Reuters: Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew questions homosexuality ban

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore's powerful former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, acknowledging the view that some people are genetically destined to be homosexual, has questioned the city-state's ban on sex between men.

"If in fact it is true, and I have asked doctors this, that you are genetically born a homosexual -- because that's the nature of the genetic random transmission of genes -- you can't help it. So why should we criminalize it?" Monday's Straits Times, a pro-government daily, quoted Lee as saying.

Under Singapore law, a man who is found to have committed an act of "gross indecency" with another man can be jailed for up to two years, though prosecutions are rare.

But Lee -- who remains the most powerful minister in the cabinet of his son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong -- said Singapore should not actively pursue homosexuals who engage in sex.

Lee said that while homosexuality was not widely accepted in Singapore, authorities must take a pragmatic approach.

"Let's not go around like this moral police ... barging into people's rooms. That's not our business," he told a weekend meeting with the youth wing of the People's Action Party, Singapore's ruling political party.

In November, the Ministry of Home Affairs said it was considering decriminalizing oral and anal sex between consenting heterosexual adults, but not between homosexuals.

The authorities have banned gay festivals and censored gay films, saying homosexuality should not be advocated as a lifestyle. But, despite the official ban on gay sex, Singapore has a thriving gay scene.

Lee's comments come at a time when many groups, such as Singapore's Law Society, are clamoring for a review of the laws against homosexual sex, which they view as outdated and archaic.

© Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.