The law and its application seem to be on different tangents in Singapore as the country’s government has notified that it will continue to restrict and classify media content with LGBTQ themes, even after its planned decriminalisation of same-sex relationships.
The move to repeal a colonial-era law that criminalised sex between men was announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
The law, Section 377A of the Penal Code, was introduced in 1938 and established a two-year jail term for “any act of gross indecency” between two men, either in public or in private, reports ‘Variety’.
London-based Singaporean filmmaker Anthony Chen commended the planned repeal. “Long overdue but well done Singapore,” he wrote on Twitter.
Until about a decade ago, the law was used as justification for police raids of gay-owned businesses and street arrests.
According to ‘Variety’, since 2010, the law has been rarely enforced, but it continues to inform tough anti-LGBTQ policy in media and entertainment.
In June, Disney’s animated Pixar film ‘Lightyear’ was limited to those aged 16 and above by the country’s rating board, citing its depiction of a kiss between two female characters.
Previously, the National Library Board had withdrawn a children’s book that included a same-sex penguin couple, though the ban was later reversed and the title instead placed on the adult list.
‘Variety’ further states that LGBTQ media content will continue to warrant higher age ratings, even after the repeal of 377A, as per the directive of the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) stated.
“We will continue to take reference from prevailing norms. LGBTQ media content will continue to warrant higher age ratings,” the MCI said in a statement of clarification.
The country’s Films Act does not permit content which is deemed “promotion of homosexuality” or content with “excessive depiction of sexual activity between individuals of the same gender”.
The country’s InfoComm Media Development Authority (IMDA), which oversees the sector, operates a content code that targets films that depict “alternative sexualities”, such as homosexuality, as to “be sensitive to community values”.
“Films that centre on alternative sexualities may be classified at (the) highest rating of R21. Non-explicit depictions of sexual activity between persons of the same gender may be featured at R21 rating,” the code says.
That would restrict viewing to adults older than 21.
A lower rating of M18 (allowing viewing by people older than 18) may be applied where the homosexual themes or content are a subplot, “if discreet in treatment and not gratuitous”, says the IMDA code.