Big News In Singapore! (And a Raspberry to Indonesia)

Yesterday, Singapore decriminalized sex between two men.

Gay men will continue to face a certain amount of social stigma, but not jail time, fines, or court-ordered beatings.

The law that was just rescinded dates from British colonial times, the very same one under which Oscar Wilde was jailed (an experience from which he ultimately died).

Legally, this brings Singapore slightly more in line with modern Western norms.

But the country is wrestling mightily between its two identities—one a liberal, constitutional, competitive-capitalist Western one; the other a patriarchal, ancestor-centric, shame-oriented, rules-valuing Asian one.

As a country, Singapore is more liberal than many of its neighbors. Indonesia, for example, is increasingly changing its legal system to accommodate a radical Muslim faction. Having instituted actual Sharia in northern Aceh province several years ago, last week the country criminalized sex between unmarried adults—difficult to see as anything other than a huge cultural step backward.

But Singaporean laws and informal norms keep a tight lid on most aspects of society. Virginity-until-marriage is still considered necessary among much of the country. Political gatherings of more than five people must be approved by the government. And the two million foreign guestworkers, mostly from India and Bangladesh, are treated like third-class citizens, which creates ethical dilemmas that are mostly ignored.

Realistically, same-sex marriage is nowhere on the horizon here. Nevertheless, let’s toast Singapore’s decriminalization of same-gender sex. And let’s thumb our noses at Indonesia—where even if same-gender sex were legal, it would be outlawed among gays who aren’t married. Which, of course, is all Indonesian gays—if any even existed, which the government and Muslim clergy keeps saying they don’t.

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2 Responses to Big News In Singapore! (And a Raspberry to Indonesia)

  1. It’s so interesting to get current reports on what’s going on in these countries from a ‘trusted source’ – and even better to hear the sexuality-oriented news! It helps to get out of our narrow Western perspective on life. Thanks, Marty!

  2. Singapore’s laws around prostitution are actually better than most of the US. There’s certainly plenty of room for improvement but sex work is legal.

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