Monday, August 22, 2022

Singapore Says What?

From the Washington Post:

Singapore will not allow same-sex marriages even as it moves to repeal a law that criminalizes sex between gay men, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced Sunday.

The government plans to amend the country’s constitution to limit its definition of marriage to between a man and a woman, and protect that definition from court challenge.

Marital status is linked to many social policies in Singapore, including eligibility for public housing and adoption. LGBTQ activists in the Southeast Asian country have long derided this system as discriminatory, and some now fear that enshrining the definition of marriage will entrench it.

Titled “Outrages on decency,” section 377A states that sex between men is punishable by up to two years in prison.

Rights activists describe the colonial-era penal code section as archaic, discriminatory and a contributor to social stigma by branding members of the LGBTQ community as criminals.

I have a friend from Britain who spends a lot of time in Singapore. I’m going to ask him to explain this to me from his perspective (see update below), but from this distance it feels to me like a hangover from the Victorian era where what you did in private was your own business but please don’t let anyone else know you’re doing it: it might frighten the horses.

Singapore already has a reputation for being uptight. There are all sorts of laws and rules about behavior in public such as chewing gum and other indulgences, so I’m not surprised that they’ve taken this attitude about same-sex marriage.  But at least they’re decriminalizing it, which is a step forward while the nuts here in the Land of the Free are talking about repealing LGBTQ+ protections and covering the ears of their little darlings so they won’t know that Heather has two mommies.

So, half a cheer, Singapore.

UPDATE:  My friend in Singapore supplied some much-needed insight.

The thing is we must remember that Singapore has had a traumatic past. It’s been colonised by the British, where Chinese were seen as second class citizens. Then came the Japanese occupation, where people lived in absolute terror for several years. Then came independence, when, fed up with being pushed about by everyone, Singapore finally got to determine it’s own future. But this has still been a difficult balancing act. In the 1960s there were terrible Malay-Chinese racial riots. The People’s Action Party (PAP) and Lee Kuan Yew have done a pretty good job of stabilising the many cultures, languages and viewpoints crammed onto this tiny island, while at the same time fending off communism. To some this is seen as authoritarianism, but you have to congratulate Singapore for moving from 3rd world to 1st world in under a generation. I certainly wouldn’t have met any of my Singapore friends if it hadn’t been for Lee Kuan Yew. I think Section 377A has been kept for the simple reason that PAP didn’t want to do anything to destabilise the fine balance of races, cultures and religions here. But you must remember that Singapore is actually very gay friendly. It is a pragmatic common sense society and section 377A has only been kept for so long to appease the older arch-conservative generation. It has for a very long time been kept as decoration. Many societies which legally are pro-gay are incredibly homophobic, so the legal situation doesn’t always correlate with the feeling on the ground. So I think, considering the nonsense it has been through, Singapore is doing incredibly well. The dominant chinese culture is very pragmatic, so they don’t actually see the point of homophobia. And as a British gay man I have to say I feel incredibly safe in Singapore. I can walk anywhere at 2am and feel entirely safe. Could I do that in London? It would of course be nice if Singapore were to have equal marriage, but practically speaking this has to move at the pace of the many cultures here.

Thank you, my friend. We Americans truly live in a bubble of our own unawareness.

One bark on “Singapore Says What?

  1. O sing a song of Singapore,
    Where life is such a crashing bore
    That bureaucrats must while the days
    By fingerprinting dogs;
    And Government (in full control)
    Can ding you for each foot you roll
    And issue electronic shoes
    To everyone who jogs.

    But I, for one, will not believe
    In any progress they achieve
    (No matter what great strides they make
    In registering cats)
    Until they have a census done
    And checked, down to the smallest one,
    Of all that island paradise’s
    Roaches, snakes, and rats.


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