ST: NMP to present petition to repeal anti-gay law to Parliament

Thursday, October 11, 2007

By Chua Hian Hou
The Straits Times, Oct 11, 2007

Nominated MP Siew Kum Hong is to present a petition to Parliament on behalf of a group that wants the Government to repeal a law criminalising gay sex.

He intends to submit the Parliamentary Petition - a formal request by the people on a particular issue - next week, ahead of Parliament's sitting on Oct 22, when a number of issues will be discussed.

These are likely to include wide-ranging amendments to the Penal Code, which governs most criminal offences here.

The proposed changes do not include Section 377A, under which it is a crime for men to have sex with each other, whether in public or in private.

Following its latest review of the Penal Code, the Government said it decided to maintain the status quo since Singapore is a generally conservative society. But authorities will not actively prosecute people under Section 377A.

Mr Siew said the idea for the petition was suggested to him by its two lead signatories, lawyer George Hwang and gay media company's chief executive Stuart Koe.

He agreed as he believes Section 377A should be repealed.

The petition, which argues that the law is discriminatory, has been put online at for others to download, sign and drop off at collection points by Sunday.

If the petition is endorsed, and is presented when Parliament sits on Oct 22, Mr Siew will get to read a summary of it in the House.

After that, the petition will be referred to an eight-man Public Petitions Committee. It will meet to discuss, and subsequently file a report on this petition to all MPs.

There are no rules governing what happens to petitions after this, said constitutional law expert Kevin Tan.

Parliament, which 'is the master of its own rules' can 'ignore, recognise, or choose to act on' the petition, he added.

Dr Tan, an adjunct professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said the petition appeared to be a 'last ditch effort' to get the law repealed. The last time the Penal Code was revised was in 1984.

He does not expect it will be changed as 'similar representations have been heard before (during the Penal Code review), at great length'.

He also did not recall the last time such a petition was presented to Parliament, or how often this occurs: 'If it did happen, it must had been in the 80s or before that.'