Singapore hosts first LGBTQ+ rally since decriminalisation of gay sex: ‘Everyone should stand in the sun’

Singapore Pink Dot rally 2023

The first LGBTQ+ rally has been held in Singapore since the city-state repealed its long-standing law criminalising gay sex.

Same-sex sexual activity between men had been illegal in Singapore since colonial times. However, in August, prime minister Lee Hsien Loong announced an end to Section 377A of Singapore’s penal code, effectively decriminalising gay sex.

At the time, he said it was “the right thing to do and something most Singaporeans will now accept”.

On Saturday (24 June), thousands of people in pink clothing, holding rainbow flags, gathered in Hong Lim Park for the annual Pink Dot rally, which has been held in support of the LGBTQ+ community since 2009.

Pink was the dominant colour at the event in Hong Lim Park. (Roslan RAHMAN / AFP) (Photo by ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP via Getty Images)

According to Raw Story, Pink Dot spokesperson Clement Tan said it was a relief to be able to hold the rally without the repressive law in place.

“Repeal was something that was important to us, but it’s by no means the end of the work that needs to happen. There’s a much longer road ahead,” Tan said.

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However, he did not specify what the advocacy group would focus on next, saying: “Our goal has always been about slowly progressing and LGBTQ+ equality, whatever that looks like.”

The rally’s theme was A Singapore for All Families – an explicit challenge to pressure from conservatives who say that decriminalising gay sex will erode “family values” in the country.

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Tan continued: “It shouldn’t really matter what families look like in Singapore, most certainly not what the government defines as worthy of recognition. We believe that everyone should stand in the sun.”

Crowds enjoy the celebration at the weekend. (Roslan RAHMAN / AFP) (Photo by ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP via Getty Images)

When the gay sex ban was officially lifted in November, the Singaporean parliament also amended the constitution, to bolster the definition of marriage as being between a man and woman, in an attempt to ward off court challenges that have led to same-sex marriage being legalised in other countries.

However, Nishanthiy Balasamy, a straight woman who attended the rally to support her gay brother, told Reuters that she has seen a noticeable shift in society since the ban was repealed.

She said more people were dressing in the way they like, even if it identifies them as LGBTQ+, and that Singapore is “seeing a lot more drag shows”.

People were feeling more comfortable and confident about their identity, she added.

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