ST Forum: Rev Yap's Response

Saturday, April 28, 2007

I refer to the report "Homosexuality: Govt not moral police but it's mindful of people's concerns." (ST, April 23). This pragmatic understanding of homosexuality of Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew is certainly appreciated.

MM Lee has accepted the opinion of the doctors he consulted that due to "the nature of the genetic random transmission of genes" homosexuals are born that way. According to his view homosexuality is a "genetic variation." This is in line with the vast majority of doctors, psychologists, psychiatarists, and social workers who agree that homosexuality is a sexual orientation which makes therapeutic change impossible. They have declared this officially in their professional associations at different times since 1973! Therefore people should no longer regard homosexuality as an abnormality, sickness, disorder or unnatural.

Recognizing the concerns of conservative citizens and their inhibitions towards homosexuality the government has adopted a pragmatic approach and "would not be 'proactive' in enforcing this (existing) law against consensual homosexual acts that take place in private." Therefore the homosexual act should not be seen by the people as a criminal offence except only when done in public.

On the question of morality, an act by homosexual or hetersosexual is immoral when it is harmful, hurtful, destructive and exploitative. The question of morality does not come into play when the sexual act is consensual, in a mutually committed relationship and in privacy.

Time and circumstances change and the teaching of the religious communities need to change their conservative view of homosexuality as well in order to serve as a credible moral force in the age of globalization.

Rev Dr Yap Kim Hao

SAFE Singapore responds to MM Lee on his comments in Reuters

Friday, April 27, 2007

27 April 2007

SAFE is a group of family and friends who affirm and support gay and transgendered people as persons with equal rights to respect, dignity, acceptance and empowerment in society.

We are writing to express our appreciation and thanks to MM Lee for his recent comments at the dialogue with Young PAP and the interview with Reuters.

We appreciate the two cogent points he made,
1. That homosexuals are born with this propensity and not by choice. It is a genetic variation, not an aberration.
2. That the existing criminal law against homosexual acts in the Penal Code is outmoded.

We at SAFE fully agree with and support these points and are hopeful that the law that criminalises homosexual acts will be abolished in the proposed amendments to the Penal Code. We see this as a logical and responsible next step.

As with all complex human traits and behaviours such as intelligence, homosexuality is probably a result of many factors. Rather than arguing about whether particular genes can be found for these traits and behaviours, we should continue to accept our fellow Singaporean citizens and residents who deserve the same rights to respect, dignity, acceptance and empowerment as everyone else, and to be treated equally under the law.

We cannot agree with a law that proclaims our sons, grandsons, brothers, nephews, uncles, relatives and friends are criminals for a propensity that is not of their volition, is innocuous and part of their private lives. For far too long our gay loved ones from a young age, have suffered deep internalized oppression, often resulting in the disintegration of family, compromised relationships, low self-esteem, stunted maturity and unavoidable deceitfulness.

We therefore support the proposed decriminalisation of oral and anal sex as proposed by the Ministry of Home Affairs this past November, and ask that it apply equally to all consenting adults.

Since the 1970s, the law has been used in Singapore as an educational tool; we implore the Government to use it again for the same purpose. This will be a first step in educating the public on the nature of homosexuality, educating them to become more understanding, respectful and accepting of our human diversity.

The homosexual community is an essential element in the tapestry of peoples that make Singapore such a unique and cosmopolitan community. Homosexual men and women enrich our lives through their participation in business, the professions, the arts, and government. They are our sons and daughters, colleagues, neighbors, and friends.

Legal discrimination against homosexuals is unfortunate, outdated, and regrettable. It tells them that they are less than fully welcome; that their participation in Singapore life is subject to government forbearance. It diminishes the entire Singaporean community by allowing laws to stand that criminalise many of our fellow citizens. While contributing to intolerance it leaves the government and legal authorities open to the charge of being hypocritical for not enforcing a standing law.

As we focus on the richness gay people bring to our lives and our love and support for them, we not only liberate them, we also become a society committed to the Asian values of real family – strong, whole and committed to love against all odds.

Reuters: Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew questions homosexuality ban

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore's powerful former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, acknowledging the view that some people are genetically destined to be homosexual, has questioned the city-state's ban on sex between men.

"If in fact it is true, and I have asked doctors this, that you are genetically born a homosexual -- because that's the nature of the genetic random transmission of genes -- you can't help it. So why should we criminalize it?" Monday's Straits Times, a pro-government daily, quoted Lee as saying.

