ST: NUS don warns of 377A fallout (Oct 30)

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Oct 30, 2007
NUS don warns of 377A fallout‏
By K. C. Vijayan

IF THE police, on a tip-off, raid a flat for suspected drug offenders and discover no drugs but gay sex instead, would they prosecute?

NUS law don Michael Hor says this scenario could arise from the government's stand that it would not be proactive in enforcing S377A.

'Does the non-enforcement policy cover this, for it might be argued that the police were not 'pro-active'?' he wrote in a new book of essays launched on Tuesday.

He cites a similar example in Texas, the United States, where the US Supreme Court had struck down a sodomy statute.

The book, titled ' Lives in the Law ', honours three luminaries in Singapore's legal academia - Mr Peter Ellinger, Ms Koh Kheng Lian and Mrs Tan Sook Yee -who recently retired from full-time appointments at the National University of Singapore's Law Faculty.

Jointly published by Academy Publishing and the NUS, the trio are described as 'Singapore's foremost experts in their specialised fields of study and teaching,'' by Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong in his foreword to the book.

In his essay on the recent changes to the Penal Code, Professor Hor further argues there is also no indication that the policy of not prosecuting under the 377A will not change overnight and without prior notice.

After heated debate in and out of Parliament over changes to the Penal Code last week, Parliament retained 377A which outlaws homosexuality.

The government also indicated then it will not proactively enforce the section.

But Professor Hor notes that it is 'impossible to tell' if the courts are willing to hold the government from prosecuting against this declared policy.

Separately, another NUS law don has called for the courts to review aspects of entrapment in an essay on the issue of consent as interpreted under the Penal Code.

Professor Stanley Yeo plumbed for a practical approach to the issue of consent in cases involving entrapment, citing Professor Koh Kheng Lian, one of the three honorees of the book.

Prof Koh had said the law should be guided by 'what is fair or unfair conduct on the part of the entrapper in his efforts to entrap the defendant.'

Prof Yeo said it would be unfair to prosecute a homosexual, for example, if he was enticed by a police officer posing as a gay, since it was the latter who freely gave his consent to the former's advances.

'Instead of imposing a blanket rule that consent is irrelevant whenever it is secured by entrapment, fairness to the accused requires the courts' to study the facts of a particular case to see if consent had been freely given, he said.

ST Forum: 'Expression of opinion' was in fact harassment (Oct 31)

Oct 31, 2007
'Expression of opinion' was in fact harassment
IN THE article, 'Police question poet over e-mail to NMP' (ST, Oct 30), one Alfian Sa'at is identified as the writer of the hate mail directed to me on Aug 12. Before this, I had never heard of him.

I note his public apology as reported. His current rejection of using hate-mail tactics containing four-letter words and abusive language to intimidate people is welcomed; he also urged others to eschew his anger-fuelled 'reckless example'.

While Mr Alfian says he was merely expressing his opinion, this was in fact harassment. A person identifying himself as a 'gay Singaporean' e-mailed me to apologise for Mr Alfian's e-mail which he had read as he was 'deeply embarrassed by such rude and uncivilised actions from a gay counterpart... I have no idea who this Alfian guy is but his actions cannot be reflective of the collective gay community'. I appreciated his kind message.

Mr Alfian later e-mailed me after the October parliamentary session to explain his 'motivation' for his hate e-mail: 'I shot it off after hearing of how you had made a police report regarding the 'Pink Run''. I understand this referred to a cancelled public event staged by gay activists. He reiterates this point on his public blog.

Mr Alfian evidently failed to verify his source. He apparently drew a direct link between the 'Pink Run' in August and my support for keeping Section 377A of the Penal Code, which I expressed this October in Parliament.

Accurate and fair reporting requires the clarification of one factual error. The assertion on Mr Alfian's blog that I made a police report (or indeed any other complaint) against a Pink Run is a patent falsehood. The truth is that the only police report I have ever made related to the hate e-mail of one The authorities can verify this. Perhaps Mr Alfian was over-impulsive in relying on a misleading and unreliable information source; however, he remains responsible for his abusive manner of communication.

His first e-mail to me was prefaced 'This is a personal note to you.' However, its reproduction in the public forum of his blog now raises the issue of defamation.

Politicians and public figures should be thicker-skinned, to serve robust, democratic debate.

Given his public apology, we should move on and aspire towards civilised, rational debate. To demonstrate his genuine remorse, Mr Alfian should remove any inaccurate or defamatory blog posts concerning this incident.

Professor Thio Li-ann


To demonstrate his genuine remorse, Mr Alfian should remove any inaccurate or defamatory blog posts concerning this incident.

ST: SMU students launch booklet, event on gays (Oct 31)

Oct 31, 2007
SMU students launch booklet, event on gays
By Yeo Ghim Lay

TASKED with creating a community service project for a course, undergraduate Leonard Ng and his project group mates decided to do something different.

While their classmates organised visits to homes for the needy, the eight Singapore Management University students came up with a 50-page booklet containing the stories of young gays, lesbians and bisexuals.

Calling themselves JAM - Justifying A Mission - they will introduce the booklet, Un-Mute, at an exhibition tomorrow.

The two-day event at SMU that they have organised will have posters advocating non-discrimination towards the gay community.

Explaining their decision, Mr Ng, 21, told The Straits Times yesterday: 'We also hope this will encourage more gays and lesbians to come out.'

None of the eight students on the project is gay or lesbian, he added.

The project is for their leadership and teambuilding course, a core module for all first-year students.

The group plans to distribute 500 copies of the booklet, for free, at the exhibition.

Mr Ng, a social sciences student, said Un-Mute is not related to the recent parliamentary petition to repeal Section 377A of the Penal Code, which makes sex between men a crime. The Government has said it
will retain the law, but not actively enforce it.

The booklet took two months to complete and cost about $1,500, which came from a straight Singaporean man who wants to stay anonymous, Mr Ng added.

A copy of it was sent to the media yesterday.

In it, the eight described themselves as 'a group of idealistic students' whose mission is to 'give voice to the unheard, to give GLBs (gays, lesbians and bisexuals) in Singapore a chance to speak out and let their stories be told, to clear any misunderstandings about them'.

Seven individuals, most of whom did not use their real names, are featured. One who called himself Fairus wrote: 'I spent quiet nights crying to myself and going to sleep wishing I would wake up straight.'

Also among them is Mr Nicholas Deroose, 22, who is in the team behind QueerCast, a gay podcast.

Mr Ng said JAM plans to conduct a survey later of those who received the booklet. 'We want to see if their perceptions have changed after reading the stories.'

Miss Michelle Sng, 20, a second-year SMU business management student, said the students are 'brave' for embarking on a potentially controversial project.

However, she feels that 'for those who are homophobic, it probably wouldn't change their minds'.

ST Forum: Why Alfian posted copy of e-mail to NMP online (Oct 31)

Oct 31, 2007
Why Alfian posted copy of e-mail to NMP online

IN THE report, 'Police question poet over e-mail to NMP' (ST, Oct 30), it was stated that I had 'emerged as the writer of the strongly worded e-mail to Nominated MP Thio Li-ann'.

This might suggest that the exposure of my identity as the letter-writer was involuntary, and that it was a check with the police that had pinpointed me.

In reality, I had already decided to claim ownership and personal responsibility for the e-mail last Saturday. I posted a copy of the e-mail online, explicitly identifying myself as its author.

Contrary to some reports that stated that it was penned by an 'unnamed stranger', the e-mail was sent from my personal e-mail account, signed off with my own name.

Your article also stated, twice, Professor Thio's assertion that 'it was full of obscene and vile invective'.

I wish to clarify that the e-mail was no more than four lines in total, in which an impolite word appears but once.

Alfian Sa'at

Today: Will NMP sue poet for defamation? (Oct 31)

Will NMP sue poet for defamation?


HE THOUGHT she had made the police report which led to the cancellation of the “Pink Picnic”, a public event that had been planned by gay activists.

In his “flash of anger”, poet and playwright Alfian Sa’at shot off an angry email to Nominated Member of Parliament Professor Thio Li-ann early one morning in August.

Yesterday, Professor Thio denied that she was the person behind the August police report. In an email to the media, she said: “I have only made one police report in my lifetime and that was in relation to the hate email I received … This fact can be verified by the relevant authorities.”

Mr Alfian told TODAY that he “had heard and saw on a few blogs” alleging that it was Prof Thio who had called the police. He “shot off” the email after returning home from a night of clubbing. “If it was not her,
I had done her great wrong and I offer my public apology,” he said.

