Singapore’s government has repealed 377a, a colonial-era law that banned same-sex relationships.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the repeal in his National Day Rally speech Sunday night, saying that it was “the right thing to do, and something that most Singaporeans will now accept.”
The government had previously kept the ban in place, although it has not been actively enforced.
In a joint statement released following the repeal, LGBTQ+ rights organizations said that “For everyone who has experienced the kinds of bullying, rejection, and harassment enabled by this law, repeal finally enables us to begin the process of healing,” Reuters reports. “For those that long for a more equal and inclusive Singapore, repeal signifies that change is indeed possible.”
Speaking to the BBC, activist Johnson Ong said that he and other LGBTQ+ community members are “ecstatic that this discriminatory, antiquated law is finally going to be off the books.”
He added, “There’s a sense that maybe it took a little too long, but it had to happen, you know. Today, we are very, very happy.”
Although same-sex relationships might no longer be banned in the Southeast Asian country, in the same speech, Prime Minister Lee indicated that the country would do more to protect marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Activists called that move “disappointing.”
Singapore has now become the latest country in Asia to effectively legalize homosexuality, although the continent lags behind other parts of the world with regards to LGBTQ+ rights. Currently, Taiwan is the only country in the region that allows same-sex marriages.