Singapore will repeal the section of the city-state’s penal code with criminalizes sex between men. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made the announcement Sunday, but said there are no plans to legalize same-sex marriage.
Lee announced the repeal of the colonial-era Section 377A of the penal code, under which sex between men is punishable by up to two years in prison, in his annual national day rally speech.
“I believe this is the right thing to do, and something that most Singaporeans will now accept,” he said.
According to Reuters, the law is not currently enforced, and there have been no known convictions for sex between consenting adult males for decades.
“For everyone who has experienced the kinds of bullying, rejection and harassment enabled by this law, repeal finally enables us to begin the process of healing,” a coalition of LGBTQ organizations said in a statement following Lee’s speech. “For those that long for a more equal and inclusive Singapore, repeal signifies that change is indeed possible.”
However, some feel that stopping short of legalizing same-sex marriage undercut the victory.
In a concession to religious groups, Lee said in his speech that “We believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman, that children should be raised within such families, that the traditional family should form the basic building block of society.”
“Some people do feel that a lot more can be done,” said Bryan Choong, chair of LGBTQ advocacy group Oogachaga.
“It’s just a small, little step,” said Singaporean Andre Ling, who lives in the city-state with his Australian husband and their two-year-old son. The couple married in Australia where same-sex marriage is legal. “If you’re going to have a family or you want marriage and want to be in Singapore and to be treated equally, that’s not going to happen.”
Choong insisted that same-sex marriage is important to Singapore’s LGBTQ community and that “the doors to that possibility should not be closed.”