Singapore parliamentarians debate gay sex laws by Sylvia Tan, 23 Oct 2007, Fridae.com

Lawmakers in Singapore began a rigorous debate on the retention or repeal of Section 377A of the Penal Code in the Parliament yesterday as voices calling for equal treatment of Singapore’s gay citizens was heard possibly for the first time in the Parliament House.

“We’re not going away; we’re here for the long run.” Said Dr Stuart Koe, CEO of Fridae.com and one of the three who started the Parliamentary Petition, when asked what the group’s plan was should the petition not be successful. The two other petitioners are Tan Joo Hymn, a full-time mother, and lawyer George Hwang.

“If we don’t address this in a timely manner, it is very possible tensions will rise. It is very possible that people will feel like they can continue to make very intolerant and degrading remarks. It is possible that people will feel that 377a allows them to discriminate against (gay) Singaporeans.”

Dr Koe was speaking to reporters at a repeal 377A press conference held at The Arts House which was formerly the old Parliament House less than three hours before Parliament convened at the new Parliament house across the road.

“To have a law that they articulate they are not going to enforce really brings the law into disrepute.” He said referring to the government’s promise to not enforce the law despite not repealing it.

“Either put the gun down, or pull the trigger.”

Later in the afteroon, lawmakers in Singapore began a rigorous debate on the retention or repeal of Section 377A of the Penal Code in the Parliament yesterday as voices calling for equal treatment of Singapore’s gay citizens was heard possibly for the first time in the Parliament House.

Under current laws, any male persons found guilty of engaging in “gross indecency” with another male, whether in private or in public, faces a jail term of up to two years.

Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and Law Professor Ho Peng Kee reiterated that the “majority finds homosexual behaviour offensive and unacceptable” and thus the law will remain on the books.

Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Siew Kum Hong tabled a petition{video}{text} signed by 2,341 persons from all walks of life who called for the repeal of the said section as they view the retention of that section as discriminatory and unconstitutional when a related Section 377 is to be repealed in the Penal Code (Amendment) Bill which is having its second reading in the same session. The last time the parliament received such petition was in 1985.

Siew presented the petition in Parliament shortly after the sitting commenced at 1.30pm. In his 30-minute speech in the late afternoon{video}{text},he challenged the selective use of the law for moral ‘signposting’ highlighting that other ‘immoral’ acts such as adultery are not criminalised. Disagreeing with critics who argue that “this is not the right time to repeal 377A,” he retorted: “I disagree. I say there is no wrong time to do the right thing.”

“It is not harm that results from such acts being performed between adult men, but the moral disgust the majority says it feels.

“The ‘signposting’ argument is fundamentally flawed. It is couched in the language of ‘the majority’. But let us not forget another phrase involving the majority: the tyranny of the majority.”

Nine of the 12 parliamentarians who spoke touched on the issue. MP Hri Kumar joined Siew in questioning the reasons for not repealing the law while the others including MP Alvin Yeo, Christopher de Souza, Indranee Rajah, Zaqy Mohamad and NMP Thio Li-ann supported its retention.

In what was described by the local broadsheet as a “fiery oratory against the ‘radical political agenda’ of gay rights activists” which had “many Members of the House (thumping) their seats in approval,” Prof Thio spoke for 30 minutes{video}{text} – the maximum time allotted.

The law professor at a local university said: “Like many, I applaud the government’s wisdom in keeping 377A which conserves what upholds the national interest. ‘Conservative’ here is not a dirty word connoting backwardness; environmental conservation protects our habitat; the moral ecology must be conserved to protect what is precious and sustains a dynamic, free and good society.

“The welfare of future generations depends on basing law on sound public philosophy. We should reject the ‘argument from consent’ as its philosophy is intellectually deficient and morally bankrupt.

“The real question today is not ‘if’ we should repeal 377A now, or wait until people are ready to move. This assumes too much, as though we need an adjustment period before the inevitable. The real question is not ‘if’ but ‘should’ we ever repeal 377A. It is not inevitable; it is not desirable to repeal it in any event.

“‘Sexual minorities’ and ‘sexual orientation’ are vague terms – covering anything from homosexuality, bestiality, incest, paedophilia – do all these minority sexual practices merit protection?

“Anal-penetrative sex is inherently damaging to the body and a misuse of organs, like shoving a straw up your nose to drink. The anus is designed to expel waste; when something is forcibly inserted into it, the muscles contract and cause tearing; fecal waste, viruses carried by sperm and blood thus congregate, with adverse health implications like ‘gay bowel syndrome’, anal cancer. ‘Acts of gross indecency’ under 377A also covers unhygienic practices like “rimming” where the mouth comes into contact with the anus.”

She farther listed what “pro-gay academics” have identified as the “5 main steps in this agenda in their study of foreign jurisdictions” including “to prohibit discrimination based on ‘sexual orientation’. But would this not include all sexual behaviour? ‘Sex before 8 or else it’s too late’ is the motto of the North American Man Boy Love Association. Should we judge pedophilia or be relativist and promote ‘anything goes’ sexual experimentation?”

“Sir, to protect homosexuals, some countries have criminalized not sodomy but opposition to sodomy, making it a ‘hate crime’ to criticize homosexuality. This violates freedom of speech and religion; will sacred texts that declare homosexuality morally deviant, like the Bible and Koran, be criminalized? Social unrest beckons. Such assaults on constitutional liberties cannot be tolerated.”

