the constitution so that parliament alone has the power to redefine marriage.

This puts any decision on gay marriage firmly in the hands of the government, not the courts.

Mr Lee argued in his speech that this was necessary as gay marriage is fundamentally a political issue, not a legal one.

But legal experts say it shuts off a path to recognising same-sex unions as it makes it more arduous to mount constitutional challenges. In some countries, such as the US, gay marriage had become a reality through landmark court decisions.

“One reason must be that the government needed to achieve a balance between competing interests,” Singapore constitutional law expert Suang Wijaya said.

“They want to be seen as giving something to the LGBT community, but also not give a defeat to the conservatives. They don’t want it be a ‘I win and you lose’ situation as it would result in division.”

The announcement has sparked criticism from both sides of the divide – while some in the LGBT community feel let down, conservative sections of society feel the amendment is not enough.

Recent surveys have shown there is significant opposition to gay marriage – one study found nearly half of Singapore says it’s “wrong” – but that percentage is also declining.

That change in attitude is still significant, especially for older members of the LGBT community, who see Sunday’s announcement as a bittersweet moment.

For them, it was something worth cherishing.

Just a few decades ago, LGBT rights was still a taboo topic in tightly-controlled Singapore. Police would raid underground gay clubs and gatherings, and still today TV shows and movies considered to be “promoting homosexuality” can be banned.

“It’s a very emotional moment. Hopefully this is the beginning of a journey. We have not felt very protected for a long time,” says 44-year-old content manager Jeremy Gopalan.

But for others, Sunday’s announcement amounted to a pyrrhic victory. They say the constitutional amendment on marriage will ultimately hinder progress for LGBT rights.

Source: BBC.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here