Prof Thio said: “Perhaps Mr Sa’at was over-zealous in relying on a misleading and unreliable information source, but he remains responsible for the abusive manner of his communication. However, as he has publicly apologised, I think we can all move ahead by learning to argue on substantive public issues in a civil fashion.”

The email was cited by Prof Thio in her speech in Parliament last week against the repealing of Section 377A of the Penal Code. She had described the email as being “full of vile and obscene invective”.

The 63-word email started off stating, “this is a personal note to you”. It then contained one four-letter word, accusations of “hate-mongering”, vows to urinate “on her grave” and was signed off “With love, Alfian”.

The email has since been removed from Mr Alfian’s personal blog but has resurfaced on at least two other websites.

Mr Alfian, 29, said he removed the email last week “on the advice from friends”.

Yesterday, Prof Thio raised “the issue of possible defamation” in her letter to the media. The National University of Singapore law professor said: “As his first email to me was prefaced, ‘This is a personal note to you’, no issue of libel arose then. However, as he has reproduced his email of Aug 12, 2007, addressed to me in the public forum of his blog, the issue of possible defamation now arises.”

Lawyers told TODAY that they have seen an increasing number of cases involving defamatory statements made in blogs. In this case, Harry Elias Partnership consultant Doris Chia said the email could lower Prof Thio’s reputation. Ms Chia noted, however, that the words were “phrased like an angry tirade. The question
is whether how many people will take his sayings seriously”.

Then, there is also the defence of fair comment.

Mr Adrian Tan, a partner at Drew and Napier, said: “The law allows everyone to express their views on public matters, even if those views involve strong language. All honestly-held views are protected, even views
which the general public might find offensive.” Defamation could also be considered a criminal matter under the Penal Code, where anyone guilty of criminal defamation may be jailed for two years, or with fine, or with both.
Yesterday, Prof Thio said she noted Mr Alfian’s public apology and how he had urged others not to follow his “reckless example”. “His current rejection of using hatemail tactics containing four-letter words and abusive language to intimidate people is to be welcomed,” she said.

Mr Alfian told TODAY: “For me, this matter is closed. I have taken down the post, apologised and it would not be productive to take this any further.”

Today: Gay Debate Crying out for the Majority Voice (Oct 30)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Moderate views of most S’poreans needed to temper the vocal minority


NOW the Penal Code has been updated — with Section 377A left untouched — where does Singapore go from here on this issue of the law on sex between gay men? Certainly, it will remain an issue for years to come, and the situation here will evolve, if not in tandem with the rest of the world, then one step behind the frontline of change, as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said last week in Parliament.

But how to evolve when two sides hold intractable positions? Those who have supported or opposed Section 377A have done so with great zeal and belief, which is unlikely to dim over time. Here is where and why this issue should not be debated, dominated and decided solely by a vocal minority on either side.

As Mr Lee pointed out, for the majority of Singaporeans, the issue is not at the top of their consciousness. For them, the attitude is live and let live. When the time comes for another opportunity to relook Section 377A, chances are this moderate attitude of the majority, as majority attitudes tend to be, will remain the prevalent view.

So, why not take ownership of an issue so that the debate and any decision better reflects the kind of society we are or want to be?

Of course, society will not be defined by one single issue, although that is precisely the scenario that lobby groups in the United States try to paint, as pointed out last week by Senior Minister of State Dr Balaji Sadasivan.

In Singapore, whether society disintegrates because of the change in a single law or whether a wave of all things immoral becomes an inexorable tide is surely in the hands of the majority. Likewise, whether Singapore is seen as an unjust place will be determined by the entire spectrum of laws and not by one law, as well as how those laws are enforced.

For the gay community, naturally, Section 377A is the law that probably counts more than others, even though the Government has said it will not proactively enforce this law.

The reason is simple enough, and it has to do with the politics of identity.

Gays may not be considered a minority by the State in the way non-Chinese ethnic groups are considered minorities in Singapore but gays are equally citizens, and as Mr Lee said, they are kith and kin. But gays feel they are citizens who are, by definition, immediate criminals. It is true the law does not criminalise gays, but gay sex. However, if we accept that it is only human to seek a loving relationship, which includes intimacy and sex, then clearly Section 377A impacts the identity of a gay person as a Singapore citizen.

But while this is the reality of Section 377A, the reality is also that abolishing it is not enough for the gays. Identity also comes with full acceptance by other Singaporeans, which is what the gay community wants. On the other side of the fence, those who fervently support Section 377A, most of whom are from religious groups, are also looking for affirmation. Through public policy, they are looking for affirmation of their views, which by extension would be an affirmation of the relevance of their respective religions in the direction the country takes. To them, keeping or abolishing Section 377A would reflect this relevance.

These issues are at the crux of the debate, but have been given short shrift so far. The majority has to decide what sort of affirmation gays ought to get as Singapore citizens and what weight religion should have in Singapore’s governance and the policies it should bear upon. Most importantly, the majority should decide the tenor of the debate on Section 377A. Whether the majority agrees or disagrees on the repealing of the law, as the debate continues, the majority should take ownership of how it is conducted and, at the very least, take a stand against remarks deriding groups on either side.

Singapore has prided itself on its social harmony and the cohesion it has built. Heated though this issue has been, it has not descended to the level seen in the US, where lives have been ruined and lost because of differences on this issue.

However, we are beginning to see in Singapore instances of parties from both sides having their employment questioned, as TODAY reported last week. This ought to be nipped in the bud. When inflammatory remarks creep into the debate, whether in the highest platform such as Parliament or the coffeeshop, the majority must begin to drown them out. This should be how Singapore differentiates itself from the rest of the world, even if we remain one step behind the frontline of change.

Siew Kum Hong: The great tragedy of Section 377A (Oct 30)

The great tragedy of Section 377A

That is the title I wish ST had used, for my piece last Friday 26 October. They had asked me to write something for them, on "take-aways" from the entire debate. I agreed to do so, on a few conditions:

- that there be only grammatical/formatting edits to what I submit
- that I have final approval
- that it not become a "me vs her" thing between myself and Thio Li-Ann, and that they convey this to her

ST agreed to the above, and suggested a couple of topics:

"What united nation? In the light of the 377A debate, is consensus possible, and if not what do we do about it"


"The lessons on engagement I've learnt from this debate"

I wasn't really interested in spending 800 words to explore either topic, mainly because I did not want it to be a "me vs her" thing. I felt that the media had tried to play up that angle a bit too much. While we disagree (and I guess we disagree very strongly), I have no wish to let it become a personal thing -- the only people to benefit from that would be the media.

So I deliberately chose not to proceed along those lines, as it would invariably have involved criticising or rebutting Thio's speech. I did not want to do that, because to me, our speeches speak, and have to speak, for themselves. There was no need for me to extend it further outside Parliament. As it turns out, many others, such as Janadas Devan and innumerous bloggers, have taken it upon themselves to do so anyway.

In any case, my "take-aways" from the entire experience were not really about all this stuff about "consensus" and "engagement". We (i.e. those who supported repeal) engaged with society and with Parliament, and we did so according to the rules, in a manner that I felt was highly principled and civil.

That was enough for me. That was the mark of democracy at work. We took the high road, and we came through with our heads held high. We didn't succeed in repealing Section 377A, but I think we succeeded in many other aspects. As Alex Au so astutely explains, there is a lot for repeal supporters to celebrate.

So I did not want to play ST's game. Instead, my real "take-aways" were about understanding gay people better, about what Section 377A really meant to so many of them and their families, and about the humbling effect of so many people -- all strangers -- showing so much support for such a difficult cause. How ironic, that my stand purely on principle, without really having been exposed to these aspects directly, had led to this as well.

That's why I wrote this piece the way I did. It was easy to write, because I wrote from the heart. And just like my speech, it speaks for itself. The truth always does.

ABC Radio Australia: Singapore's parliament has decided against a proposal to decriminalise sex between consenting gay men (Oct 29)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Singapore's parliament has decided against a proposal to decriminalise sex between consenting gay men.

The proposal was pitched as part of a wider reform of sections of the penal code deemed outdated, some of which dating back to British colonial rule.

Alex Au, Singapore businessman and gay rights activist spoke to Radio Australia's Connect Asia, he says the vote means Singapore's anti-gay legislation, 377A will remain in force.

"They have promised that it will not be enforced 'pro-actively', and I'm quoting those words from them," he said.

Rights activists had compiled a petition in support of decriminalisation.

"We had something like 2,500 physical signatures on paper collected just over a weekend. And it was a petition presented to parliament through a gay-friendly member of parliament, and it forced parliament to debate the issue, when it could so easily have skirted it," he said.

