Parliament refuses to repeal Section 377A

After a historic debate over Section 377A which makes “gross indecency” between 2 males a criminal offence, Parliament chose not to repeal this highly offensive and archaic law.

However, Section 377 has been repealed as planned. See earlier note about the anomaly this creates.

Siew Kum HongNominated Member of Parliament Siew Kum Hong presented a Parliamentary Petition to repeal Section 377A to the House on Monday, 22 October 2007, at the start of debate on amendments to the Penal Code. According to one of the petition’s organisers, Stuart Koe, it had garnered 2,341 signatures (as checked by the Clerk of Parliament).

NMP Siew also gave a moving speech in support of the move. Other members of Parliament who spoke in support were Baey Yam Keng (PAP), Hri Kumar, (PAP) and Charles Chong (PAP).

Many MPs spoke against repeal. The most outrageous speech was made by NMP Thio Li-Ann, a law professor with the University of Singapore, who, in an apparent attempt to arouse disgust among her listeners, gave a graphic account of anal rimming. More seriously, she used slippery slope arguments and sweeping assertions (“marriage was invented by the Jewish Torah”) that betrayed her Christian fundamentalist leanings.

None of the Opposition members of Parliament rose in support of repeal. Sylvia Lim (Workers’ Party) said her party was divided over the issue and so would not take a stand on it.

On the second and last day of the debate, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke at length on 377A. Attempting to clarify his government’s position on homosexuality, he said, “there is growing scientific evidence that sexual orientation is something which is substantially inborn… Homosexual behaviour is not observed only amongst human beings, but amongst many species of mammals.”

Distancing himself from the religious zealots, he added, “I think the people who are very seized with this issue are a minority… I would say amongst the Chinese-speaking community in Singapore. Chinese-speaking Singaporeans, they are not as strongly engaged either for removing 377A or against removing 377A. Their attitude is live and let live.”

Yet, his government would not repeal Section 377A, because “Singapore is basically a conservative society. The family is the basic building block of this society.”

People Like Us is of the opinion that on this issue, the government has been gutless and unprincipled. No other assessment is possible when, despite being cognisant of the evidence, they still choose to sit on their hands.

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