Under Singapore law, a man who is found to have committed an act of "gross indecency" with another man can be jailed for up to two years, though prosecutions are rare.

But Lee -- who remains the most powerful minister in the cabinet of his son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong -- said Singapore should not actively pursue homosexuals who engage in sex.

Lee said that while homosexuality was not widely accepted in Singapore, authorities must take a pragmatic approach.

"Let's not go around like this moral police ... barging into people's rooms. That's not our business," he told a weekend meeting with the youth wing of the People's Action Party, Singapore's ruling political party.

In November, the Ministry of Home Affairs said it was considering decriminalizing oral and anal sex between consenting heterosexual adults, but not between homosexuals.

The authorities have banned gay festivals and censored gay films, saying homosexuality should not be advocated as a lifestyle. But, despite the official ban on gay sex, Singapore has a thriving gay scene.

Lee's comments come at a time when many groups, such as Singapore's Law Society, are clamoring for a review of the laws against homosexual sex, which they view as outdated and archaic.

© Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.

Reuters: Singapore considers legalising homosexuality - Lee

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore, striving to cast off its staid image and overhaul its economy, might have to legalise homosexuality to become more cosmopolitan, but will preserve its core values, the city-state's founder Lee Kuan Yew said.

The conservative Southeast Asian state aims to be Asia's most vibrant centre, with glitzy casinos and a lively arts scene to attract more tourists and increase its population of 4.5 million.

"They tell me that homosexuals are creative writers, dancers. If we want creative people, then we have to put up with their idiosyncrasies," Lee, 83, told Reuters on Tuesday.

Lee was independent Singapore's first prime minister, from 1965 to 1990, and remains the most influential minister in the cabinet of his eldest son, Lee Hsien Loong.

"Let's not pretend it doesn't exist," Lee said in an exclusive interview, adding he saw no option but to legalise homosexual sex. Under Singapore law, a man who is found to have committed an act of "gross indecency" with another man can be jailed for up to two years, though prosecutions are rare.

In November, the Ministry of Home Affairs said it was considering decriminalising oral and anal sex between consenting heterosexual adults, but not between homosexuals.

Singapore wants to attract 2 million well-educated and wealthy immigrants to boost its population to 6.5 million and transform its economy from a low-cost manufacturing base into a centre for science, technology and financial services.

With foreigners pouring into the property market and banks beefing up their wealth management operations, salaries and overall costs have surged.

In a public forum at the inauguration of Reuters' new headquarters in Singapore, David Conner, CEO of Singapore's Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp., asked Lee when the government would start to worry whether the increases could erode Singapore's competitiveness.

"We are not Hong Kong. We cannot afford to let rent prices become astronomical," Lee said referring to Singapore's main rival.

Lee said the pressures were a sign of confidence in Singapore's prospects, with investors from as far as Monaco buying property in the city-state.

He forecast economic growth this year would probably be at the upper end of the government's 4.5-6.5 percent range.


Singapore is confident the terms under which it has chosen partners for its two casinos will avoid the sleaze and crime often associated with the gambling centre of Macau, he said.

Singapore scrapped a ban on casinos in 2005, and has started to build two gambling resorts for a total investment of US$7 billion as part of a drive to boost tourist arrivals to 17 million people by 2015 from nearly 10 million last year.

Lee also said an extradition pact between Indonesia and Singapore, agreed late on Monday, won't frighten rich Indonesians away from Singapore or hurt the city-state's booming property and banking sectors.

"Do you believe that any Indonesian who was likely to be extradited would be here at all?" Lee said, adding the treaty would inhibit corrupt businessmen from using Singapore as a base.

"It does give an extra barrier for any would-be escapee from their system," Lee said.

Indonesia has long expressed its desire for an extradition treaty because of its concerns that some Indonesians, for example those who owed money to the authorities following the 1997-98 financial crisis, had taken refuge in Singapore.

The city-state is home to a large number of rich Indonesians. One third of Singapore's high-net-worth investors - those with net financial assets of more than $1 million - are of Indonesian origin, Merrill Lynch and Capgemini said in a report, adding that these 18,000 Indonesians have total assets of $87 billion.

A far bigger threat to Singapore's future is global warming, Lee said, warning that the low-lying city-state could find itself partly submerged under six metres of water in the worst case.

