SINGAPORE – Oral and anal sex in private between consenting heterosexual adults would be legalized under a bill introduced in Singapore’s parliament on Monday.

Under the city-state’s first major penal code amendments in 22 years, a section criminalizing “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” would be repealed.

The bill would also create new offenses to tackle child prostitution and sex tourism.
Singapore has in recent years gradually eased social restrictions that have given it a straight-laced reputation.

But while the bill takes a softer line on heterosexual sex, a ban on acts of “gross indecency” between males will remain.

Gay rights activists have said authorities have not laid charges under the section in recent years, even though it remains in force.

Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore’s Second Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, said earlier this year that the city-state was undergoing liberalization while retaining a very strong conservative core.

Although prostitution itself is not an offense in Singapore, the bill would make it an offense to obtain commercial sex with a person under 18. Conviction could lead to a prison term of up to seven years, while communicating for such a purpose could bring up to two years in jail, the bill says.

Similar offenses committed abroad would attract the same punishments, it says.

Local media have reported that some Singaporeans travel to the nearby Indonesian island of Batam for sex with teenage girls.

In another new provision, making travel arrangements intended to facilitate under-age commercial sex abroad would bring up to 10 years in prison, the bill says.

The revised penal code, still to be passed into law by parliament, also broadens the scope of an offense against unlawful assembly.

An assembly of five or more people would be illegal if the group’s common objective is to commit “any offense,” the bill says, broadening the definition from mischief and trespass.

Singapore’s laws against unlawful assembly gained prominence during last year’s meetings in the city-state by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

Pro-democracy activist Chee Soon Juan engaged in a three-day standoff with police, who stopped him and a small group of followers from marching to the meeting venue after police rejected his application for a permit.

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