Applause was heard in the public gallery when Prof Thio ended her speech. A newspaper observed that the attendance in the public gallery was unusually high with academics, law students, gay activists as well as Prof Thio’s supporters including her mother Dr Thio Su-Mien. Dr Thio, a former Dean of a local law school, has notably written to the press on several occasions to warn against the ‘gay agenda’ and disagree with the government’s policy to not discriminate against the employment of openly gay individuals.

The debate on the Penal Code (Amendment) Bill continues today in Parliament, with MPs Baey Yam Keng, Lim Biow Chuan, Ellen Lee, expected to speak. Baey has expressed his support for repeal publicly at a public seminar while Lim has expressed disapproval in a press interview.

Note from Pseudonymity: You can read the 2nd page of this report, which carries excerpts of what was said in parliament, here. The links in the report are mine and not in the original report.

&&&&&&&&&&&&&

Organisers submit open letter to Singapore’s prime minister with 8000 signatures by Sylvia Tan, 23 Oct 2007, Fridae.com

The Open Letter To The Prime Minister of Singapore containing over 8000 signatures has been delivered to the PM’s office at the Istana on Monday.

Organisers of the Open Letter To The Prime Minister of Singapore have hand delivered the 400-page letter – urging the repeal of Section 377A of the Penal Code – with 8120 signatures to the PM’s office at the Istana on Monday at 2.30pm.

All signatories submitted as of midnight Oct 22 went towards the final document.

The letter was delivered by co-organiser Alan Seah, owner of former nightspot Happy, and was accompanied by actress Pam Oei who appeared in the widely publicised Youtube video and playwright/ theatre director Ivan Heng.

Seah told Fridae, “It’s as if 8000 people walked up to the Prime Minister and shook his hand, introduced themselves politely and respectfully but firmly explained their heartfelt views on this important issue.

“It is clear from the debate in Parliament yesterday that many Singaporeans still have many misconceptions about the gay community and what this whole issue is about. There is a real lack of understanding. I hope the Open Letter will help explain why we feel it is so important that the discrimination against us must end. And that we need the leadership of our Govenment to help end it.”

Launched on Oct 5, the letter which urged the abolishment of Penal Code section 377A is in response to the current parliamentary debate where the proposed Penal Code is being read the second time.

Under the proposed amendment, Section 377A, which outlaws “acts of gross indecency” between men will be retained while Section 377 which forbids “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” – understood to mean oral and anal sex – between consensual heterosexuals will be repealed.

The online Open Letter website will remain operational until further notice as an on-going record of this debate. You can see the Open Letter now in our ‘Things You Can Do‘ section.

Comments from signatories published on repeal377a.com (unedited):

I’m a doctor. People tell me that’s a noble profession. My parents are proud of me. My teachers are proud of me. You would be proud of me too, dear prime minister, if I were your son. But I’m ashamed of myself. Why so? Because I’m gay. Because I’m born not to feel sexual attraction and romantic love for women. Because I’m deeply in love with my partner, another man. Because I express my love for my partner in the same ways as you would, dear prime minister, your beloved wife. Therefore, I’m a criminal. I’m a criminal working in one of our restructured hospitals. It doesn’t matter how many lives I save, it doesn’t matter how much suffering I relieve, it doesn’t matter how much good I do, it doesn’t change one shameful fact. I’m a criminal doctor. – criminal doctor

I am 69 years old, a mother of a gay son who’s in his 40s. He and his partner have been living with me under the same roof for more than 13 years. They are the best things that happen to me in all my 69 years in Singapore. Please tell me, Mr. PM, why are you teaching me to be ashamed of them? If this country doesn’t want them, where can they go? Please tell me. – Mak Oon Ling

My son is gay. He came out to me when he was 22. And I was upset and I blamed myself why is my son gay… I blamed myself all the time. But he is my son. He has not changed since the first day i gave birth to him or the person he is today. I love him for who he is, for what he is. It sickens me that people think suggests that just because he is gay, our family isnt what it is. We are a family. What people do in their private lives shouldnt be an issue to anyone aslong as it doesnt harm anyone else. He doesn’t know i am doing this but I support this repeal. He is my son and he is not a criminal. If I can accept him, his mother who gave birth to him, who these people who so quickly judge him and condemn him? – Karen

I am a Singaporean residing in Germany with my German male partner. My company and host country RESPECT me, my partner and our homosexuality with no discrimination. I hope to return home to Singapore one day with my partner to serve HER as proud sons with human dignity and rights. But, we often struggled inside us: “Do we want to continue living in Germany as “free” men or return home to Singapore hiding as “criminals”?” Like all proud Singaporeans, I only ask to be able to return home a dignified Singapore gay son, and not a “criminal” I was never borned to be. I, therefore, support the repeal to have Section 377A abolished. – Oh Hock Chong

Abolishing Section 377A of the Penal Code will not contradict the Government’s stand of promoting Family values. It will actually send a clear signal that we should accept our fellow citizens and family members as they are. My vision for Singapore is one where its youth can develop to its fullest potential instead carrying the heavy burden of leading a double life. Singapore should be a place where we can respect each other for who we are. Having such a nurturing environment will enable our future generations to take Singapore to greater heights. – Dr. Alvin Koh

The question is not whether the law should reflect conservative values, it is whether gay people should be put in jail for sexual acts between consenting adults. The law is not meant to placate any section of the community with political clout, it is meant to protect those without. – Alfian Sa’at

Even the MNC company I worked for have the written clause on non-discrimination and among its list contains also sexual orientation. How could this givernment claimed to be progressive and yet even behind a MNC company in its non-discrimination mind set towards gay people. – Petrus

Advertisements