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Singapore to restrict LGBTQ media despite repealing anti-gay laws

Singapore says it wants to "protect younger audiences from age-inappropriate content".

By Emily Maskell

Words: Emily Maskell; pictures: Disney

Despite the historical announcement that Singapore plans to repeal its law criminalising same-sex activity, the government has announced that media with LGBTQ themes will still be restricted.

In Singapore, LGBTQ content is classified with a higher than usual age rating and the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) stated on Monday (22 August) that this restrictive classification will continue even after the repeal of Section 377A.

The MCI released a statement clarifying the unmoving stance: “MCI and the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) regulate media content to protect younger audiences from age-inappropriate content, and at the same time enable mature audiences to make informed choices over a diverse range of content.”

“Our content regulatory approach has to be sensitive to societal norms and values,” the statement continues. “We will continue to take reference from prevailing norms. LGBT media content will continue to warrant higher age ratings.”

This tough anti-LGBTQ policy in Singapore’s entertainment industry, enforced by the country’s Film Act of 1981, bans content that is deemed to promote homosexuality, “alternative sexualities,” as well as “excessive depiction of sexual activity between individuals of the same gender”.

Content of this nature is classified at the higher rating of R21, restricting viewers to adults above the age of 21, this content code is in place even for non-explicit depiction. 

Where homosexuality is a subplot in the film or show, “if discreet in treatment and not gratuitous” the code reads, M18 is the most common rating, for viewers above the age of 18.

In June of this year, Singapore’s handling of content codes and age ratings hit headlines as government restrictions meant only those aged 16 and above were able to view the Disney-Pixar film Lightyear, due to the depiction of a same-sex relationship between two women characters.

In the wake of Singapore’s discriminatory legalisation being axed, Time reported that SAFE, an organisation of parents, family members, and friends of LGBTQ people, stated that while the decriminalisation of same-sex relations is a step towards progress, there is much more to be done.

SAFE note that in Singapore institutionalised LGBTQ+ discrimination continues to exist in: “public housing, education, adoption rules, advertising standards, and film classification.”

The Attitude September/October issue is out now.