ST: Mr Siew Kum Hong (Oct 23)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Oct 23, 2007
Mr Siew Kum Hong

Two Nominated MPs gave impassioned speeches yesterday, arguing from
opposite corners. Mr Siew Kum Hong called for Section 377A to be
removed. Gay sex, he argued, does not cause any harm and hence has no
purpose in the Penal Code.

He also challenged the use of the law as a moral signpost, pointing to other
morally deplorable acts that are not criminalised. Earlier, he had submitted
a parliamentary petition for a group campaigning for the repeal. Rising to
press the counter-argument, Professor Thio Li-Ann accused the pro-repeal
camp of hijacking the human rights argument to make its case. She warned
that it is the first step in a radical political agenda to subvert social morality
and the common good. Excerpts from the two speeches: 'Private, consensual
sexual acts between adult males do not impact on the safety and security
of society.

Furthermore, it is accepted that the criminal law addresses activities
that harm others, but the Government seems to accept that 377A does
not cause harm. So how can 377A possibly be linked to a legitimate
purpose of the Penal Code? The answer is that it does not and it cannot.

And the Government has effectively admitted this. It does not seek to
justify the retention of 377A on grounds of societal safety and
security, or of harm to others from the conduct contemplated by 377A.

Instead, its reasons for retaining 377A are that the majority of
Singaporeans disapprove of homosexuality, and so 377A should be
retained to reflect, or 'signpost', this majority view of
Singaporeans. But reflecting the morality of the majority is not a
stated aim of the Penal Code...

The amendment of Section 377 permits heterosexual adults to engage in
private, consensual oral and anal sex. By definition, then, we are
saying there is no harm arising from such private and consensual acts
between heterosexual adults.

Why should it be any different when those acts are performed between
adult men?

It is not harm that results from such acts being performed between
adult men, but the moral disgust the majority says it feels.

The 'signposting' argument is fundamentally flawed. It is couched in
the language of 'the majority'. But let us not forget another phrase
involving the majority: the tyranny of the majority.

Even if we accept the 'signposting' argument, the amendment Bill seems
to reflect public morality in a selective and discriminatory manner.
It is surely undisputed that society views extramarital sex as
immoral. And surely, most Singaporeans disapprove of prostitution, and
all types of discrimination, such as age, racial and gender
discrimination. But we have not criminalised any of these.

And taking the 'signposting' argument to its logical conclusion, if we
repeal Section 498, are we then telling the world that seducing a
married woman, and hence adultery, are acceptable activities? By
lifting the marital rape defence in limited circumstances, are we
endorsing marital rape in the other circumstances?

'Signposting' is all or nothing. We cannot 'signpost' selectively; it
does not work that way.

Some have said that Singapore is not ready, that this is not the right
time to repeal 377A, that the petitioners should not have petitioned
Parliament and I should not have agreed to present the petition.

I disagree. I say there is no wrong time to do the right thing.'