Asia Minute: Gay Sex and Politics in Singapore

Sep 10, 2018

Pink Dot Festival 2014, Singapore
Credit Jnzl's Photos / Flickr

It was a weekend of celebration in some communities across India – following last week’s Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay sex. The decision overturned a law that was on the books for more than 150 years, and the development is drawing attention from some of India’s neighbors.

Singapore still has a legal ban on sex between men.

It also has an active and vocal community in support of Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgender rights. One highlight is the annual Pink Dot Festival — which celebrated its tenth anniversary this past July — backed by 113 local sponsors.

An estimated 20,000 people filled a city park on a Saturday — calling not only for a change in the law on gay sex, but also for broader legal changes.

Singapore has no laws banning discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender expression. A senior diplomat in Singapore’s foreign ministry urged the LGBT community to bring a class action challenging the constitutionality of the law.

When online comments noted that strategy has failed in the past, Tommy Koh, a former ambassador to both the United States and the United Nations, suggested “try again.”

Credit Jnzl's Photos / Flickr

While India’s high court overturned that country’s law, Singapore will likely be a different situation. In 2014, Singapore’s highest court threw out a constitutional challenge to the law against gay sex – ruling that it is up to parliament to change the law.

Activists are urging lawmakers to take action now – with a spokesman for one support group saying “we are ready to keep up with India.”