Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said at a National Day rally on Sunday (August 21) that Singapore would repeal Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalizes sexual intercourse between men.
With the repeal of colonial-era laws introduced by Britain in 1938, the government amended the Constitution to uphold and protect the definition of marriage between men and women.
Here are some highlights from the announcement.
1. Why repeal the law now?
Prime Minister Lee said attitudes have changed and homosexuality has become more acceptable in Singapore, especially among younger Singaporeans.
Most Singaporeans now accept that an individual’s sexual orientation and behavior is a personal matter, and even many who want to keep 377A find it actively enforced and criminal penalties apply. I don’t want to be
At the same time, Section 377A, which has been the subject of multiple constitutional challenges over the past decade, may also be invalidated by future challenges.
After the latest lawsuit was dismissed by the Court of Appeals in February, Home Affairs and Justice Minister K. Shanmugam and Attorney General Lucien Wong advised there was a significant risk that the law could be repealed in the future. Prime Minister Lee said he will lodge an objection on the grounds that it violates Article 12 of the constitution.
“We have to take that advice seriously. It is not wise to ignore the risks and do nothing.”
In a February ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that § 377A states that “all men are equal before the law and are entitled to the equal protection of the law” on various grounds that could be violated. Considered the scenario.
2. Marriage and other policy protection
Prime Minister Li said that with the abolition, the definition of marriage would be protected from future legal challenges by amending the constitution.
The Act of Interpretation defines marriage as “the voluntary union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others for the duration of the marriage”, whereas the Women’s Charter states that “Singapore Elsewhere, the dates of marriage are invalid, not for men and women respectively.”
Lee said the government has no plans to change the existing definition of marriage or policies that depend on it, such as public housing, education, adoption rules, advertising standards and film classification.
Protecting this will help Singapore repeal Section 377A in a controlled and carefully considered manner by decriminalizing private sexual relations between consensual men, but men and retains the basic family structure of marriage between women, he added.
3. Why do we need to protect our marriages?
Under the current state of the law, marriages, as currently defined, can be challenged on constitutional grounds in court as Section 377A is challenged, Lee said.
He added that it was not ideal for same-sex marriage to be recognized in this way, pointing out that courts are not places to decide political issues.
If this happens, Congress may not be able to change the law even if a majority of members of parliament oppose the change.
Judges are trained and appointed to interpret and apply the law and have neither the expertise nor the authority to adjudicate social norms and values. He added that this is wisely allowed in court decisions dealing with such cases.
4. Abolition took years
In October 2007, when the House of Representatives debated amendments to the Penal Code, nominated MP Siew Kum Hong submitted a citizens’ petition to repeal Section 377A. The move sparked a heated debate on the topic, with heated debates on both sides.
Prime Minister Lee acknowledged at the time that what consenting adults do in private is a private matter, but that no one, especially within certain religious groups, including Muslims, Catholics and many Protestant denominations, can Not everyone accepts homosexuality equally.
The government decided to keep Section 377A on the books, but did not enforce it because it was too divisive to enforce the issue at that time.
He pointed out that compromise does not satisfy all groups. We have dealt with this sensitive issue without dividing the world,” he added.
He argued that one of the government’s delicate tasks is to update laws and practices from time to time to reflect evolving social values and norms, and that the government’s careful approach to such issues has been a great asset to Singaporeans. said it was well received.
5. What is the next step?
Premier Li said he hoped for further reactions and discussions arising from his announcement. He added that a full discussion of the issue will take place when the bill is submitted to parliament for amendment, but did not specify when that would occur.
“I hope that the new balance will enable Singapore to remain a tolerant and inclusive society,” he said.
READ NEXT – 8 Highlights from NDR 2022: Masks are Optional in Most Indoor Environments, Section 377A is Obsolete