"In fact parliament devoted two days for debate on the amendments to the penal code and that's various things on the penal code from marital rape, to murder, to theft and so on and so forth. But in fact, most of the members of parliament who rose to speak touched on the subject of 377A. So basically, the subject dominated procedures in parliament for two whole days," he said.

Parliament has however now made it legal for heterosexuals to engage in a variety of sexual practices that were previously banned.

"That was what really was the cause of much dissatisfaction in the gay community that the parliament has now decided that sodomy, oral and anal sex shall be legal from this point on in Singapore, so long as one partner is male and the other partner is female. But the same kind of acts between two male persons will still be punishable by jail terms," he said.

You can hear the full story at the Connect Asia website:

Sunday Service at FCC (Oct 28)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

28 Oct 2007 (Sun) - 10.30am
All are welcome!


FCC Main Hall
56 Geylang Lor 23
Level 3, Century Technology Building

Building Relationships Series

Worship Leader - VICTOR LEE
Keyboards - GARY CHAN
Prayer - JAIME LOW
Service Pastor - JOSHUA TAN

Today Weekend: Gaynomics The H question Hu's headache (Oct 27)

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Gaynomics The H question Hu's headache

Weekend • October 27, 2007

P N Balji
Christie Loh
Rosnah Ahmad

ONE thing is for sure. The Parliamentary debate on Section 377A, which makes sex between homosexuals a crime, is not the end of the story. The issue will come up for public airing again when morality is confronted with money.

The PM's speech, which tried to strike a nice balance between allowing gays space and appeasing the religious and conservative groups that this space will be managed, told something else about policy making.

When it comes to moral issues, the Government will prefer to be below the curve but for others, like the economy and education, it will lead the curve.

What if the morality and economic lines become blurred, like it happened in the casino debate? Well, the answer is there for all to see in Sentosa and Marina Bay.

So, like with many things in Singapore, the Minister Mentor might be proven right after all. Get ready for gaynomics.

TO HEDGE or not to hedge? Poor Mr Wee Sing Guan. The former finance director of SembCorp Marine has just discovered the heavy price of using derivatives to act as buffers against sudden price fluctuations.

His bigger gamble was to do it without permission. And so SembMarine joins Barings Bank, China Aviation Oil and Mitsui to come under the public glare because their executives predicted wrongly what the price could be over a certain period.

Had a right call been made, those companies — like SIA — would have booked huge profits or savings.

But the beauty of hedging often doesn't come easy. The risk can be high, especially when multi-million dollars are involved.

Until SembMarine offers more information, bystanders will be wondering why the US$248 million ($361 million) losses, exceeding the publicly-listed, Temasek-linked company's profits last year, went unnoticed. And for how long?

Yet another bitter lesson for Corporate Singapore to learn that blind trust, especially in a single person, can spell disaster. No hedging on this anymore, please.

DIG a little deeper into the background of the line-up that has been handpicked to run tomorrow's China, and a little detail sticks out. Eighteen of the 25 members of the ruling elite, the Politburo, had worked in the provinces, suggesting that President Hu Jintao's focus will be now on tightening central control.

Mr Hu has been uneasy with the rise of these little provincial chieftains, who had shown signs of being power-hungry and reluctant to follow central government rules. They pushed enterprise at any price — even if it meant polluted factories and a lack of healthcare programmes. After all, their promotions were tied to their provinces' growth.

The Wall Street Journal says that by packing the new Politburo with former provincial leaders, Mr Hu is signalling that he is likely to take back even more powers from local governments in the next five years. And he must be hoping that his new Politburo members will provide the balm to ease the headache.

ST Forum: Discrimination enshrined in law (Oct 27)

Oct 27, 2007
Discrimination enshrined in law

PARLIAMENT'S decision not to repeal Section 377A of the Penal Code, a law criminalising gay sex, is a sad day for Singapore.

Prior to the Penal Code review, it was a criminal offence for anyone, including heterosexuals, to engage in anal and oral sex. But now we have seen it fit to modify that particular law that once applied to everyone equally to make it apply only to homosexual men.

This is not staying one step behind other countries on this issue. This is taking one step back. It is a black day for Singapore. It makes a mockery of the Pledge we learnt from young, pledging ourselves as 'one united people, regardless of race, language or religion, to build a democratic society based on justice and equality...'.

We have, instead, given in to pressure from vocal religious groups.

Singapore would have stronger moral grounds to stand on if it had simply left the section in question intact. At least, then, the so-called 'conservative values' would be protected for all of society.

Now, discrimination against a minority group is enshrined in law.

One thing good that has come out of this debate is that it exposed the hypocrisy of those who urged the retention of Section 377A.

If oral and anal sex between two men, which Nominated MP Thio Li-Ann so graphically painted in Parliament with much disgust and mockery, is immoral, an abomination and carries grave social costs, then the right thing to do is to leave the Penal Code alone. Why change it to make this 'disgusting' act perfectly fine for heterosexuals but still a crime for homosexuals?

Love the sinner, hate the sin, so they say. But down the road, one day, a kind and caring homosexual could become the victim of a hate crime because, in the eyes of his attacker, he is a criminal under the Penal Code and a threat to the moral fabric of our society.

Wong Suan Yin


Why change the law to make oral and anal sex perfectly fine for heterosexuals but still a crime for homosexuals?

ST Review: Gays and biology: Who is right, PM or the MP? (Oct 27)

Oct 27, 2007
Gays and biology: Who is right, PM or the MP?
By Andy Ho

IN THE parliamentary debate over the continued criminalisation of gay sodomy, MP Lim Biow Chuan (Marine Parade) disagreed with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong who said that growing scientific evidence shows homosexuality is substantially inborn.

What does the research say? To me, there are four big items that are not what they seem to be.

# First, twins are not what they seem to be. Identical twins share the same genetic make-up while non-identical twins share only half of that, so if the former show a higher similarity in rates of gays, that would suggest a genetic component in homosexuality.

According to some doctors, previous studies of identical twins suggest that 30-60 per cent of the incidence of gayness can be attributed to genetics.

Indeed, many such studies up to the early 1990s indeed suggested so. An Australian study published even in 2000 gave figures in the same ballpark.

Hoewever, many twin studies are methodologically flawed. For one thing, a social phenomenon as complex as gay behaviour is usually reduced to a single item asking the respondent to self-identify as straight, gay or bisexual. Thus, elements of gayness - like sexual fantasy, attraction and behaviour - are not captured carefully in such studies.

For another thing, participants are usually recruited through either twin registries or gay publications, so there is self-selection bias. In the former case, twins who are more like one another tend to respond more frequently to such studies. In the latter case, gay twins - who use such media - must be much more likely to be respondents than non-gay ones.

Thus, most twin studies might start off with a higher proportion of gay twins than a survey of the population at large. When a study of the latter type was indeed carried out in 2002 by Yale and Columbia researchers, they found 6.7 per cent of identical twins to be gay, 7.2 per cent of non-identical twins and 5.6 per cent of true siblings in general.

They concluded: 'Clearly, the observed...rates do not correspond to degrees of genetic similarity. (If) homosexuality has a genetic component, it is massively overwhelmed by other factors.'

# Secondly, families are not what they seem to be. Family studies show gay men tend to have a greater number of older brothers - but not higher numbers of older sisters, younger brothers or younger sisters - than straight men.

Since the environmental influence of more males at home has been shown to not likely cause homosexuality in younger male siblings, it is inferred that this relationship must have arisen from things that happened to male foetuses while they were in their mothers' wombs.

The foetus cannot 'know' its own birth order, only the mother knows it, and, apart from her mind, only her immune system has memory for that. So perhaps a male foetus presents male antigens to its mother's immune system which develops antibodies to such proteins. Thus the more male babies a mother bears, the more of such antibodies she develops, which may then attack the brain of a subsequent male foetus, perhaps impairing its masculinisation.

In such a scenario, however, the genitalia, especially the testes, should logically bear the brunt of an immune attack by the mother's antibodies, but there is no evidence for this in gays. Moreover, most late birth order males aren't gay even when an elder brother is.

Also, the brains in male and female babies are similar at birth, with gender differences in their brains developing only after birth when such an immune attack, if any, is no longer occurring. In addition, foetuses that die in the mother's womb resulting in miscarriages - presumably due to immune attacks - are more often female than male.

Interestingly, too, there are no published studies of attempts to demonstrate such antibodies in mothers with one or more gay sons. No clinical manifestations of such antibodies have been identified as well.

A side note on families: Studies from the early 1990s showed that gays also tend to have a gay maternal uncle. This suggested possible genetic factors transmitted through the X-chromosome. (Females are XX and males are XY).

Specifically, the Xq28 region on the X-chromosome was thought to be a 'gay gene' candidate, but the most up-to-date molecular genomics has not been able to confirm this.

