Asia Minute: Singapore takes a small step on gay rights — activists want more
Singapore has ended a legal ban on gay sex. But when it comes to broader reforms involving the LGBTQ community, the future still has a lot of question marks.
The United States was up to its bloody elbows in the American Civil War when a British law made gay sex illegal in Singapore — back in 1862.
There were no religious laws against it in Buddhist or Hindu practices, but the prohibition was a part of Britain’s colonial legacy that lingered until this past weekend.
On Sunday, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong went on national television to announce the law will be repealed — something protestors have wanted for years.
But while activists praised the move, some called it “window-dressing,” because the prime minister also said the government would define marriage as an act between a man and a woman — and put that into Singapore’s constitution.
The country has had an active LGBTQ community for many years. The annual Pink Dot festivals started more than a decade ago, drawing some 2,500 people to their first protest in 2009 — with crowds swelling in later years to the tens of thousands.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Lee said Singapore remains a “traditional society” — with many eager to maintain “family and social norms.”
But Singapore is also a regional economic hub — and any legislation blocking gay marriage could lead to a backlash from international businesses.