Legally, Singapore is not friendly to the LGBT community; in practice, however, it’s a different story.
The country is known for its extremely strict laws, with mandatory sentences for offenses such as vandalism, for which offenders are caned.
Its Penal Code states, “Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or abets the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years,” according to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans And Intersex Association.
In an interview with the BBC, the Chief Executive of the Singapore Tourism Board, Lionel Yeo, was asked by Fast Track host Rajan Datar if they welcome gay visitors to Singapore; he responded without hesitation, “We do. We do not discriminate against any type of visitors.”
In response to a question about the seeming contradiction between welcoming LGBT people and the anti-gay “gross indecency” law, Yeo said, “The government’s position on that has been…that they would like to leave it on the books for the time being, and at the same time it’s not being actively enforced.”
He also confirmed that two gay people could, for example, share a hotel room: “That’s no issue at all.”
The BBC noted that Singapore’s status as a largely secular country makes the continuing existence of the law unusual; though it hasn’t been part of the United Kingdom since World War II, the section outlawing sexual activity between men is a remnant of old English law. Singapore only repealed its law against heterosexual oral sex in 2007.
According to the US Department of State’s travel site’s page on Singapore, while “the LGBT community organizes closed-door events regularly…the government is wary of issuing permits for open air events that openly champion LGBT issues.” There is also no legal recognition for same-sex unions, and LGBT workers “may find difficulty gaining employment in certain sectors of the civil service.”