"What dykes can we build? Where do we get materials for the dykes? Do we excavate the sea bed? We are into a very serious problem," Lee said.

© Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.

MM Lee Speaks About Homosexuality in Singapore

Monday, April 23, 2007

Homosexuality: Govt not moral police but it's mindful of people's concerns
Zakir Hussain, The Straits Times, Home, H4, Monday, April 23 2007

The Government is not the moral police on the issue of homosexuality here - but it cannot at the same time ignore the concerns of conservative citizens.

Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew addressed the issue in his reply to a question from Young PAP activist Loretta Chen, who had asked where censorship was headed in the next two decades.

Having related the issue of how the topless revue Crazy Horse was allowed to operate here, he turned to the question of homosexuality.

It was an issue that "raised tempers all over the world, and even in America".

"If in fact it is true, and I have asked doctors this, that you are genetically born a homosexual - because that's the nature of the genetic random transmission of genes - you can't help it. So why should we criminalise it?"

But Mr Lee also noted that there was a strong inhibition towards it in all societies - be they Christian, Islamic, Hindu or Chinese.

Singapore, too, was confronted "with a persisting aberration".

"But is it an aberration?" he asked. "It's a genetic variation".

"So what do we do? I think we pragmatically adjust, carry our people..don't upset them and suddenly upset their sense of propriety and right and wrong.

"But at the same time let's not go around like this moral police...barging into people's rooms. That's not our business.

"So you have to take a practical, pragmatic approach to what I see is an inevitable force of time and circumstance".

When the Home Affairs Ministry announced proposed changes to the Penal Code on a range of offences last year, it said it would retain the ban on acts of "gross indecency" between men. The penalty remains a maximum of two years in jail.

The ministry said homosexuality was not widely accepted here, but added that it would not be "proactive" in enforcing this law against consensual acts that take place in private.

Straits Times: Proposed Changes to Penal Code - Law Society

Friday, April 6, 2007

Law Society: Give judges leeway to set aside death penalty
It also wants homosexual acts among consenting men decriminalised
K.C. Vijayan

THE Law Society wants the mandatory death penalty for crimes such as murder, drug trafficking and firearms-related offences scrapped.

Instead, it wants judges to be given the discretion to either sentence offenders to death or to a jail term.

This is a key plank in the Law Society's response to proposed changes to the Penal Code by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

Currently, the death penalty is mandatory in capital punishment cases, and judges have no choice but to impose it if a person is found guilty.

The Law Society also made several other proposals, including one to decriminalise homosexual acts among consenting men, in a 55-page report which was drafted by an ad-hoc committee of 16 lawyers and academics, and endorsed by its council.

The society's views, submitted to the MHA on Friday, were drawn up after Senior Minister of State (Home Affairs and Law) Ho Peng Kee invited it to study the proposed changes in November last year.

The report was posted on its website on Tuesday.

In arguing for discretion to be given to judges in capital punishment cases, the society pointed to a new law mooted by the ministry.

The proposed law deals with hostage-takers who hold the government or others to ransom.

A person convicted of breaking this law will face either the death penalty or a jail term extending to life and caning or a fine, the ministry proposed.

Noting that judges in such cases were allowed discretion in sentencing, the Law Society proposed that this be extended to all capital offences.

It said that changing the mandatory death penalty for capital offences will not reduce the deterrent element.

'This flexibility in sentencing humanises the law and reflects the evolving standards of decency in Singapore society,' said the report.

Turning to sexual offences - in particular, Section 377 of the Penal Code, which deals with sexual acts 'against the order of nature' - the society said the MHA's proposal to retain homosexuality as an offence in Section 377A 'cannot be justified'.

It described the retention as 'out of step with legal norms in the modern law'.

The society stressed that it was not arguing that homosexuality is morally acceptable, and said a 'significant minority' wanted the provision to remain, but the majority view prevailed.

The MHA's approach is that homosexuality is not widely accepted here. Having said that, the ministry has said it will not be 'proactive' in enforcing this law against consensual acts that take place in private.

But the society sees this as an admission that the section is 'out-of-step' and 'runs the risk of bringing the law into disrepute'. It suggests a complete review, and a new chapter in the Penal Code on sexual offences.

The society, expressing its gratitude that the MHA consulted both the public and it, also urged that a commission be set up to review the reforms.

Contacted yesterday, an MHA spokesman said all views received were being studied.