365Gay.com: Singapore Law Maintaining Anti-Gay Provision Passes (Oct 23)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

(Singapore) Singapore's Parliament on Tuesday passed a sweeping revision of its penal law, eliminating sodomy as a crime for heterosexual couples but leaving in place provisions that could send gays to jail.

It was the first revision of the city state's penal code in 22-years and LGBT activists mounted an intensive campaign to have sodomy laws, dating back to British rule, repealed.

During debate on the bill Monday a member of Parliament introduced a petition signed by 2,341 people calling for repeal of the law. (story)

The names were gathered online in just three days Siew Kum Hong told Parliament.

"In times past and in other countries, public morality has been used to justify slavery, discrimination against racial and religious minorities and discrimination against women," Siew said.

"Let us not perpetuate or repeat the mistakes of others in the past."

Under the law anyone engaging in same-sex sodomy could face two years in prison, although police say no one has been charged in recent times.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called for retention of the law saying that if it were abolished it could "send the wrong signal" and encourage LGBT activists to ask for more concessions, such as same-sex marriage and parenting.

Lee told Parliament just prior to the vote that gays "are free to lead their lives and pursue their social activities."

Lee's position puts him at odds with his own father. In April, Lee Kuan Yew, the former prime minister and the man regarded as the father of modern Singapore, called for the decriminalization of gay sex laws. (story)

But other amendments to the penal code would tend to dispel the younger Lee's assertion that gays are able to "lead their own lives."

Among the changes is a broadening of laws against "unlawful assembly." The provision also has raised concerns among gay activists.

In August Singapore banned gay events held in public parks. The move came as gays were attempting to celebrate LGBT pride. (story)

Police lifted a permit to hold a picnic and fun run at a park saying politics were not welcome in green spaces.

Censors refused to allow an LGBT book reading event that was to have been part of the pride celebration. A human rights forum was blocked. And a photography exhibit of of gays and lesbians was closed by police hours before it was to officially open.

The Media Development Authority balked at a book by author Ng Yi-Sheng about a young man's fictional sexual adventures with older men including military officers and government officials. (story)

The authority said that the book went beyond good taste and decency and disparaged public officers.

The human rights forum was to have featured Douglas Sanders, a professor emeritus in law at the University of British Columbia, Canada, and Thailand's Chulalongkorn University.

The forum, titled "Sexual Orientation in International Law: The Case of Asia," was deemed contrary to public interest.

The censorship board ordered the photo exhibition closed because it showed photos of gay men and women kissing. (story)

The board said that the show violated Singapore law because it promoted "a homosexual lifestyle".