Singapore not swayed by India gay sex ruling: minister

July 6, 2009
Singapore Democrats

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An Indian court’s decision to repeal a ban on gay sex will not lead Singapore to overturn a similar colonial-era law, the city-state’s law minister has been quoted as saying.

Legislation banning “carnal intercourse against the law of nature” is a remnant of British colonial rule in both countries.

Last week, the Delhi High Court ruled that the 1860 statute banning consensual gay sex violated basic individual rights guaranteed by the constitution. 

But Singapore Law Minister K. Shanmugam said his country was unlikely to move towards decriminalisation of gay sex, as most of the public did not support such a move.

“If the majority of our population is against homosexuality, then it’s not for the government to say we are going to force something against the wishes of the people,” the Today newspaper quoted Shanmugam as saying.

He said however that Singapore’s courts were free to interpret the law as the Indian court had done.

“We won’t change the law, but how that is interpreted is up to the courts,” the Straits Times quoted the minister as saying.

“It is not our position to tell the courts what to do.”

Singapore’s ban on gay sex punishes offenders with up to two years in jail, although it has rarely been enforced.

In October 2007, Singapore legalised oral and anal sex between heterosexual couples, but lawmakers retained the ban on gay sex, rejecting a petition by gay rights activists to abolish the law.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said at the time that Singapore remains a conservative society and that abolishing the law could “send the wrong signal”, prompting gay activists to push for legalisation of same-sex marriage.