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377A will be repealed, but what's next?

Section 377A will be repealed

On 21 August 2022, during the National Day Rally speech, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that the Singapore government will repeal s377A, a colonial-era law that criminalises sex between men.

This is a huge milestone in Singapore's queer history, but many still aren't sure if they should celebrate. Here's why. 

A significant milestone 

We’re glad that the state has finally acknowledged the need to remove this remnant of British colonial occupation. While long overdue, this is an important milestone in Singapore’s queer history, and it’s worth celebrating.

Many of us did not imagine that this will happen during our lifetime, and we have to thank the many generations of LGBTQ+ activists and allies who have paved the way with their hard work and lives.

Yet the reality isn't all rainbows and sprinkles. 

Anti-LGBTQ policies to remain unchanged

The repeal of s377A cannot be an end goal, but rather needs to be a door that unlocks actual policy changes. Even though s377A is a legacy of British rule, the fact remains that many anti-LGBTQ policies remain in education, housing, media representation, healthcare, and other areas. Many of these policies were enacted, enforced, and defended by the government.

s377A hasn’t been actively enforced for a long time, and its most potent effects are the slew of anti-LGBTQ regulations and policies that trickle down from it.

While a repeal of this law is a step in the right direction, it’s disappointing to hear that the Prime Minister has full intention of keeping all existing discriminatory policies. In practical terms, repealing s377A without making room for possible policy changes may not meaningfully alleviate the discrimination that LGBTQ+ people face in many aspects of their daily lives.

We hope that the government will work towards a truly discrimination-free and inclusive society, by first making sure that its policies do not baselessly discriminate against any community.

Separation of religion and secular laws of paramount importance

Singapore is a multiracial, multicultural, and diverse society. It is therefore critically important for us to protect the rights of people to practice their religion and religious lifestyle choices. However, it’s also important for us to maintain a separation of religion and secular laws. We shouldn’t allow any particular religion to dominate or dictate laws that apply to everyone, including those who do not follow their faith. This balance needs to be maintained for the stability of the country.

We strongly believe that a future in which all Singaporeans are treated equally, where everyone lives harmoniously and prosperously together, can be attained. But it will only come with continuous hard work and understanding. The work doesn’t end today, but our collective sense of relief and joy is undeniably hard-earned.

The act of repealing will still be painful

The days leading up to the eventual repeal of s377A in parliament will likely be painful to many of us within the queer community. Bigoted, self-righteous, and queerphobic people may make speeches in parliament or write to news outlets to explain why queer identities are “immoral” or deserve to be policed, restrained, and removed. As we celebrate this milestone and look towards the future, we need to be prepared for this onslaught of hate.

The painful irony isn’t lost: even the act of repealing s377A will inflict hurt onto the LGBTQ+ community. 

This is a time for the LGBTQ+ community to look out for one another, and to extend support to those who are most vulnerable.

Stay safe, hydrated, and look out for one another!

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