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Religious Harmony Act of Singapore amended to list sexual orientation as protected ground against discrimination

On October 9, 2019, the Religious Harmony Act of Singapore was amended to specifically list sexual orientation as a protected ground against religiously motivated hate speech, violence and discrimination.

Photo by Joshua Ang from Unsplash.com

Earlier this month, on October 9, 2019, the Religious Harmony Act of Singapore was amended to specifically list sexual orientation as a protected ground against religiously motivated hate speech, violence and discrimination.

This is the first time that a legal or policy document in Singapore included the words “sexual orientation”, indicating that public morality, peace or public order, which have often been used to prevent LGBTQIA people from organizing public events or founding organizations, are not a justification for violence and discrimination.

A couple of months before this development, the Ministry of Social and Family Development also stated explicitly that protections against intimate partner and domestic violence are inclusive of LGBTQIA people, who are at a high risk of such violence with often frightfully little recourse.

This is not to say that LGBTQIA Pride has finally completely landed in Singapore.

Singapore is one of the 68 countries around the world where same-sex relations are still criminalized. The country still has Section 377A of the Penal Code; and although this is rarely imposed, and is facing a number of challenges in the courts, those who engage in homosexual acts may be sent to jail, so that its existence makes LGBTQIA criminals purely for who they love.

Over a year ago, a survey showed that 55% of 750 Singaporeans support the ban on gay sex, with only 12% opposing the antiquated Section 377A of Singapore’s Penal Code, which states that a man found to have committed an act of “gross indecency” with another man could be jailed for up to two years.

Singapore’s media industry also still blatantly prohibits positive depictions of LGBTQIA stories and characters, just as the the damaging practice of conversion therapy is openly pushed by some of the religious and conservatives, along with other forms of discrimination.

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An estimated 5.6% of adults (at least in the US) identify as LGBT. This is 4.5% higher from Gallup’s last data-gathering in 2017.

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