CNA: Group sets up site urging Singapore to keep gay sex ban

Friday, October 19, 2007

SINGAPORE: In an apparent counter move, a group calling itself "the Majority" has set up a website to collect signatures backing a call for the government to keep the law against gay sex.

The group, in an open letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, asks the government to "do what is right and retain Section 377A for the future of our children and our nation".

Under Section 377A of the Penal Code, it is illegal for men to have sex with one another. While prosecution is rare, those convicted can be jailed up to two years.

The online letter read: "Section 377A is a reflection of the sentiments of the majority of society. Most Singaporeans hold conservative family values and do not accept homosexuality as the norm.

"Repealing Section 377A is a vehicle to force homosexuality on a conservative population that is not ready for homosexuality."

Repealing the law, the letter said, could lead to the redefinition of same-sex marriage and the trend of adoption by same-sex parents.

The website, which went live yesterday at about 12.30pm, seems to be a response to an ongoing public online campaign calling for Section 377A to be repealed — even sporting a similar website design.

The pro-repeal website is urging people to sign two documents, one an open letter to the Prime Minister and the second a petition — which closes today — to be submitted to Parliament on Monday by Nominated Member of Parliament Siew Kum Hong.

In the latest Penal Code review, which was finished last month, the government decided to uphold the status quo on this issue. The Ministry of Home Affairs had said that Singapore was generally a conservative society and "we should let the situation evolve".

As of 10.45pm yesterday, the website in support of Section 377A had gathered 118 signatures, most of which were accompanied by comments. Wrote a petitioner who signed off as "Bo Bo": "We should never submit to what the rest of the world finds trendy and acceptable."

Wrote Sammy, another petitioner: "It is not right to alter the Section 377A which (sic) majority stands for traditional family values which built what Singapore is today."

Mr Martin Tan, 30, who organised this latest online show of support for Section 377A, told TODAY the website allowed the "silent majority" to have its say.

"What the gay community does in private is their private space," said Mr Tan, an executive director of a not-for-profit organisation. "We just do not want our country's legislation to change just for a small minority who are vocal."

The pro-Section 377A group, said Mr Tan, was started by a small group of four "concerned individuals" who forwarded the link to friends. The open letter, he added, will remain on the website and not be submitted to the government.

When contacted, organisers of the online letter and the petition against Section 377A declined to comment on the new website. But they did say the petition to Parliament had garnered 2,519 signatures so far.

Gay rights activist Alex Au saw the new website as Singaporeans exercising free speech. But as for the group calling itself "the Majority", he said the matter was not a "numbers game" but an issue of "fairness and equality".

Saying the latest website reflected "healthy" debate, Dr Gillian Koh, senior research fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies, said the scene should not be "monopolised" by those who want the law repealed.

For those who want it retained, she added, "it's a way to signal to other Singaporeans that a bunch of them care about this issue too".

However, Dr Koh also believed that despite several surveys showing that most Singaporeans feel homosexuality should not be made legal, most would choose to stay out of discussion — remaining as "spectators" only.

"What will happen is that people from the religious backgrounds, those with clear vested interests, will speak up," said Dr Koh.