LGBTIQA+ people in Singapore pin hopes on government taking action


Hopes of Singapore removing its colonial era laws against homosexuality suffered a set back recently when the country’s court of appealed ruled against a case arguing that the laws were discriminatory, but the local community has welcomed recent comments from a senior government minister that indicate change might be coming, albeit slowly.

The Court of Appeal have dismissed an appeal by three gay men who were arguing that the country’s laws banning homosexuality were unconstitutional. During the case the government argued that while the laws remain on the books, they are never actually enforced.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s government has said was being kept on the books to reflect the country’s conservative social norms and attitudes when it comes to homosexuality.

While the court decision was a disappointment for the local LGBTIQA+ community, advocates said they are encouraged by a subsequent parliamentary statement by the Home Affairs and Law minister, K. Shanmugam.

In his speech, Shanmugam said social attitudes towards homosexuality have “gradually shifted” and that policies needed to “evolve to keep abreast of such changes in views”. While the country is opposed to same-sex marriage, the minister said the government needed to carefully consider the best way forward.

“We must respect the different viewpoints, consider them carefully, talk to the different groups,” Shanmugam added. “And if and when we decide to move, we will do so in a way that continues to balance between these different viewpoints and avoids causing a sudden destabilising change in social norms and public expectations.” the minister said.

After the court handed down it’s decision last month, Johnson Ong, one of the three men who challenged the laws said while the outcome was disappointing, it did not end the local communities pursuit for equality.

The marketing executive and international DJ shared his hope that politicians in Singapore would now take action.

“I am disappointed with the outcome but the ruling does not mean the end of the community’s pursuit for equality. I want to thank my fellow litigants, our respective legal counsels and everyone who has shown us overwhelming support over the years.” Ong said.

“I want to reiterate the devastating impact of S377A on the mental and physical well-being of the LGBTQ+ community. It encourages discriminatory treatment towards queer people and denies the equal rights and protection that LGBTQ+ Singaporeans deserve.

“This antiquated law undermines the principle of equality in our modern and diverse society. 

“Although the non enforcement of S377A offers a small step towards the LGBTQ+ community’s freedom from discrimination and oppression, it will take more time before the LGBTQ+ community finds full recognition and acceptance by policymakers and society. It has always been an uphill struggle for the community but we will not stop making progress in our fight for a genuinely open and inclusive Singapore.”

OIP Staff

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