S377A officially repealed as President Halimah assents to changes to law
Section 377A, a decades-old law criminalising gay sex, has officially been struck off the books, after President Halimah Yacob assented on Dec 27 to the Bill that proposed the repeal.
At the same time, changes to the Constitution to protect the current definition of marriage – as a union between a man and a woman – from legal challenge are now in force, according to notices published on the government e-Gazette website on Tuesday evening.
This comes after Parliament voted on Nov 29 in favour of both moves following a 10-hour debate over two days.
Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said at the close of the debate that the overall choice showed that Parliament should be the one to decide on issues of marriage, rather than having the matter be left to the courts and have Singaporeans “live with the potential threat of unconstitutionality, and have that change imposed on our society – as has happened in other countries”.
During the vote, the People’s Action Party did not lift its Whip, which meant that its MPs had to vote according to its position.
The opposition Workers’ Party, which has nine MPs in Parliament, lifted its Whip.
The move to repeal Section 377A was brought up by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his National Day Rally speech last August.
He said the Government will repeal Section 377A and decriminalise sex between men, as attitudes towards homosexuality have shifted appreciably.
Most people accept that a person’s sexual orientation and behaviour are private matters, and that sex between men should not be a criminal offence, he added.
At the same time, most Singaporeans do not want the repeal of the law to trigger a drastic shift in societal norms across the board, PM Lee said, referring to the Government’s consultations with the public, including on the definition of marriage and what is taught in schools.