# Thirdly, fingers are not what they seem to be. A well-reported story in the media concerns research comparing the lengths of the second and fourth fingers. The ratio is proposed as a measure of how much the male hormone has acted on a gay man as a foetus.

After accounting for height and weight differences, straight men are said to have longer ring fingers than women and gay men. Since 1998, of about 100 studies, some have confirmed the statistical correlation while others have not. In a 2005 review, a University of Texas at Austin group found that while the ratios for gays remained relatively similar across studies, those for straights varied – especially between American and British studies - which then led to differing conclusions across studies. Also, while the ratios were consistent for white homosexuals, they were not so for other ethnicities, including Asians.

It is now known that female hormones (that are physiologically made in the male body from the male hormone) are probably more important than male hormones in the development of bone length in men.

# Finally, brains are not what they seem to be. In the early 1990s, the sizes of some parts of the brain (including the suprachiasmatic nucleus and the anterior commissure) were observed to differ between straights and gays.

(In)famously, English neuroscientist Simon Le Vay - whose gay lover died from Aids in 1990 - published a paper in 1991 showing that gays who died from Aids had a smaller zone in the brain called INAH-3 compared to straight men and was only as large as that in straight women.

INAH-3 (or the third interstitial nuclei of the anterior hypothalamus), known to regulate sexual behaviour in monkeys, is the smallest of the four 'intersitial nuclei' which are only the size of a grain of rice, so measurements are inherently difficult. Yet, Dr Le Vay measured volumes when cell counts (in tiny brain slices) would have been more accurate. His sample size - 19 gay men, 16 supposedly straight men and six supposedly straight women - was also small.

Their incomplete sexual histories were bothersome too. Thus men and women in his sample who had died from Aids and were known to have used drugs intravenously or received blood transfusions were assumed to have contracted the virus in these ways and not gay sex. They were assumed to be straights though they could have been gays as well. Moreover, it is possible that HIV can shrink INAH-3.

Importantly, other scientists - including a 2001 study - have not been able to repeat Dr Le Vay's findings.

Taken together, the evidence for the role of biology in gayness is still not particularly strong yet. Conversely, it cannot be disputed that an individual's lived experience is very important in determining his self-identity and behaviour. Whatever the case, we are far from understanding how gayness arises in men.

ST: Your Insights (Oct 27)

Oct 27, 2007
Your Insights

Last week, we asked for your take on the debate over Section 377A of the Penal Code. We received 119 responses - 80 arguing to keep the law, 32 wanting it repealed and seven who did not pick a side. Here are some of the responses:

'AFTER a good and level-headed debate, I would say: To each his own conscience. The solution: status quo ante.' MR WINSTON CHIN, in an SMS

'SINGAPORE is largely made up of conservative people. The law and policies of this country are made to serve the needs of such people. Conservative people are against homosexual relationships, and therefore it is only right that Section 377A is upheld in Singapore.' MR ALOYSIUS LAI, in an e-mail

'THE challenge facing gay men here is not the law, but society's standards of what constitutes decent activity. Repealing the law would open the door to other forms of indecent behaviour beyond gay sex. Instead of repealing a law to the detriment of everyone, the gay community should concentrate their efforts on convincing the rest of society that gay sex is not an act of gross indecency.'
MR BENJAMIN KONG, in an e-mail

'WHY should two people who want to spend their lives together in a responsible and monogamous relationship be even thought of as criminals?' MADAM JOAN WONG, in an e-mail

'I STILL think that we should not force or impose a set of moral ideology and values on homosexuals, as it will hurt their feelings and deepen any existent distrust between them and the mainstream society. Instead, we should give more space for gay activist groups to express their views freely and gradually monitor their social activities, in order to get a better and deeper understanding of the economic contributions of their activities to society.' MR TEO KUEH LIANG, in an e-mail

ST Forum: Why this gay is for keeping Section 377A (Oct 27)

Oct 27, 2007
Why this gay is for keeping Section 377A

PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong made the right decision to keep Section 377A of the Penal Code, a law criminalising gay sex.

As a gay Singaporean, I agree that keeping Section 377A would maintain the social status quo and harmony.

Gay activists are trying to push the gay lifestyle to mainstream society. I do not agree with the activists' stand and I believe there is a silent majority of gay people who chose to keep quiet about the drama surrounding the bid to repeal Section 377A.

I live my gay life discreetly and I am happy to have been able to do so without any legal interference pertaining to my homosexuality for the past 30 years.

Singapore is a good place for a gay man to live in, as long as one understands the social contract involved and respects the mainstream's wish to have the traditional family unit as the social norm.

Aggressive promotion or campaigning for gay rights is counter-productive and I am strongly against such action.

Goh Kim Soon


I live my gay life discreetly and I am happy to have been able to do so without any legal interference pertaining to my homosexuality for the past 30 years.

ST: Thinking Aloud: 377A debate and the rewriting of pluralism (Oct 27)

Oct 27, 2007
377A debate and the rewriting of pluralism
By Janadas Devan

I CONFESS: I found the parliamentary debate on Section 377A of the Penal Code exceedingly depressing. It is no fun at all finding oneself holding a view - I believe the provision is odious and should be scrapped - with so little support.

Of the 82 PAP MPs, only 3-1/2 expressed views that resembled mine – Mr Charles Chong, Mr Hri Kumar and Mr Baey Yam Keng. The half was Ms Indranee Rajah, who suggested 377A might be scrapped at some point, only not in this century. Her citation of how long it took to end slavery suggested we might have to wait roughly 2,500 years.

Of the nine NMPs, only one, Mr Siew Kum Hong, who presented the citizens' petition calling for the repeal of 377A, stood up for homosexuals. And among the three opposition MPs, none did.

My depression was infinitely deepened when I read NMP Thio Li-Ann's parliamentary phillipic - entitled Two Tribes Go To (Culture) War – as well as her Insight article yesterday. She was brilliant, incisive, learned, witty and civil. The 'moral conservative majority' has found a formidable warrior - notice that 'War'; and my side - the immoral liberal minority? - was left looking stupid, speechless, confused, sour-faced and uncivil.

Consider how she tore to shreds so many of our cherished beliefs. The idiots that we are, we had believed 'pluralism' meant, among other things, 'autonomy and retention of identity for individual bodies', a 'society in which the members of minority groups maintain their independent cultural traditions', 'a system that recognises more than one ultimate principle or kind of being', as the Oxford English Dictionary puts it.

But we were wrong. 'Democratic pluralism,' Prof Thio wrote incisively yesterday, 'welcomes every view in public discussion, but does not commit the intellectual fallacy of saying every view is right. The goal is to ascertain the right view for the circumstances.

' That means that under certain circumstances - to be determined by whatever passes
for the majority at any moment, I suppose - pluralism can insist on a singular 'ultimate principle or kind of being'.

We silly fellows had also misunderstood the nature of secularism. We had thought it meant separation of religion from the state, politics and public policy. We were wrong. As Prof Thio explained trenchantly in her 'culture war' speech: 'Religious views are part of our common morality. We separate 'religion' from 'politics' but not 'religion' from 'public policy' (emphasis mine).

I never knew that! I had always assumed that it was necessary to separate religion from politics as well as public policy, for it was impossible to separate public policy from politics, and both from the state. But it turns out my assumption was baseless.

Jawaharlal Nehru, a Brahmin who insisted on untouchability being banned in the Indian Constitution despite the opposition of many caste Hindus, simply did not understand a thing about secularism. Bishop Desmond Tutu, a Methodist who insisted that discrimination against homosexuals be prohibited in the South African Constitution, was similarly clueless. And all those Enlightenment chaps in powdered wigs who insisted on the separation of church and state in the United States - in part, because there was no 'common morality' among religions - well, silly fellows, they knew nothing.

Yes, I must admit, Prof Thio demolished my side with astonishing ease. First, her big guns - pluralism is not plural; secularism can be religiously informed - left us limbless. Then, equally impressively, the cultural warrior sliced and diced us with her rapier wit and uncommon civility. We were finally left with our torsos tossed into ideological ditches and our heads stuck on cultural pikes.

'To say a law is archaic is merely chronological snobbery,' she thundered, referring to 377A. That sent me reeling. So original! So conclusive! So brilliant!

'Chronological snobbery' was first coined by Owen Barfield and C.S. Lewis, two eminent British popular theologians. It first appeared inprint, I think, in Lewis' moving spiritual autobiography, Surprised By Joy. Lewis and Barfield coined it to stigmatise modern 'intellectual fashions' that they thought consigned unfairly religious faith to a seemingly unregenerate past.

