Singapore society has to decide which direction it wants to take on laws against gay sex: Shanmugam

Singapore society has to decide which direction it wants to take on laws against gay sex: Shanmugam

Laws will have to keep pace with changes in societal views and it is up to Singapore's society to decide which direction it wants to take when it comes to legislation on gay sex, said Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on Friday (Sep 7).

SINGAPORE: Laws will have to keep pace with changes in societal views and it is up to Singapore's society to decide which direction it wants to take when it comes to legislation on gay sex, said Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on Friday (Sep 7).

His comments follow the landmark ruling by India's Supreme Court on Thursday repealing a British colonial-era ban on gay sex. 

Under section 377A of Singapore's Penal Code, a man found to have committed an act of "gross indecency" with another man could be jailed for up to two years.

Mr Shanmugam said that while there is a growing minority who want 377A to be repealed, Singaporeans remain "deeply split" on the matter. 

“Singapore ... on this issue, it is a deeply split society. The majority oppose to any change to section 377A - they are opposed to removing it.

“A minority - I have to say, a growing minority - want it to be repealed. The Government is in the middle,” he added.

“This issue relates to social mores, values - so can you impose viewpoints on a majority when it so closely relates to a social value system?”

Those comments echo those previously made by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who had said most Singaporeans would want to keep the statute, and that Singapore society "is not that liberal on these matters".

Mr Shanmugam also recalled how founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew had been “sympathetic” and “expressed his understanding for those who are gay”.

"The law is there but generally there have been no prosecutions for private conduct," said Mr Shanmugam.

"People openly express themselves as gay, you got the gay parade. Police even approved a licensing for it, no-one gets prosecuted for declaring themselves as gay," he noted.

“So really when was the last time someone was prosecuted?”

As for his own personal views on the matter, Mr Shanmugam said: “Speaking for myself, if you ask me, in a personal capacity, personal view - people's lifestyles, sexual attitudes, (we) really should be careful about treating them as criminals or criminalising that.

“But again it will be wrong for me to impose my personal views on society or as a policymaker,” he qualified.

“We live our lives, live and let live. If one side pushes, you will expect a substantial push back.”

Earlier, veteran diplomat Tommy Koh, who is Ambassador-at-Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, had responded to the Indian ruling by encouraging Singapore's gay community to “try again” to challenge 377A. Previous legal challenges in 2014 had failed.

Source: CNA/gs

Bookmark