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Old 10-22-2007, 11:58 PM   #1
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Recently there was an extensive review of the Penal Code (the first in a long time), that decriminalised Section 377, which made consensual anal and oral sex legal in Singapore due to the fact this was an archaic law. There was a helluva furore a few years ago when a policeman was charged in court for what was consensual oral sex although it later transpired that the girl was actually underaged at the time. At any rate, that's the only time I recall it ever being enforced.

The problem with the law, though, was a sub-section, 377A. This made sex acts between males a crime. The government chose to keep this law amid protests from the gay lobby, but with the caveat that it would not be actively enforced.

Before Parliament sat yesterday Nominated MP Siew Kum Hong (a straight man) began a campaign to repeal 377A, a campaign that included an online petition and an open letter to the Prime Minister. There was a massive Internet campaign in support of Siew's efforts, and the website can be viewed here http://www.repeal377a.com

The problems began when the so-called 'silent majority' spoke up and formed a counter website http://www.keep377a.com . According to a very recent Nanyang Technological University study 70% of Singaporeans do not accept homosexuality. Using this as a basis, the 'silent majority' amassed 15000 signatures (as opposed to the 2000 odd for the repeal 377a side). The issue was debated in Parliament yesterday.

I wonder why this country, the same country I'm devoting two years of my life to protect, a country where I hope to serve soon in the teaching service, a country where I pledged "regardless of race, language or religion, to build a democratic society based on justice and equality" constantly comes up with excuses to make homosexuals second class citizens. In the 1970s men with long hair were forced to stand at the back of queues - indeed, rather humourously, Led Zeppelin were disallowed from disembarking at the airport due to their hirsuteness! The playwright Alfian Sa'at wrote about a friend of his who was denied a job with the Education Ministry after revealing he was gay. A gay teacher with eight years of experience and countless testimonials to his good character from former and current students was recently forced to take down his (beautifully written) blog post stating he was gay after a public outcry from parents. And now we have this, where people write in to the newspapers and post online that homosexuality is not a right, family values etc. etc.

A lot has been said about our Asian society, although that's bullshit, considering Kazakhstan, Japan and Myanmar are all in Asia and all of them have different cultures and values. We are one of the more progressive nations on our continent. Our economy is strong, our crime rate is low, our education system highly advanced. So I don't understand why we have to fall back on our mythical Asian conservative values to exclude people from their right to love.

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Old 10-23-2007, 02:01 AM   #2
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I hope 377a is repealed.

I just visited Singapore for the first time last March and I really enjoyed it. It's a lovely nation and I'm saddened to hear about the resistance to getting rid of this law.

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Old 10-23-2007, 07:18 AM   #3
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Is "regardless of race, language or religion, to build a democratic society based on justice and equality" a direct quote from the pledge you had to make? I find a few of your laws very difficult to accept, and this is just another.

I hope it is repealed.
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Old 10-23-2007, 07:57 AM   #4
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The issue with Singapore is a classic example of the dark side of colonialism. Most of these specific anti-gay laws, I believe, date to old British colonial laws against it--Singapore's laws included. So I'm not sure that we can blame "Asian conservative values," per se, because there's actually a lot of examples of homosexuality in certain Asian nations prior to being exposed to the West.

The rationale behind this law was originally based on English criminal law which sought to prohibit sodomy. It was incorporated by the British colonial administration in the late 1850s, in particular by Lord Thomas Macaulay who drafted the Indian Penal Code to replace Hindu criminal law which had hitherto held sway in the greater part of India. Under Hindu law, consensual intercourse between members of the same sex was never an offense. In Macaulay's draft however, section 377 criminalized "carnal intercourse against the order of nature" which became punishable by harsh penalties. It may be of interest to note that Lord Macaulay remained single throughout his life - an unusual situation for a man in his position during the Victorian era.
As you can see even in the U.S., old prejudices die hard. It is encouraging, though, to read that someone as important as former PM Lee Kuan Yew is pushing for decriminalization.
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