Singapore has announced that it has planned to repeal the criminalization of gay sex, however, it is taking steps to ensure that homosexual marriage is illegal.
Decriminalizing same sex relationships is honestly less than the minimum that should be demanded. It is not even deserving of praise. The decision is certainly something to be happy about, no one should be punished for being in love with another consenting adult (this should not need to be said).
However, it seems that this might be to cover for the fact that Singapore is looking to ensure that same sex marriages are made illegal according to the legal code. The Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, has said that Section 377A (the law that criminalizes sex between men) will be repealed.
However, he also stated that, according to Democracy Now, “…we will uphold and safeguard the institution of marriage. Under the law, only marriages between one man and one woman are recognized in Singapore.”
This move shows yet another example of some mild progress, but an unwillingness to actually deal with the inequality at the heart of homophobia in much of the world.
While many have attempted to paint a rosy picture of this move, the idea that laws are getting more progressive in Singapore, is at best a tentative half-step forward (likely more like multiple steps backwards due to the law against gay sex being relatively rarely enforced in its current iteration). It certainly seems that it might be a smoke screen for two steps back, codifying the inability for same sex couples to get married.
If countries are going to give special rights and privileges to married couples, those that have same sex attractions should not be barred from this opportunity.
Many countries in Asia have yet to move towards marriage equality. In fact, Taiwan is the only country that has legalized same sex marriage (though still with lots of work to do). However, it has taken some steps to improve this, and to stand up to nations that are much worse on these issues, such as standing up to now authoritarian controlled states being allowed to hold gay rights celebrations anyway.
Some places like Tokyo, have made some mild progress on marriage equality. Unfortunately, this is far from enough. Other countries, like China, have been moving in the opposite direction, censoring same sex content and locking up journalists that choose to speak out on sexual violence.
Western nations, such as the US, are also looking like they might be keen on repealing the gains that brave activists have made to this point. Such regressive moves should be met with (at the very least) massive social movements to protest such antiquated ideas.
Equality today, equality tomorrow, equality forever!