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Thousands join rally for gay rights in Singapore

While the city-state is prosperous and developed, social attitudes remain conservative and sex between men is still illegal, although the law is not actively enforced.

SINGAPORE — Thousands of Singaporeans dressed in pink gathered in a park on Saturday to call for greater recognition of LGBTQ rights, the first such rally since 2019 after coronavirus restrictions were eased.

While the city-state is prosperous and developed, social attitudes remain conservative and sex between men is still illegal, although the law is not actively enforced.

Singapore’s “Pink Dot” gay rights rally began in 2009 and has consistently drawn large crowds despite backlash from some. After holding online-only events during the pandemic, large numbers turned out on Saturday as the rally returned to a downtown park – the only place in the city-state where protests are allowed without permits. police.

“I want to make my voice heard, I want to know that we matter and I want equality in Singapore,” Susan Helen, a 39-year-old business leader, told AFP. “We are human beings, so we just want to be treated equally under the law. I want to be able to marry my partner.”

Others at the rally waved rainbow flags, danced and held up signs with slogans such as “We’re not nuclear, we’re queer” and “Power to the queers.” The organizers did not release figures on the size of the crowd, but an AFP journalist estimated that thousands of people were present.

Critics say Singapore’s slow progress on gay rights contrasts with progress in other parts of Asia such as Taiwan and India. They point out that authorities are upholding British colonial-era law that prohibits sex between men. Several attempts to overturn the legislation have failed in recent years.

The latest challenge was dismissed by Singapore’s top court in February, which ruled the law would stand but on the grounds that it “would not be proactively enforced”. Overt support for gay rights is growing, helped by changing social norms among the younger generation and a large influx of tourists and expats.

The percentage of people in Singapore who support a ban on same-sex relationships has risen from 55% in 2018 to 44% this year, as citizens are increasingly supportive of same-sex relationships, according to a survey released this month by market research company Ipsos.

Officials argued that most socially conservative Singaporeans would be against repealing the law, which carries a maximum of two years in prison for homosexual acts. But Justice Minister Kasiviswanathan Shanmugam acknowledged a change in attitude, telling parliament earlier this year that the government was considering the best way forward.

This article first appeared on EWN: Thousands Join Gay Rights Rally in Singapore

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