Why is the Government proposing to repeal Section 377A now?

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At the National Day Rally on 21 Auguest, PM Lee Hsien Loong said that Section 377A of the Penal Code will be repealed. 

Here are some questions and answers that will help you to understand why the Government is doing this. 

What is Section 377A?

Section 377A is an old law that was introduced in the 1930s by the British colonial government

It states that sex between mutually consenting male adults, whether publicly or privately, is criminal and punishable by law with up to 2 years’ imprisonment. 

In 2007, after heated debate in Parliament, PM Lee decided that Singapore would retain the law, but not actively enforce it. 

Why is the Government proposing to repeal it now?

In recent years, there have been challenges to the constitionality of Section 377A in the courts. 

The risk of Section 377A being overturned soon is real and very high. If Section 377A is overturned in court, the challenge may extend to marriage. 

If this challenge to the definition of marriage is successful, same sex marriage could become a reality. 

That is why the Government has decided to be pre-emptive and repeal Section 377A while ensuring that there are safeguards for marriage. 

What does repealing Section 377A mean?

It simply means that private consensual sex between adult gay men is not a criminal offence. 

Does repealing Section 377A actually change anything?

No, it does not. The law has not been enforced for over 20 years. 

As PM Lee said, Singapore is still a traditional society, with conservative social values where the vast majority believes that should be between a man and a woman, that children should be born and raised within such families. 

The repeal will not change the tone of society. It will not change what is taught to children in schools. It will not change marriage, parenthood and adoption policies. It will not change advertising standards or film classification. 

How will the Government protect our current family and social norms? 

The Government proposes to amend our Constitution to defend marriage from constitutional challenges. 

This means that the definition of marriage cannot be challenged in court and will remain between a man and a woman. 

Why is the Government proposing a Constitutional Amendment?

Under our law, marriage is between one man and one woman. 

However, some may challenge the defintion of marriage on constitutional grounds in court, just as they have done for Section 377A. 

If the court challenge for marriage succeeds, it could mean that same-sex marriage are recognised in Singapore

However, the Government believes that the courts are not the right forum to decide on such issues. 

The Government hopes to seek a new balance that will enable Singapore to remain a tolerant and inclusive society for many years to come.

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