One of the most influential politicians in Singapore has spoken out against laws in the country that bans sex between men.

Lee Kuan Yew was Prime Minister of Singapore from 1959 to 1990, and remains a powerful figure in the country.

He has remained in the cabinet since stepping down from the Prime Ministerial role, and carries the title “Minister Mentor.”

In an interview with the Straits Times, Mr Lee talked about the theory that homosexuality is genetic.

“If in fact it is true, and I have asked doctors this, that you are genetically born a homosexual – because that’s the nature of the genetic random transmission of genes you can’t help it. So why should we criminalise it?”

Under his premiership and the two Prime Ministers that succeeded him, the Singaporean authorities have banned gay films and public displays of homosexuality such as Pride events. Despite this there is an open gay scene.

The city state of nearly five million people is renowned for its draconian legislation. Chewing gum is illegal and the police keep a close watch on public behaviour. Last year, however, Singaporeans over the age of 21 were allowed to see Brokeback Mountain.

Mr Lee’s comments may be another sign that the country is slowly accepting homosexuality.