Saturday, October 20, 2007

Homosexuality Issues: To repeal S377A of the Penal Code or not?

It is interesting to note there are so many governments and individuals around the world who are still reluctant to acknowledge that gays and lesbians are “equal in dignity and rights”. Being gay or lesbian is not seen as a right but as a wrong. Homosexuality is considered a sin, or an illness, an deviation in ideology or a betrayal of one’s culture.

Governments and individuals defended their stand against the repeal in the name of religion, culture, morality or public health. Homosexuals are branded “perverts” and “paedophiles”, and AIDS is labelled a “gay disease”. Homosexual relations are “anti - Christian”, anti - Islamic”etc. Wouldn’t such discrimination make this group of people “less than human”?

Campaigning for lesbian and gay human rights might be seen by some as a controversial arena of human rights activism. We have NMP Mr Siew Kum Hong who, on behalf of gay media company and lawyer George Hwang, submitted a parliamentary petition requesting the government to repeal Section 377A of the Penal Code.

Over the past week, I have been following the news and the numerous opinions, both online and offline. It appeared to me Singaporeans are split on this issue. But in my opinion, the decision lies ultimately with the government which itself is dominated by PAP MPs. Being more or less a centrist political party, I think PAP will not be in favour of the repeal as the group involved is after all a minority. It would not want to enrage the majority: the religious who feel homosexuality is a sin and the conservatives who feel homosexuality is not for this Asian country. Even if it decides to surprise everyone by lifting the party whip to allow all PAP MPs to vote on matters of conscience and issues such as this, the final verdict would still be the same – the government would stick with the status quo. The reason: according to gay activist Mr Alex Au’s Yawning Bread website, almost half of their MPs are christians and christians are known to be generally homophobic because of their religious teachings.

Nevertheless, even though I expect the petition to be unsuccessful, I hope the government would be “magnanimous” enough to explore more ways to recognise this minority group by:

  • Enacting a Non-Discrimination of Homosexuals Act to protect them from discrimination at work.
  • Allowing them same rights and benefits as that of a married person, such as the ability to purchase newly built HDB flats.
  • Allowing talks on mainstream media to ‘educate’ the general public that most homosexuals are as normal as straights.
  • Allowing them to form legal civil unions to address homosexual rights issues.
  • More funding for this minority group on AIDs/HIV education and prevention.

This is a period of changing times with changing demands. Our government should really do something to eventually seek an end to this social injustice.


christao17 said...

This is a fascinating time in Singapore. I was having a conversation about three months ago with a Thai friend who spent eight of his formative years (around secondary school) in Singapore.

Our discussion is about which country - Thailand or Singapore - would be the first to "normalize" gays and lesbians into society.

He was dead set that it would be Thailand, but I maintain that Singapore might get there first. We'll see.

James Chia said...

I think it'll be Thailand first. I go BKK there many times a year. The people there do not seem to have much bad opinions against homosexuals. Thailand is a Buddhist country and I know homosexuality is not considered immoral in Buddhism.

Allan said...

Sad to say , the social acceptance of homosexuals in this country is not there yet . People are generally averse to the idea of decriminalize them . The keep377a petition can attest to that .

Btw I'm a gay rights advocate . =)

James Chia said...

I'm someone who cannot stand social injustice. :)