The Status of LGBTQ Rights in Singapore

According to a recent survey by the Institute of Policy Studies in Singapore, there have been major shifts in attitudes toward LGBTQ rights in the last few years. Almost 60% of people under 25 support same-sex marriage. This number was much lower in 2013 when this survey was last conducted.

Singapore is socially conservative in general and locals remain traditional in their outlook. Younger people are much more liberal compared to people over 65. At first, this may not seem like much of a surprise. Compare these results with those of a similar study held in Malaysia, however, and you’ll find the opposite situation. Older people in Malaysia are more accepting of the LGBT community than millennials.

When it comes to laws, LGBT rights in the country have not been moving forward. Same-sex partners are not allowed to adopt and their relationships are not recognized. No anti-discrimination laws exist to protect the community. In the media, positive portrayals of LGBT people are not allowed because it is considered “glamorizing” the homosexual way of life. So all LGBT characters on TV are portrayed in a negative manner, either as needing help to ‘change’ or there being something wrong with them.

The social status of LGBT rights in the city-state is quite complex. Most LGBT community members are able to lead normal lives, but there is a feeling of unease. While Singaporean society is not particularly religious or extremist, it remains quite conservative. There is still a colonial-era law prohibiting male homosexuality in effect, Section 377A. There is no law prohibiting lesbian relationships, but that’s probably because lesbians were not even recognized to exist back in colonial times.

LGBT people in this affluent part of the world feel neither accepted nor comfortable, but they do feel safe. Life does remain difficult for them. They must cope with traditionalist misconceptions, little progressive education on LGBT issues, and the ban on positive images of LGBT people in the media.

Impoverished people are much more vulnerable to discrimination and abuse because they don’t have the resources to protect themselves, and ladyboys in Singapore have spoken out about being victims of assault.

On the plus side, ladyboys have been allowed to change their legal gender since 2003. Post-op trans people were allowed to marry in 1996.