Singapore Is Threatening to Ban LGBTQ Citizens from Adopting Children

The government is considering changing its laws after a gay father won the right to adopt his biological son last year.
January 15, 2019, 2:24am
Over twenty-thousand local LGBTQI+ people gather in Hong Lim Park, SIngapore, for an event organised by Pink Dot.
Image via Shutterstock

This article originally appeared on VICE Australia.

Last year, a gay man in Singapore won an appeal to legally adopt his biological son. The 46-year-old had arranged for a surrogate in the United States to bear his child after being told that he was unlikely to get permission in the conservative city-state—only to have his application for the boy’s Singaporean citizenship rejected, SBS reports. The man ultimately appealed to the country’s High Court and won, in what has been championed as a landmark case and a small step forward for the country’s gay rights activists. But not everyone feels so optimistic about the decision.


In the wake of the widely-publicized court case, the Singaporean government is looking to tighten its adoption laws in relation to LGBTQ people. It is currently illegal for gay men to marry or even have sex in Singapore, and public policy opposes the formation of same-sex family units, according to The Straits Times. New changes could make it significantly harder for people in gay relationships to have children.

"Following the court judgement, MSF [Ministry for Social and Family Development] is reviewing Singapore's adoption laws and practices to see how they should be strengthened to better reflect public policy," MSF minister Desmond Lee told parliament on Monday. "While we recognize that there are increasingly diverse forms of families… the prevailing norm of society is still that of a man and a woman.”

Although surrogacy is already effectively banned in Singapore, the move could potentially see laws tightened so that the practice is prohibited both within the country and globally. Lee stressed that surrogacy is “a complex issue with ethical, social, health, and legal implications for all parties involved,” and pointed out that “concerns have been raised about the exploitation of women and commodification of children.

“These issues are not trivial, and warrant careful study and discussion," he said.

Lee did, however, make a point of declaring that LGBTQ Singaporeans should not “be subject to prejudice and discrimination,” and added that "the Government's policy is not to intrude or interfere with the private lives of Singaporeans, including homosexuals, and their relationships or partnerships. However, we do not support the formation of family units with children and homosexual parents through institutions and processes such as adoption."

The proposed revision of adoption and surrogacy laws has sparked some backlash from LGBTQ support groups. A spokesperson for Pink Dot—a Singaporean non-profit organization that fights for “an open, inclusive society… where sexual orientation represents a feature, not a barrier”—told the ABC that "The minister rightly says that LGBTQ persons 'should, like all Singaporeans, not be subject to prejudice and discrimination'… The irony is that the need to review adoption laws to further disadvantage gay couples stems precisely from the prejudice and discrimination that LGBTQ Singaporeans are constantly being subjected to."

"The desire to have children is a deeply personal matter to many individuals,” they added, “including LGBTQ people.”

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