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Singapore repeals Act criminalising gay sex
Published on: Saturday, December 03, 2022
By: Malay Mail
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Singapore repeals Act criminalising gay sex
Singapore parliament yesterday passed two Bills to repeal Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalises sex between men, and to amend the Constitution to protect the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman. — Reuters pic
SINGAPORE: Singapore parliament passed two Bills to repeal Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalises sex between men, and to amend the Constitution to protect the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman.

This follows a 10-hour debate over two days involving more than 40 political office-holders, Members of Parliament (MPs), Nominated MPs and Non-Constituency MPs.

Among the concerns raised by MPs were those related to a new Article 156 in the Constitution to protect the definition of marriage, what the passing of the constitutional amendments would mean for religious freedom, and the stance of education institutions following the repeal.

Several MPs also cited the TODAY Youth Survey, which showed that about two-thirds of young adults agree that the repeal is a step towards a more inclusive society, reflected the changing attitudes of youth in Singapore.

Closing the debate, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam reiterated that repealing Section 377A is the right thing to do and that if Parliament did nothing, there is a significant risk of the law being struck down by the courts, which would have damaging consequences for society.

The Bill on the constitutional amendment proposed adding a new Article 156 to the Constitution, which makes clear that Parliament can act to define, regulate, protect, safeguard, support, foster and promote marriage — among other things.

The Article also allows the Singapore government and any public authority to exercise their functions to protect, safeguard, support, foster and promote marriage.

Additionally, the Article provides that nothing in Part 4 of the Constitution, which sets out fundamental liberties, will invalidate any legislative definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Murali Pillai, PAP MP for Bukit Batok, questioned the necessity for Article 156 to exclude the whole of Part 4 of the Constitution, rather than specific provisions.

In his speech on Monday, Pillai had noted that laws against subversion and emergency powers identify specific provisions in Part 4 to be excluded, and asked if it was possible for the Singapore government to do the same for Article 156 as well.

In his response, Shanmugam said that Part 4 has to be excluded in whole because the Singapore government cannot predict what possible arguments might be made against this definition of marriage in future.

He pointed to how arguments in Singapore’s courts on Section 377A had progressed from equal protection under Article 12 of the Constitution to asserting that sexual conduct is a form of liberty protected by Article 9.

Such alternative arguments have been accepted by courts in other countries. To protect the heterosexual definition of marriage from a court challenge, the whole of Part 4 of the Constitution needs to be excluded from the Article.

“But it is not a carte blanche. What is protected is quite precise. It is the heterosexual definition of marriage,” Shanmugam added.

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