Prof Thio, a most learned person, must have known of the origin of this phrase in theological controversy, and she brilliantly extended it to the law. And if one linked this extension to the profound truths she uncovered about public policy in a secular state, one would see how her stigmatisation of 'chronological snobbery' can be extended further still. All those in favour of teaching 'intelligent design' alongside Darwin's theory of evolution in schools, raise your hands. Done! Education Ministry, please take note.

Then there was her wit, deployed so civilly. Anal sex is like 'shoving a straw up your nose to drink', she said. A colleague of mine googled that and discovered it was an often cited image in American anti-gay pamphlets. To top that, she said 377A must be kept on the books so we can say 'Majullah Singapura', not 'Mundur Singapura'. If you did not get the joke, here is a clue: Mundur means 'backward' in Malay, and 'backward' here alludes to that 'straw' and another orifice. See? Now, isn't that funny?

Oh, I cried when I read that. Imagine that: The moral conservative majority makes better vulgar jokes than the immoral liberal minority - and in Parliament too. If the immoral minority cannot beat the moral majority even in this department, we are really and truly kaput.

What sent me into shock was the discovery that Singapore is actually the US. I am referring to Prof Thio's sources of inspiration. Google 'culture war' and you will discover them.

The term was made famous by Mr Patrick Buchanan, a right-wing conservative (many would say zealot) who challenged former president George H.W. Bush, a moderate, for the Republican presidential nomination in 1992. At the Republican convention that year, Mr Buchanan alarmed many Americans by declaring: 'There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be as was the Cold War itself.'

Once one understands the milieu from which this statement issues, one would understand the origins of Prof Thio's profound understanding of pluralism and secularism. It does not derive from the Enlightenment or from contemporary Europe or Asia. It derives from the American religious right. It is they who insist pluralism cannot ultimately be plural; it is they who demand public policy be informed by religious beliefs.

And all but a few thumped their seats when Prof Thio finished her speech? They must have missed the radical - yes, radical and extreme - nature of her claims. One person who did not, I think, was Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. My colleague Chua Mui Hoong reported he did not thump his seat.

That lifted my depression somewhat. I did not like one bit the upshot of the Prime Minister's speech - that 377A will stay because the majority, especially Christians and Muslims, are opposed to its scrubbing. But I was proud of what he had to say, and how he said it.

There are 'limits', he said, for homosexuals in Singapore. But there would be limits too, in how religious beliefs are applied in the policing of homosexuals. Section 377A will not be applied 'proactively'
, he said - meaning, it will be inoperative.

Mr Stuart Koe, chief executive of gay Asian portal, was wrong to liken 377A to a gun being put to the heads of homosexuals and not pulling the trigger. There is a gun, it remains symbolically loaded, but it has been laid down.

For that - a small victory - we have to thank old-fashioned pluralism, not Prof Thio's radical rewriting of it. Some of us - our children, our friends, our siblings - have different sexual orientations, so let's give them space.

For the rest - well, we will have to wait, but hopefully, not for 2,500 years.

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ST Review: Debate an example of democracy at work by Siew Kum Hong (Oct 26)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Oct 26, 2007
Debate an example of democracy at work

They were the two Nominated MPs who stood out in Parliament this week. Lawyer Siew Kum Hong was instrumental in putting forward a citizens' petition to repeal Section 377A, a law that deems sex between men a crime. Law professor Thio Li-Ann spoke passionately against it. The two NMPs penned their thoughts after the debate, exclusively for Insight.

By Siew Kum Hong

MY SPEECH on Monday will probably be the speech of my career. I put my all into it, because I believe passionately in what I said.

That night, my overwhelming emotion was relief that it was over. But the relief was accompanied with sorrow, because it continues for so many others. That is the great tragedy of Section 377A.

I sat in Parliament on Tuesday, listening to the Prime Minister explain why Section 377A will be retained. Even though I continue to believe Section 377A should be repealed, I am heartened by his speech.

The Prime Minister took pains to acknowledge the contributions of the gay community, their need for private space, and the importance of not making things unnecessarily difficult for them. It was probably as much as anyone could have asked, short of a repeal.

His speech was fair, balanced and realistic. It will go a long way towards ensuring the debate - which will inevitably continue – remains on an even keel, and will hopefully temper the more extreme elements on each side.

The Prime Minister was probably right when he said most people were not seized by the issue. Certainly, as Mr Baey Yam Keng pointed out, many people did not really understand what it was about.

That is why it was important to have this debate. The parliamentary petition enabled the pro-repeal perspective to be put forward for people to consider. The undecided majority can hear both sides and make up their minds. Indeed, a friend who had previously opposed repeal told me that after reading the speeches, he had changed his mind and would actually sign the petition now.

And the petition allowed the voice of a politically disenfranchised group to be heard. In a democracy, surely that is important.

While homosexuality may not be in the mainstream (and I'm not so sure about that), it is indisputable that the pro-repeal argument is a firmly mainstream, albeit minority, view, not just one held by gays. The broad-based support for the petition demonstrated that.

For engagement to be civil, participants need to respect the common ground rules and the integrity of the process, while agreeing to disagree on the substantive issues. It is a critical part of a secular, democratic society.

Some repeal opponents have told me they appreciated the distinction between the substance and the process. All this shows that the vast majority of Singaporeans do believe in civil engagement, even on issues of morality where consensus is difficult.

That was in stark contrast to those suggesting that the issue has polarised society. I think the fault lines, if any, have always existed. It was more a question of their becoming apparent.

But such statements risk being self-fulfilling prophecies. The more people harp on polarisation, the more likely it becomes. Some journalists have been particularly guilty of such attempts to sensationalise the debate.

As we got closer to the parliamentary sitting, I began to decline media requests in that vein. While the media is and should be free to report stories as it deems appropriate, I was nevertheless disappointed at the apparent agenda of certain journalists.

Activists on both sides will continue to advocate their position. And that is proper, because that is also what democracy is about.

I have been immensely humbled in the past two weeks, both by the tremendous support shown by so many, and by my increased understanding of what gays go through.

I have gay acquaintances, but I do not have gay family members or close friends. I agreed to present the petition out of principle. But as the online open letter drew more and more signatures, as hateful comments started flying around, I understood so much better the human cost exacted by Section 377A.

I believe that, as society as a whole gains greater understanding of and familiarity with gays, its views will shift. And I am glad the Government's nuanced position allows for this possibility.

Many surveys have consistently shown young people to be more accepting of homosexuals, and the acceptance level has increased over time. Last month, The Straits Times reported that only 30 per cent of youth surveyed felt homosexuality is wrong.

And Straits Times journalist Tessa Wong wrote about how she was brought up in a conservative background, but realised that homosexuality was not intrinsically wrong after knowing a gay friend better. Such stories give me hope.

It is now time to move on. I have presented the petition, and Parliament has debated and passed the Bill. While I disagree with the result, we live in a democracy, and that is how the democratic process works. There are other issues to raise, other goals to advance. The
Government has a country to run.

Section 377A will surely resurface at some point. My hope is that all participants will remain civil, and focus on the issue at hand as a secular democracy. That will ensure that even as people disagree on their moral positions, society remains a cohesive whole. And it will demonstrate, again, that there is democracy in Singapore, and it works.

ST Review: Can we disagree without being disagreeable? (Oct 26)

Oct 26, 2007
Can we disagree without being disagreeable?
By Thio Li-ann

A JUNIOR college classmate I had not heard from in over a decade e-mailed me this week. She had long wanted to 'rag' me for becoming a Nominated MP, knowing my pretentious adolescent infatuation with nihilism and libertarianism. Instead, she was glad I had spoken in Parliament in support of retaining Section 377A.

Like many others, she urged me to continue to do the right thing in the face of nasty insults and threats. Life beyond the ivory tower requires greater epidermal density.

Aside from the crass and childish, the e-mail messages I received after the 377A parliamentary debates were overwhelmingly warm and supportive.

Friends and strangers thanked me for articulating reasoned views and highlighting the radical nature of the homosexual social agenda. One person thought the local press implicitly supported the gay movement in apparently assuming homosexuality is inborn or that gay 'rights' were somehow being violated.

Why, in the interests of objectivity, had the 'ex-gay' phenomenon not been investigated?

Others chuckled at my observation that those who smear their opponents as intolerant bigots demonstrate their own intolerant bigotry.

Together with other elected MPs, I had apparently given voice to many in the 'silent majority'.

The spirited debate over 377A flows from a policy shift the Prime Minister announced in his 2004 Harvard Club speech, that the Government would pull back from 'being all things to all citizens' and be 'increasingly guided' by community consensus 'on questions of public morality and decency'.

What if consensus is fractured? Even Western societies remain polarised over issues like whether to endorse homosexuality as an 'alternative lifestyle'.

