CNA: Hundreds attend forum on decriminalisation of homosexual acts

Monday, July 16, 2007

By the way:

Gay Issues Website -
Gay Equality Lobby Group - People Like Us

SINGAPORE: Should Section 377A of the Penal Code which criminalises homosexual acts be repealed?

This topic was hotly debated at a forum attended by over 200 people on Sunday evening.

Most put up their hands in agreement when asked by the moderator of the forum, organised by theatre group W!ld Rice, if section 377A of the penal code which criminalises homosexual acts ought to be repealed.

But will opinion polls shape government thinking?

Says Baey Yam Keng, Member of Parliament, Tanjong Pagar GRC, "I don't think the government will be making a decision based on a survey. The government will want to make its own stand and position on issues like this, and for this it requires a mindset shift."

Says Stuart Koe, CEO, Gay Issues website, "The role of the law is to protect minorities, not to protect majorities, so I disagree that we need a majority view before we repeal 377A."

Siew Kum Hong, Nominated Member of Parliament, believes, "You've got to phrase it in the lingo that will convince the government, and what is that lingo? I think we all know. It is all about growth, job, money. And if you can make a convincing case that 377A is somehow affecting that, then I think you've got a really good chance."

Says Alex Au, Founding Member, Gay Equality Lobby Group, "Taking the economic argument presents a danger, which is to buy into the whole ideology that ultimately humans are digits. I want to base an argument purely on the human rights. "

Gay identity is very fundamental, it is as fundamental as your ethnic identity, as your linguistic identity, as your religious identity. That being the case, therefore the state through its tools, law, should give equal recognition to that liberty to express your identity."

One forum participant says for MPs to be able to vote according to their conscience in Parliament the whip must be lifted for this bill.

Says Baey, "Personally, I think that the whip should be lifted for a very open debate and open expression of opinion by the MPs. And if that is so I would vote for a repeal of the act. From my understanding of my parliamentary colleagues, my guess is that I will be the minority."

Almost everyone at the forum agrees that such a forum would not have been possible just five years ago.

It is a sign that Singapore is now a lot more open to different points of views.

Section 377A is expected to come up for debate in parliament. - CNA/yy