Girish Mahajan (Editor)

LGBT rights in Singapore

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Penalty:  Up to 2 years
Recognition of relationships  No formal recognition
LGBT rights in Singapore
Same-sex sexual activity legal?  Male illegal (rarely enforced) Female legal
Gender identity/expression  Transsexual persons allowed to change legal gender
Military service  Gay men required to attend National Service, but restricted to limited duties.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Singapore lack many of the legal rights of non-LGBT residents. Same-sex relationships are not recognized under the law, and adoption of children by same-sex couples is illegal. Male same-sex sexual activity is illegal, though the law is generally not enforced. No anti-discrimination protections exist for LGBT status.


Same-sex sexual activity

Singapore law does not prohibit sex between two women, or anal or oral sex between a woman and a man. However, a vaguely worded Section 377A of Singapore's Penal Code makes it illegal for two men to have sex with each other.


After the exhaustive Penal Code review in 2007, oral and anal sex were legalised for heterosexuals and female homosexuals only. The changes meant that oral and anal sex between consenting heterosexual and female homosexual adults were no longer offences but section 377A, which dealt with gross indecency between consenting men, remained in force. Kumaralingam Amirthalingam a Professor of Law at the National University of Singapore has argued that it may not apply to anal sex between males.

In his concluding speech on the debate over the repeal of Section 377A, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told MPs before the vote that "Singapore is basically a conservative society... The family is the basic building block of this society. And by family in Singapore we mean one man, one woman, marrying, having children and bringing up children within that framework of a stable family unit."

Section 377A Section 377A ("Outrages on decency") states that: "Outrages on decency 377A. Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or abets the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years.

Section 377A remains sporadically enforced. Between 2007 and 2013, nine people were convicted under 377A provisions.

Other sections of the penal code potentiality relevant to LGBT Singaporeans include;

Section 354 of the Penal Code (Outrage of Modesty)
Section 354 provides that if any person uses criminal force on any person intending to outrage, or knowing it would be likely to outrage, the modesty of that person, he shall be imprisoned for a maximum of 2 years, or with fine, or with caning, or with any 2 of such punishments.

Section 354 requires that the police or someone be touched. However, if no physical contact is made, homosexual behaviour can also be charged under Section 294A (see below).

Section 294A of the Penal Code (Obscene Act)
If the victim of an entrapment operation uses a symbolic gesture to signal intention to have sexual activity with the police decoy, he can be tried under section 294A of the Penal Code, which covers the commission of any obscene act in any public place to the annoyance of others (subject to a maximum of 3 months' jail, a fine, or both). From 1990 to 1994, there were 6 cases of obscene acts brought before the courts in this context. The accused were fined between $200–$800.

Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act
The police can use section 19 (soliciting in a public place) of the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act, which covers both prostitution and soliciting "for any other immoral purpose". This offence carries a fine of up to $1,000, doubling on a subsequent conviction, including a jail term not exceeding 6 months.

According to documentation by National University of Singapore sociologist Laurence Leong Wai Teng, from 1990–94, there were 11 cases where gay men were charged for soliciting. They were fined between $200–$500. However, a Lawnet search revealed no reported cases of persons being charged under section 19. This does not mean, however that no persons were charged. They could have pleaded guilty and avoided trial, resulting in the absence of case law.


On 29 October 2014 a Singapore Supreme Court ruling upheld the country’s ban on same-sex relations between consenting adult men. The Supreme Court held that section 377A of Singapore’ penal code, which criminalises sexual intimacy between men, does not violate articles 9 and 12 of the country’s constitution. These articles guarantee the right to life and personal liberty, and provide that all people are entitled to equal protection before the law. The applicant's attorney argued that 377(a) criminalises a group of people for an innate attribute, though the court concluded that "there is, at present, no definitive conclusion" on the "supposed immutability" of homosexuality. The court also upheld the differing laws regarding male and female same-sex sexual activity because female homosexual acts "were either less prevalent or perceived to be less repugnant than male homosexual conduct." The court ultimately held that law reforms permitting private homosexual sex were a question for the Singapore Parliament to address.

Previously in 2012 a lower court (Court of Appeals) ruling had found that 377A as it relates to the arrest of males for private and consensual sexual conduct "arguably" breached article 12 protections, though the court's ruling did not go into the merits of the case on technical grounds.

Recognition of same-sex relationships

Singapore does not recognise relationships of same-sex couples in any form (such as marriage, civil union, domestic partnership). Post-operative transgender individuals have, since January 1996, been permitted to marry a person of the opposite sex.

Adoption and family planning

Adoption of children by same-sex couples is illegal in Singapore, though any individual can apply to adopt. Same-sex couples are not permitted to adopt or partake in child-rearing arrangements, such as utilisation of assisted reproductive technology or surrogacy.

Discrimination protections

No laws exist specifically protecting LGBT Singaporeans from discrimination in the workplace, housing or any other relevant areas. Previous attempts claim damages for alleged discriminatory conduct in such fields have been dismissed in Singaporean courts.

Government reports

Despite the legal conditions in the country, Singaporean government representatives have previously spoken glowingly of the conditions faced by LGBT citizens at a United Nations anti-discrimination committee; "homosexuals are free to lead their lives and pursue their social activities. Gay groups have held public discussions and published websites, and there are films and plays on gay themes and gay bars and clubs in Singapore."

Public opinion

Whilst some 75% of Singaporeans oppose same-sex marriage and same-sex sexual activity (according to polling conducted in 2013), in recent years record crowds of approximately 28,000 have attended Singapore's annual gay rights rally - Pink Dot SG - with a heavy bent toward younger demographics.


The Singapore Media Development Authority prohibits the “promotion or glamorization of the homosexual lifestyle” on television and the radio. This means among other things that advertisements targeting the LGBT community, such as those for HIV/AIDS, are not allowed to be broadcast.

Civil Service

Prior to 2003, homosexuals were barred from being employed in "sensitive positions" within the Singapore Civil Service.

Category 302

The most widely known and infamous classification is Category 302, a medical code given to personnel who are "homosexuals, transvestites, paedophiles, etc." Category 302 (popularly referred to as "cat 302") homosexuals are further classified into those "with effeminate behaviour" and those "without effeminate behaviour".


Self-declared or discovered servicemen are referred to the Psychological Medicine Branch of the Headquarters of Medical Services for a thorough psychiatric assessment, which involves their parents being called in for an interview.

They are medically downgraded to a Physical Employment Status of C (PES C), regardless of their level of fitness, and put through modified Basic Military Training. On graduation, they are deployed in a vocation which has no security risks, posted to non-sensitive units and given a security status which restricts their access to classified documents.

Formerly, Category 302 personnel were not allowed to stay overnight in-camp, nor were they required to perform night duties, but these restrictions have been relaxed. "Effeminate" homosexuals are also posted to a holding list upon completion of National Service and not required to do reservist training, whilst "non-effeminate" ones have to undergo it in non-sensitive units.

Category 30-B

A less well known classification is Category 30-B, a medical code given to servicemen "with effeminate behaviour not amounting to sexual disorders". These individuals are further subdivided into "mildly effeminate", "effeminate" and "severely effeminate".

Ex-gay movement

In January 2006 the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) granted S$100,000 (US$61,500) to Liberty League, an organisation affiliated with the ex-gay movement (an effort to change people from being gay to being straight). The organization says it "promotes gender and sexual health for the individual, family and society".


LGBT rights in Singapore Wikipedia

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