There are no neutral perspectives on morally controversial issues, which evoke strong emotions. This is no excuse for jettisoning critical thought, in the interests of our broader shared commitment to democracy and informed public debate.

To say the law should ignore moral questions is to impose a 'hidden' morality by default. Hedonism, a recipe for societal suicide, is the philosophy underlying the argument that law should not interfere with private consensual sexual behaviour. As philosophy affects law, and law affects popular mindsets, we need wisdom to know what the law should encourage or hinder.

The public debate over 377A demonstrates a new brand of Singapore politics beyond the dominant government, Lilliputian opposition and apathetic citizenry model. We witnessed a galvanisation of citizens on both sides of the fence, through letters to the press and MPs, meet-the-people sessions, cyber discussions, online hissy fits and
petitions. PM Lee Hsien Loong observed that 'both sides' had mobilized 'very well organised campaigns' to promote their causes. This is one way of providing feedback integral to a responsive and representative Government.

Ultimately, the Government has to make a decision. Unlike lawyers who speak of resolving issues, politicians deploy the language of 'accommodation' and 'balance' to facilitate some sort of rapprochement. It is a useful device for politicians to paint a
picture of two extreme views, and occupy the middle ground.

While acknowledging 'space' for homosexuals to live quiet lives, PM Lee firmly stated that homosexuality was not to be mainstreamed, and that heterosexuals should set the tone of society. If homosexual activists 'push this agenda', that would elicit 'push-back' from the morally conservative majority. In other words, don't aggressively push
the bedroom into the public square.

Where do we go from here, with some citizens locked into intransigent stances over controversial public issues?

I hope Singapore will not end up with an uncivil civil society by allowing public debate to degenerate into fruitless name-calling and distorting issues by speaking misleading half-truths. A central goal of debate must be to lend clarity to the issue, as where PM Lee stated that Singapore law recognises only racial and religious minorities. Thus, the politicised term 'sexual minorities' is legally vacuous.

Furthermore, specific issues should be debated, rather than making emotional and vague appeals to 'fairness', 'equality', 'inclusivity' and 'tolerance'. The concrete issue is: What should we exclude or include? What should we not tolerate? 'Tolerance' must not become the refuge of a person without convictions. Terms like 'dignity' and 'tolerance' are empty apart from a theory of human nature, human good and community. To go beyond sound-bites to substance, we must not gloss over the real issue.

Democratic pluralism welcomes every view in public discussion, but does not commit the intellectual fallacy of saying every view is right. The goal is to ascertain the right view for the circumstances.

We should debate with civility and learn to disagree without being disagreeable. This is a facet of character, which no government-imposed law or 'OB marker' can elicit. To approach morally controversial debate with maturity, the solution is not more government, but self-government. The civic virtue of self-control, rather than a culture of anger which celebrates expressions of hate and vulgarity, should be embraced. Indeed, arguments which merely seek to vilify opponents are suspect.

John Milton noted: 'Let Truth and Falsehood grapple: Who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?'

Aside from truth, free speech serves a commitment to rational democratic debate over matters affecting our common good. Civil and civilised debate sustains the possibility that we may be able to persuade fellow citizens that our views are sound. You cannot converse with a shouting person.

The views expressed here are Dr Thio's own.

Today: Voices: Disgusting, the way MPs are being threatened and humiliated (Oct 26)

Disgusting, the way MPs are being threatened and humiliated

Friday • October 26, 2007

Letter from TAN YAN CHONG

I refer to the article "Gay debate takes ugly turn" (Oct 25) which reported that some parliamentarians and members of the public have received hate mail following the debate on repealing Section 377A of the Penal Code.

The Section 377A debate is a sensitive issue and is by no means an easy topic to discuss.

I applaud the Members of Parliament (MPs) for fulfilling their mandate and speaking out on behalf the public — those for and against the issue. However, it now seems that our parliamentarians have become victims of the debate.

I am disgusted that some members of the public have threatened and humiliated the MPs who have spoken up about the issue, and even gone as far as to question the MPs' sexuality.

I hope that our MPs will not be deterred by this incident and will continue to speak out for ordinary citizens. It is clear from this unfortunate episode that there are no winners or losers, only victims.

The China Post: Taiwan gays blast Singapore over anti-gay law (Oct 25)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Gay rights activists in Taiwan condemned Tuesday Singapore's retention of a law discriminating against homosexuals Tuesday.

"This shows how conservative Singapore or at least Prime Minister Lee Hsieng Loong is because he defines family only as made up by a heterosexual couple," Wang Ping, Secretary-General of the Taiwan Gender Sexuality Rights Association, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

"Singapore's act is open discrimination against homosexuals because it says a sexual act is legal for certain people, but illegal for others. Taiwan homosexuals, as a member of the world gay community, expresses our strongest condemnation," she said.

Taiwan's gay rights activists Chi Chia-wei also blasted Singapore's retention of the penal code's Section 377A as a step backward.

"Singapore had the chance to keep up with the times, but it chose not to. It is a great pity," he said.

Chi refuted Singaporean Lee Hsien Loong's claim that Singapore cannot abolish Section 377A because it does not want homosexuals to set the tone of mainstream society.

"If one is a homosexual, one is. If one isn't, one isn't. Amending the law cannot turn heterosexuals into homosexuals," he said.

Wang and Chi were responding to Singapore's legalization of oral and anal sex between heterosexual couples on Tuesday while retaining a law criminalizing intercourse between gay men.

In its first major penal code amendment in 22 years, Singapore's parliament kept penal code's Section 377A which makes sex between men a criminal offense, despite calls from gay rights activists and supporters to abolish the law.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong supported the retention of Section 377A, saying Singapore remains a conservative society - with the traditional family as its main building bloc -- and homosexuals cannot set the tone for mainstream society.

Abolishing the law could "send the wrong signal" and encourage gay activists to seek more concessions, such as same-sex marriage and parenting, he said.

TODAY: Gay debate takes ugly turn (Oct 25)

Gay debate takes ugly turn

But a few black sheep in cyberspace do not mean S'poreans can't hold a mature dialogue: Analysts

Thursday • October 25, 2007

Ansley Ng

THE Parliamentary debate on the law against gay sex will be remembered for its fiery, heart-felt spirit. But outside the House, passions — among both supporters and opponents of Section 377A — have, at times, degenerated into spite.

There were threatening, expletive-laced emails. One parliamentarian had his sexuality questioned. Another academic was flamed in blogs and had her phone number circulated.

And the employer of one gay professional was questioned about their hiring him.

The ugly turn of events, some may say, is only to be expected given the emotional nature of the subject matter — one that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had warned on Tuesday could polarise society.

But a bigger question being asked is: What do such instances say of Singaporeans' ability to debate issues maturely, and without hostility?

In Parliament on Monday, Nominated MP Thio Li-ann recounted how a colleague received threatening emails following the publication of an article in The Straits Times in May, after reforms to the Penal Code were mooted.

Assistant Professor Yvonne Lee had commented that it was wrong to decriminalise homosexual acts. For a month after, people, including young lawyers and students, wrote to the dean criticising her.

Her photo was posted on blogs and her phone number circulated. She received emails — "80 per cent of them abusive" — asking if she was a "fundamentalist" who would discriminate against homosexual students.

"It was a professional attack, intimidation and harassment," Asst Prof Lee told Today.

Professor Thio herself was "shell-shocked" and made a police report after receiving an abusive email in August from an unnamed stranger who threatened to defile her grave on the day Section 377A was repealed.

"If it was just a rude letter, I'd let it slip. But this really overstepped things," the law lecturer told Today.

In the opposing camp, fellow NMP Siew Kum Hong, who presented a public petition to scrap the law against gay sex, had his sexuality questioned.

"When you are a public figure taking a position on a public issue, you have to accept that some people will not be mature enough to refrain from such things," said Mr Siew, a lawyer.

"It bothers me but I just got past it and carried on. I don't want to dignify their comments."

The organisers of the campaign — who, in a statement yesterday, said they were "deeply disappointed" by the decision to keep the law — told Today that hate messages were posted on their website. "That's what the gay community experiences as part of their lives — derogatory slurs," a spokesman said.

Indeed, one employee at a large government-linked company learnt, a few months ago, that an anonymous letter had been sent to senior management, asking why they employed a gay person.

"I was really shocked. I'm not a closet gay but I don't show off my sexuality at work. I'm there to work, not advocate gay rights; I'm a professional. Honestly, I felt very violated," he said.

To him, the incident suggests there is "a lot of fear" that legalising consensual gay sex would cause societal disintegration. "When there is fear, it can lead to viciousness."

MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC Baey Yam Keng, however, said that while some were not pleased at his speaking up for homosexuals, no one had been outright abusive so far.

One email sender vowed not to vote for him in the next election. Another asked if he was "naive or blind".

Said Mr Baey: "For these kind of emotional issues, there will be skewed positions taken. But it's healthy to have these two opposing views — albeit some being extreme about it — rather than not talk about the issue."

He feels such debates raise awareness among the uninformed, which feeds into an even more robust discussion.

But Prof Thio asked: "Can we promise ourselves that we will not resort to deception or shouting at each other, but focus on facts and issue? Even if we disagreed, can we disagree in a civil fashion?"

On Sunday, Dr Balaji Sadasivan, Senior Minister of State (Foreign Affairs and Information, Communications and the Arts), had called for tolerance of differences on Section 377A. The challenge, he had warned, was in preventing diversity from descending into "divisive antagonism", as it has in the United States.

Such polarisation was unlikely to happen in Singapore, said Dr Terence Chong, a fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

Citizens by and large have shown that they are capable of civil and passionate debate – both in and outside of parliament – despite the actions of a few anonymous "black sheep" in cyberspace, he noted.

"The overall tone of the debate has been civil. It would be naïve for anyone to want passionate debate without any name-calling at all. And it would be very unfair to point to a small group of people who send hate mail and say we are not capable of a mature debate," said Dr Chong.

TNP: Live proud, not loud (Oct 25)

Live proud, not loud

HOMOSEXUALS should not actively promote their lifestyles. 25 October 2007

HOMOSEXUALS should not actively promote their lifestyles.

Using the case of gay teacher Otto Fong, PM Lee said Singapore should strive to maintain a balance, to uphold a stable society with traditional heterosexual family values, but with space for homosexuals to live their lives and to contribute to society.

He said in Parliament yesterday: 'The recent case of Mr Otto Fong who is a teacher in Raffles Institution.

'He's gay, he's a good teacher by all accounts. He put up a blog which outed, described his own sexual inclinations and... explained how he was gay.

'And he circulated it to his colleagues and it became public.'

The New Paper broke this story last month, and reported that the teacher had revealed himself to be gay in a blog. We also reported that he had meant the blog to be read by his friends and colleagues, not his students.

But, because students were also reading the blog, he had taken it down and apologised.

PM said of the teacher: 'He continues teaching in RI today. So there is space. There are limits.'

TNP: Repealing law doesn't mean promoting gay lifestyle, say two MPs (Oct 25)

AN inconvenient truth.

Perhaps that's what Section 377A is to some Singaporeans and the Government, MP Baey Yam Keng suggested in Parliament yesterday.

The MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC, who once declared his support for scrapping the law that criminalises gay sex, said: 'We have inherited 377A from the British.

'It is easier and, as the Senior Minister of State (Associate Professor Ho Peng Kee) said, more practical to maintain the status quo than to change it.'

But Mr Baey asked: How well does 'the perceived majority holding the status quo view' understand the issue?

'I suspect a significant segment of our society does not really care, and some are just uncomfortable with this topic and choose the convenient way to stick with the status quo without knowing what the act exactly is and does,' he said.

Like the resident who told him at a meet-the-people's session that she was glad the Government was keeping Section 377A.

'But when I asked her if she knew what 377A was about, she said no,' Mr Baey recalled.

Convenience is definitely not what works for his fellow MP, Mr Charles Chong.

He said: 'I think I would be remiss as a legislator if I merely hid behind the views of the 'conservative majority' and maintained the status quo, which, of course, would be the least inconvenient thing to do if you were not gay...


'It would simply not be realistic to expect the majority of Singaporeans to ever reach a position of being pro-homosexuality or where they will actively seek to repeal Section 377A.

'Even if heterosexual Singaporeans are apathetic towards homosexuality, it would be much easier just to maintain the status quo than to take steps to modify, if not expunge, 377A from the Penal Code.'

Is it really a slippery slope Singaporeans would be on if Section 377A is repealed?

Mr Chong gave the example of bar-top dancing.

'Some years ago, a senior politician (who shall remain un-named) argued his case as eloquently and as passionately as some of our NMPs did yesterday, in retaining an archaic regulation,' he said.

'The removal of such a regulation, it was said, would have led to staring incidents, fights and murders if it were to be abolished.

'Well, we have abolished it and permitted bar-top dancing for some years already, and the world has not come to an end yet.'

Mr Baey argued that repealing Section 377A does not mean promoting homosexuality.

'We do not want to condone smoking and drinking, (which) are not criminal, although we have made tobacco and alcohol less accessible and a lot more expensive,' he said.

'We want to promote marriage and procreation. Hence, singles do not enjoy certain tax and housing benefits.

'But they are not jailed.'

TNP: PM: Let's keep 377A in shades of grey (Oct 25)

PM: Let's keep 377A in shades of grey

by Low Ching Ling

ON one side of the fence, you have those who want Section 377A abolished.

Click to see larger image

On the other side stands the 'conservative majority' - people who want the status quo to remain.

Both sides will not budge.

What should the Government do?

Live and let live. Don't force the issue. Better to keep the law grey.

That is the view of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who wrapped up the two-day Parliament debate on Section 377A yesterday.

Let's say the Government scraps Section 377A. What next? What if gay activists push for more issues such as same-sex marriages and equal rights as straight people?

'The majority of Singaporeans will strenuously oppose these follow-up moves by the gay campaigners,' PM Lee pointed out.

'And many who are not anti-gay will be against this agenda...

'It's better to accept the legal untidiness and ambiguity. It works, don't disturb it.'

Mr Stuart Koe, CEO of Asian Internet portal for gays, had said he wanted the Government to remove the ambiguity of Section 377A.

PM Lee said: 'He said the current situation is like having a 'gun put to your head and not pulling the trigger. Either put the gun down, or pull the trigger'.'


But forcing the issue will divide our society, PM Lee argued.

'The more gay activists push this agenda, the stronger will be the push-back from conservative forces in our society...

And the result will be counter-productive because it's going to lead to less space for the gay community in Singapore. So it's better to let the situation evolve gradually.'

Why did the Government decide to keep Section 377A?

PM Lee explained: 'Singapore is basically a conservative society. The family is the basic building block of this society...

And by family in Singapore, we mean one man, one woman marrying, having children and bringing up children within that framework of a stable family unit.

'I think the vast majority of Singaporeans want to keep it this way... and so does the Government.'

Yes, we have to accept homosexuals as part of our society, PM Lee said, but they should not set the tone for Singapore society or be considered a minority like Malays and Indians.

'This is the way Singapore society is today, this is the way the majority of Singaporeans want it to be.

So we should strive to maintain a balance, to uphold a stable society with traditional heterosexual family values but with space for homosexuals to live their lives and to contribute to the society.'

And the gays already have a lot of space in Singapore, PM Lee noted.

They work in all sectors of the economy, including the civil service. They hold public discussions and publish websites. There are films and plays with gay themes, and gay bars and clubs.

PM Lee said: 'They exist, we know where they are. Everybody knows where they are. They don't have to go underground,' PMLee said.

'We don't harass gays. The Government does not act as moral policeman. And we don't proactively enforce 377A on them.'

Live and let live, PM Lee said.

'(The gays) live their lives. That's their personal life, it's their space. But the tone of the overall society... remains conventional, it remains straight and we want it to remain so.'

Even in the more liberal West, PM Lee pointed out, homosexuality remains a contentious issue.

'They decriminalised homosexual acts decades ago... and they have gone a long way towards accepting gays in society.

'But still, the issue is bitterly disputed.

'So in America, there are fierce debates over gay rights and same-sex marriages.

'And the conservatives in America are pushing back.'

ST Forum: 'Visibly distraught'? Prof was fiery and passionate (Oct 25)

'Visibly distraught'? Prof was fiery and passionate

I REFER to the article, 'Petition to repeal gay sex law sparks heated debate' (ST, Oct 23).

I take issue with the description of Nominated MP Thio Li-Ann as 'visibly distraught'.

I was in the Parliament meeting and noted that she dealt with several points succinctly, with humour and with passion.

She peppered her arguments with wit, drawing applause from the viewing gallery and getting many MPs thumping their seats. One example was when she said 'we want to be able to say 'Majulah Singapura', not 'Mundur Singapura'' (Onward, Singapore, not backward, Singapore).

Her speech showed up several flaws in the arguments of the pro-repeal camp.

For instance, in response to the pro-repeal camp's description of homosexuals as a disadvantaged minority group, Professor Thio rebutted that 'Singapore law recognises only racial and religious minorities. Special protection is reserved for the poor and disadvantaged. The average homosexual person in Singapore is both well educated, with higher income - that's why upscale-condo developers target them!'.

