TODAY Voices - Let's not get distracted by sex (May 22, 2007)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Let's not get distracted by sex

Tuesday . May 22, 2007
Letter from Terence Teo

Sex is always an interesting topic, and the debate about homosexuality is no exception. However, before we get too distracted by sex, let me make two clarifications:

There is no law against homosexuals. People who are homosexual per se are not criminals. What has been said so far seems to suggest that a person is a criminal just by being homosexual in orientation. This is not true. Sections 377 and 377A of the Penal Code do not appear to solely target homosexuals.

Section 377 is targeted at a specific sexual act, an act of "gross indecency" or an act "against the order of nature". These provisions will apply to anyone, regardless of sexual persuasion, if they commit such acts.

Section 377A singles out "male person" as the potential perpetrator but since females too are homosexual, it suggests this section is not specifically targeted against homosexuals but a male perpetrator of any sexual orientation.

Section 377 is even wider and applies to anyone having carnal intercourse with any man, woman or animal.

We could argue that male homosexuals are more at risk of violating either Section 377 or 377A, or both, because the nature of their preferred form of sexual activity is more likely to result in such a violation and this, therefore, is grossly unfair to them. This is an entirely different issue, which nevertheless underscores the point that Sections 377 and 377A do not criminalise homosexuals but rather certain sexual acts, which may be the preference of male homosexuals, but is not their exclusive preserve.

Homosexuality is not a crime, and the physical nature of the relationship is not the issue here. In my view, the real issue is about whether we are ready to legalise homosexuality and to understand the social implications and consequences of such a move - whether to allow them to marry, adopt children, apply for a flat, and so on.

Let us not get distracted by the provisions of the two sections in the Penal Code or other more lurid topics. Instead, we should discuss if society is ready to accept same sex marriages, same sex parents, and all that may result from legalising homosexuality.