The Ministry of Home Affairs is proposing to repeal Section 377 of the Penal Code which criminalises “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” while retaining Section 377A which criminalises “gross indecency” between two males.
People Like Us welcomes the repeal of s.377, but calls for the repeal of s.377A at the same time. Section 377A makes “gross indecency” between 2 males an offence whether in public or in private. Besides being discriminatory, it is also an invasion of privacy.
While the Ministry of Home Affairs, in its statement of 7 November 2006, said with respect to s.377A that “Our enforcement approach also remains the same i.e. we will not be proactive in enforcing the section against adult males engaging in consensual sex with each other in private,” such assurance does not have the weight of law; it is therefore unsatisfactory and legally, cannot be relied upon.
We recognise that non-use has been a policy for some time now. Indeed, People Like Us knows of no prosecution involving adult consensual situations in recent years, but non-use argues for its repeal, not its retention, since it plainly demonstrates that Singapore society does not need to go around prosecuting gay men.
The retention of s.377A, even if not enforced, will signal to many that homophobia is justifiable and acceptable and has the support of the State. Such a State-endorsed climate of prejudice and discrimination is to the detriment of Singapore:
1. It damages family and public life by encouraging deception and dishonesty (pretending to be straight) when people try to avoid discrimination and social or family conflict;
2. It creates pressure to emigrate, thus
(a) undermining Singaporeâ€™s desire to retain our native talent pool.
Somewhere around 10 percent of each generation is gay, lesbian,
bisexual or transgendered and to bleed populationeach generation
through such discriminatory policies is unwise and near-sighted;
(b) splitting families when we say at the same time that stable and
supportive families should be the bedrock of our society;
3. It undercuts Singaporeâ€™s attraction for potential incoming talent, so critical for our future;
4. It restricts the ability of the government to respond to the threat of HIV, when government agencies feel that they cannot engage with the gay community in any way except a condemnatory one. Failure to deal with HIV in the gay community puts the larger community at risk.
If the government aims for an open, inclusive society, it should be doing all it can to overturn prejudice and discrimination, rather than give people reason to remain closed-minded through retaining s.377A for symbolic purposes.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told a roomful of foreign and local correspondents on 6 October 2005 that his government was not homophobic. “I don’t think we are homophobic,” he said. Deliberately retaining Section 377A proves him wrong.
In addition, People Like Us is of the view that s.377A is unconstitutional, violating Article 12(1) of the Singapore Constitution that guarantees equality.
People Like Us calls on the government to repeal both s.377 and s.377A of the Penal Code forthwith.