What I see is a fiery and passionate debater, not a visibly distraught one.

Jenica Chua Chor Ping (Ms)

TNP: S'pore's Gay Divide: Why Pink has become Red Hot by Leong Ching (Oct 25)

S'pore's Gay Divide: Why Pink has become Red Hot by Leong Ching

PINK is the colour of calm. It is also the colour associated with gays. Coincidentally, it was also the colour of the Prime Minister's shirt in Parliament yesterday.

Click to see larger image
The New Paper, 13 Sep

But while the pink issue was very much the subject of debate, the House was hardly calm, with the issue taking on red-hot hues that was at times personal, passionate and unusually graphic.

God, love, gay, sex, anal, sexual perversity, selfish and hurtful. These are not the kind of words often used in a parliamentary debate.

But the past two days were hardly one of the more ordinary days in Parliament.

And this, on an issue - whether Section 377A should stay - that was already decided.

Yet, homosexual sex was turned on its head, examined inside out, upside down.

In the House, there was logic. There was emotion. And there was brutal honesty.

Outside Parliament, however, there was hate, as reflected in e-mail comments directed at the two NMPs on opposite sides of the Gay divide - and online pressure on the Government, as the PM revealed yesterday.

Was the debate in Parliament a reflection of the issue's potentially divisive, even disruptive nature?

The Prime Minister himself explained the Government's stance on Section 377A, calling for the nation to 'live and let live'.

More than 20 MPs spoke, crafting some of the most passionate and strongly-worded speeches since the debate on whether to allow casinos in Singapore two years ago.

Click to see larger image
The New Paper, 4 May

Away from the civilised cut-and-thrust of debate, however, hate mail flew.

Law professor and NMP Thio Li-ann, who made one of the strongest, most graphic speeches, was a target.

She felt compelled to speak up, she told The New Paper, because 'it is important in life not only to have a brain but a spine.

'We must have moral courage and do what is right and expose a political movement that would hurt the common good of Singapore.

'I have already been insulted and received hate mail, even harassment.

'But should we be a nation of cowed individuals, subjugated by fear of being called hateful names?

'As I said, certain homosexual activists like to call people bigoted and intolerant - but they are also bigoted and intolerant towards those who disagree with them.


'(It's)double standards. Anyone who is a fair thinker will see the truth of this analysis,' she said.

Since her speech on Monday, she has been called terms like 'homophobic', 'unenlightened' and 'prejudiced' on the Internet. Some called her a 'fundamentalist'.

Many other profanies, vulgarities and four-letter words were hurled at her because of her stand.

Prof Thio said: 'One person expressed the wish to defile my grave on the day 377A was repealed. And I am conveying the sense of it in the most polite way I know how.

'I don't believe in repeating obscenities.'

The protagonist on the other side, lawyer and NMP Siew Kum Hong, has also been the target of hate mail and much pressure.

For example, someone had asked him why he spent his time helping 'arse lovers' rather than championing the 'cause of the poor'.

Online, calls have been made to remove him from Parliament, calling him a 'disgrace', accusing him of 'wasting national time' and that he was 'just trying to make a name for himself'.

Mr Siew said he does not let such name-calling bother him.

'This is one of the most difficult things I've ever done. But I'm glad I did it. It's the right thing to do,' he told The New Paper last night.

He admitted that he had become emotional during his speech in Parliament.

'But this sometimes happens when people feel strongly about an issue,' he said.

His was not the only speech delivered with passion.

Making the last speech yesterday, MP Seah Kian Peng declared: 'I would be the mother who loves her gay son. I would be the man who loves his gay brother. And I would the first to stand up to defend a gay man's right to be treated equally under the law.'

But he did not want to repeal the law as he felt it would harm the institutions of marriage and the family.

What was supposed to be a sedate review of the Penal Code turned into something with quite few 'firsts'.

The petition to repeal 377A was not even part of the menu as it was supposed to have gone to the Petitions Committee first.

But, in a surprise move, Leader of the House Mah Bow Tan tabled a motion to discuss it in Parliament on Monday.

That opened the floodgates to a spirited debate, capped by a speech from PM Lee Hsien Loong.

Members were taken into the bedrooms of homosexuals, with graphic accounts of how sex between two men was physically harmful.

On the other hand, they listened to poignant quotes from mothers of gay men.

They were told stories of how talented homosexuals had renounced their citizenships because 'they had no place in Singapore'.

Did such passionate views reflect how strongly society felt? No, said the PM.

'Chinese-speaking Singaporeans are much less seized with the issue than the English-speaking. They are not as strongly engaged, either for or against,' he said, noting that there were no Chinese speeches made on the issue, save for a short one by MP Baey Yam Keng.

This is supported by a study by The New Paper in May, which suggested that heartlanders did not feel strongly against gays - as long as gays did not impose on their space. (See fax on previous page.)

Other indicators: Opposition Low Thia Khiang chose to remain silent yesterday, while his fellow Workers' Party member Sylvia Lim revealed that the WP supports retaining 377A.

PM Lee added: 'It reflects the focus of the Chinese speaking ground and their mindsets. So, for the majority of Singaporeans, the attitude is a pragmatic one - we live and let live.'

How then, do we account for the robust speeches? The last time Parliament saw strong reaction was two years ago, when it debated whether to allow casinos here.

Then, too, words such as 'moral majority', 'doing the right thing', religion, principles were bandied about.

But only one MP - former Jalan Besar GRC MP Loh Meng See - made an emotional anti-casino plea.

He said then: 'I cannot understand the argument put forward that as gambling is already in existence, the harm is incremental in nature. Do we not know that two wrongs don't make a right?'

In the end though, the argument was won by pragmatism and economic imperatives, with ministers coming out and revealing the financial benefits of the integrated resorts.

In the present debate, however, issues of private lives and public principles are harder measure, quantify or justify.

Another reason could be that this debate had strong and clearly media-savvy groups weighing in on both sides.


As the PM noted: 'Both sides have mobilised to campaign for their causes. There was a petition to remove Section 377A. It accumulated a couple of thousand signatures and was presented in this House.

'Therefore there was a counter-petition to retain it which collected 15,000 signatures,' he said.

'The ministers and I have received many e-mails and letters on this subject.

'Very well-written, all following a certain model answer style. I don't doubt the depth of the sentiments and the breadth of the support, but it's also a very well organised pressure campaign.'

The PM was rational, conciliatory and inclusive. As he ended his speech though, it was clear that he had an iron fist in his velvet glove.

His message: Cool down, don't push too hard.

'I should therefore say that as a matter of reality, that the more gay activists push this agenda, the stronger will be the push-back from conservative forces in our society, as we are beginning to see already in this debate.

'The result will be counterproductive because it's going to lead to less space for the gay community in Singapore. So it's better to let the situation evolve gradually,' he said.

ST Forum: Failed Bid to Repeal Section 377A (Oct 25)

Oct 25, 2007
Govt did the right thing in keeping gay-sex law

I AM overwhelmed with joy that the Government has expressed unequivocally that it does not support the gay lifestyle in Singapore and Section 377A - a law criminalising gay sex - will not be repealed.

Over the past years, all across the world, we have seen unrelenting pressure from advocates of the gay lifestyle to accept as normal what is not normal, and to characterise those who disagree as narrow-minded, bigoted and unreasonable.

Such advocates are quick to demand freedom of speech and thought for themselves, but equally quick to criticise those with different views and, if possible, to silence them by applying labels like 'homophobic'.

As we have become a more liberal society, I was worried, for a moment, that the Government would be swayed. I am glad it was not.

Enough has been said by both sides arguing for and against repealing Section 377A and I shall not add to it.

However, I would like to congratulate the Government for its courage and brilliance in handling this issue. By keeping Section 377A, it is sending a very clear message that we do not support the gay lifestyle.

I applaud the Government for doing the right thing, both morally and socially.

At the same time, by saying that the police will nevertheless be lenient in implementing the law, the Government is essentially saying that we will let gays live their own lives without interference.

Unlike in certain neighbouring countries, they have no fear that the police will come knocking on their doors in the middle of the night.

It is now time for the gay community to accept that the majority of Singaporeans are conservative and will not endorse a homosexual lifestyle. Husband and wife in a family setting is the foundational unit of our society. Destroy that unit and we destroy our society. To push their cause will further alienate gays from society.

For the majority of Singaporeans who are against homosexual behaviour, it is time to let the matter rest and the wounds heal. Let us accept gays for who they are. We may not endorse their lifestyle but there is no reason for us to condemn them. They are our fellow citizens. They are one of us.

Patrick Tan Siong Kuan